Mentoring & Philosophy

My Mentoring Philosophy

This is a general statement about my mentoring philosophies. More detailed actions are communicated within the lab.

During my postdoc I have found a great mentor in Karl Farrow, and I consider the basis of his philosophy to be the right approach – to help every researcher in my lab to become the best scientist they can be. In my opinion, the tools to achieve this rest on three pillars: open as well as structured communication, promotion of independent thinking, and a safe, healthy environment. In my experience from mentoring students at every stage, I have found that a balance between giving room for independent working and clear guidance is key for mentees to be able to use those tools.

More specifically, I take the following actions:

Communication: I see great value in the combination of an open-door situation where informal, unplanned communication can lead to great ideas and insights, together with structured and scheduled meetings to both reflect on acquired data as well as to manage the future steps of each project. I have learned the importance of having a basic set of rules and structures, but to be flexible when it comes to the details of the mentor-mentee relationship and to adjust frequency and form to the individual mentee. I aim to maintain a honest and clear flow of information and expect the same from my team.

Independent thinking: I help my team to achieve their own goals within the scope of the lab, avoiding micromanagement as much as possible. For me, a holistic training and mentorship is important. It is crucial that lab members not only understand their particular experiment, but have a deeper understanding of the field, its history and how it is embedded in a broader scientific context. I strongly promote independent thinking by allowing and expecting students to come up with their own ideas, through journal clubs that include papers from different fields, and by fostering a lab culture that stimulates open discussions without any fear of ‘being wrong’. I do my best to provide examples and promote conversations that allow my lab members to come up with the interesting questions in the field and to interpret their results in the broader context.

Environment: In my lab, I promote a collaborative environment, both between lab members as well as with people outside the lab. It is important to me to have a philosophy of sharing and helping rather than competition between lab members. I do my best to create an environment where expectations are not based on gender, nationality etc. and where my lab members will feel confident to speak up when exposed to disproportionate expectations and workloads. We dedicate time to reflect on our own biases and find ways to create safer and more inclusive spaces, as well as recognizing work and contributions from everyone, independently of who they are, at which institute they are employed or in which journal they published. In general, my aim is to provide an environment that creates brave scientists who are motivated to try out new ideas and tools.

What I expect from my lab members

  • Honesty. I expect everyone to be honest about insights they gained, about mistakes that happened, and about their plans and intentions as far as they concern their work and the lab. Importantly, making mistakes is part of the learning and skill development process!

  • Feedback. Give me feedback – both if you find something I do helpful, but also if I do or say something you think is wrong or not in the best interest of everyone.

  • Communication. Communicate frequently, clearly and concisely. Tell us about your successes, ask questions, and ask for help to solve problems.

  • Helpfulness & Acknowledgement. Help your colleagues – everyone's success benefits the whole lab. Acknowledge help you received in your presentations, add people as authors to abstracts and papers if they contributed to your work. Ideas and regular feedback or significant troubleshooting are contributions, too!

  • Respect. Treat everyone with respect - your colleagues, other labs, technical personnel, cleaning personnel, administration... This refers to how you speak and listen to others, accepting who they are, but also respecting other people's time and (personal) space.

  • Dedication. I expect my team to do the best research they can - to strive for excellence in their experimental work, analysis, writing and science communication. However, balancing work and the rest of your life is important. Be dedicated during your work time, but make time for other things that are important to you.

  • Participation. I expect everyone to be an active member of the lab, institute and science community. I ask my team to actively participate in lab meetings, journal clubs, seminars, conferences...; and to offer us their insights, knowledge and opinion.