01 October 2007

October 2007 Scientiae Carnival

A quick announcement before we get to this month’s carnival. CONGRATULATIONS to Jokerine for designing the winning logo for Scientiae (see below)! Please feel free to copy & paste it to your Scientiae post if you have submitted one for this month’s carnival. Thanks very much to FemaleCSGradStudent & to Skookumchick for contributing wonderful submissions! And thanks to all of you who voted!

On to the October Carnival whose theme is Mentoring/ Supervising/ Advising - the good, the bad, the inspiring, and the morale draining. I would like to thank all of the participants in this month’s Carnival – as many of the stories will attest, mentoring & supervising is something most have experienced from both sides of the coin. Great posts everyone!

I have been reflecting a lot on this topic lately because I have had some supervisor/ advisor/ mentor relationships that were particularly disastrous (i.e. resulted in people getting seriously hurt) and because I am beginning to supervise people myself. This has lead me both to think about the working atmosphere that I want to look for in the future as well as to reflect on what kind of supervisor/ mentor I want to be.

Here are things that I think are important in a good supervisor/ advisor:

- regular & clear communication-trusting others to do the job and knowing that they will make mistakes but that is how they will learn

- be sure to let the employee/ student know when they’re doing something write or something you appreciate as well as when they’re doing it wrong. It doesn’t take much and it will certainly make any employee go out of their way for you if they feel appreciated

- looking out for your people. This means their safety, this means their welfare, this means getting their backs. The project will only be as good as the effort your people are willing to put into it, if you have their backs, they are more likely to have your. The safety of your people should be more important than any data point. No data is worth a life. As a supervisor you are more then responsible for the data, you are responsible for people.

- creating a team of the lab; regular meetings, discussions on what everyone is doing, pre-presentations, fostering an atmosphere where people bounce ideas off each other, help each other, etc.

I think a mentor goes beyond all of this…and a mentor is not necessarily a supervisor. They’re someone who helps you keep perspective, who inspires you, who will listen and help you evaluate a situation even if they don’t have the answers, they are a sounding board. They’re someone who helps you find clarity with where ever you currently are with your career and your life. In an ideal world a supervisor/ advisor is also a mentor but it doesn’t always work out that way. Often they are the people you find on your own as you are seeking to grapple with the issues of life & career and how to go from here – where ever your here is.

Okay, enough of my thoughts, here’s the list of contributors to this carnival. Enjoy!

Patricia Campbell of Fairerscience with "
We need a name for it" in which she discusses the powerful dynamic that can occur when mentor/mentee relationships become something bigger and our lack of appropriate vocabulary to use for it.

Cathy Davies of Lab Cat talks about "
Growing up in a sorority" and how sororities, although much maligned, can be a powerful place for mentor/mentee relationships.

Science Woman at her blog On Being a Scientist and a Woman discusses how we go through different mentoring needs throughout our careers and about forming a network of relevant mentors in "
Young Faculty ISO Mentoring".

Veo Claramente of The Ways & Means of the Immune System talks about the characteristics that defined her best mentors and how she hopes to follow their examples in "When the Levee Breaks" In particular she points out what she feels the most important piece of advice is she has gotten over the years.

Jane from See Jane Compute writes about how being a mentor affected her confidence in her field and how it has shaped her approach to being a mentor in "
Lessons from mentoring".

Kate & Cat from A K8, A Cat, A Mission writes about how to deal with the angry student and how this is really an opportunity to be a mentor and how sometimes it’s not all that pleasant but that it can still really make a difference in "
Once upon a time – thinking about mentoring".

Jenny F Scientist from A Natural Scientist gives us an excellent three part discussion on mentoring covering 1) Funding in "
Realistic Mentors Say ‘Chances of Funding Are Slim, Check Magic 8 Ball" and 2) Publishing and Grant Writing in "Realist Mentors Say ‘Play the Game (And if You Want to Innovate, Game the System)’" and 3) a little reality check on future prospects that she thinks your mentor should have told you in "Realism in “Realistic Mentors Say ‘I’m Telling You This For Your Own Good’"

Twice Tenured on her blog Twice gives us a post about a recent interaction with her PhD advisor in "
Some things don’t change".

Saxifraga of Rising to the Occasion revisits her relationships with her PhD advisors after two years of space in "Advising – in hindsight".

Skookumchick on Rants of Female Engineer talks about how what could have been a useful tool for mentors in assisting their graduate students and post-docs turned out to be a farce in "
Mentoring & Supervision: Official Faculty Knowledge".

Female Doc in Training from Kate’s Casebook thanks her first mentor on teaching her how to be a good mentor and making it a positive experience in "
Mentoring: Learning from my Student".

Kathi from Kat on a Wire writes about the differences between what she is looking for in a mentor and what she gives as a mentor and what she thinks she should take from it in "
What I’ve Meant by Mentoring".

Mad Hatter at A Mad Tea-Party writes a tribute to the people she has worked with who influenced her career choices by giving a list of things she learned about being a good mentor from them in "
On Being Mentored and Being a Mentor".

Propter Doc at Post Doc Ergo Propter Doc discusses her dislike of the word mentor & it’s connotations especially when she feels it is part of the job description of a supervisor in
"Thoughts on Mentoring".

Thanks for a great carnival! See you at the November 2007 Scientiae Carnival which will be hosted over at Yami's blog
Green Grabbo. As usual you can find out about the whens & wheres of future carnivals over at the Scientiae Blog.


  1. Great job, especially considering what a bad week it has been for you! I particularly like the format, where you've incorporated your own post into the carnival.
    Thank you!

  2. Thanks for putting together the carnival. I'm looking forward to reading. I've been reading your blog today and like your stories from another high north than mine. So many similarities and some differences. It's nice to "meet" other bloggers from these cold regions.

  3. Hi Wayfarer

    What a great set of posts. It would be lovely to have all the advice about what (and what not) to pulled out and shared


  4. veo ~ thank you! I'm glad you like the format, I was fully intending on posting mine separately but given the events of the week I just didn't get it together in time.

    saxifraga ~ you're welcome! And indeed, I had similar thoughts when I went and visited your blog and found you too were from the circumpolar region.

    pat ~ thanks! That's a good idea...maybe I'll work on it for a later date.


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