Mentoring philosophy:

"Lab as atelier"

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I refer to the mentorship and training model I pursue in my lab as “atelier” (“workshop”), drawing inspiration from an approach used in the worlds of fine art and culinary training. In short, atelier reflects an environment where trainees (“apprentices”) work collaboratively with an established investigator (“mentor”), learning the conceptual and technical approaches central to the craft, while in turn contributing to the investigator’s scientific or creative output. Though not a new concept in biomedical research, approaching mentorship from this perspective guides expectations and career development for both my trainees and myself.

 

Viewing the laboratory as a “workshop”, reinforces both: (1) the critical responsibility of the investigator to train the next generation of forward-thinking scientists and (2) the central importance of the “craft” of experimentation as the foundation for progress in biomedical research.  First and foremost, I aim to train scientists who are technically adept experimentalists. I believe strongly that technical prowess and comfort pursuing new and challenging techniques provides trainees with a foundation for both asking and tackling truly innovative questions. That is, if the trainee is capable of developing and executing complex assays, he or she will be able to pursue more intellectually challenging and boundary-pushing projects.

 

My central goal is to create a laboratory of collaborative independence, where each lab member – from undergrad to postdoctoral fellow – feels that he or she is an equal opportunity shareholder in the success of the lab. This can be actionably distilled in several key principles:

 

(1)  encouraging open discussion of both successes and failures at the bench and recognizing that “productive failure” is a valuable and integral component of high-risk/high-reward science

(2)  guaranteeing that each trainee has a unique project that he or she can “own” and “drive”

(3)  encouraging a “flexible” environment, where trainees collaborate to contribute expertise in aiding labmates’ progress

(4)  engaging regularly with trainees on a one-on-one basis to tailor training plans to individual strengths and weaknesses