Seeking Mentors

June 27, 2010

Dr. Crazy has an interesting post up today concerning a research breakthrough she just made based on the input of one of her mentors. As she describes it:

I’ve begun reading a book that I never would have read – or maybe I would, but I don’t know how I would have gotten to it given the other sorts of stuff I’ve been reading – that Eminent Awesome Wonderful Fun Mentor suggested when I saw her at a recent conference. I’m not entirely sure how she knew, after listening to me talk for only 2 minutes about NB, but this book? It is so freaking important to what I’m trying to say! It is like the missing link! And it’s not an obvious link – it’s a sort of weird connection to make, if that makes sense – but it’s exactly the way for me to get from point A to point B in my overall argument – something I hadn’t known how I’d manage.

W00T! However, she also concludes that she would not have had this person as a mentor if she had not ceased to have a mentoring relationship with her PhD thesis advisor:

I…wondered whether I would just disappear into obscurity because I was so cleanly and clearly cut off once my dissertation was defended and filed. I mean, what happens to people whose dissertation advisers forget they exist the moment that they’ve finished the dissertation? That’s a bad thing, right?

You know what? In my case, it has not been a bad thing at all. In fact, I think it’s been a great thing. Because you know why? I somehow have ended up with all of these awesome mentors – including people whom I totally admired and thought were rockstars and who I never thought I’d be, like, friends with – who do things like encourage me and recommend that I look at certain books and who do all the mentory things that my dissertation adviser does not do.

I’m not sure why she assumes that had she maintained a close mentoring relationship with her thesis advisor, she would not have formed additional close mentoring relationships as her career progressed.

I remain personally close to my thesis advisor, but have never relied on her for scientific professional mentoring since I left her lab. On the other hand, my post-doctoral mentor is still a valuable source of mentoring, and since I’ve been an independent investigator and faculty member, I’ve sought out various types of mentoring from a number of individuals both at my institution and elsewhere.

In fact, I would say that one of the most important skills of professional scholarship to develop is the ability to seek, find, and enlist a diverse portfolio of mentors throughout one’s scholarly career, each of whom provides a particular aspect of expertise and insight.

There is more cool shit in Dr. Crazy’s post, so go check the whole fucking thing out.

9 Responses to “Seeking Mentors”

  1. drugmonkey Says:


    including random douches on the internet?

  2. GMP Says:

    There is not a single swear word until the very last sentence?! Who are you and what have they done with CPP?

  3. Dr. Crazy Says:

    I was busy getting shitfaced with a high school friend, so didn’t see this post until now. Here’s the deal: I think that in English there can be a lot of proprietary shit over grad students, and this can both get in the way of students finding mentors beyond the director and also produce a culture in the field in which English peeps think diss director is ALL – the support of that person can feel like an end-all be-all of success in the field. Maybe this is because we’re a field in which we don’t co-author? Dunno. You’re right: it’s not at all that I couldn’t have found these mentors in addition to the diss person had that been possible. BUT – I think I appreciate those mentors *infinitely* more because I was left out to sea by my diss person and I had to find them without his help. At the end of the day, I credit these mentors with really helping me to become the scholar I am. I think that my diss director doesn’t give a shit what I do – even though I’ve done better and more than any of his advisees in recent memory and in the history of the past 15+ years. Except, of course, this job wasn’t “good enough” and the fact that I took it reflected badly on him. Gah. Sorry to bitch in your comments. Time to drink more. (High school friend has passed out in the spare room.)

  4. Sorry to bitch in your comments.

    AHAHAHAH! That ain’t nothin’!

  5. Isis the Scientist Says:

    I really hate calling it a “diss.” Almost as much as I hate “PI.”

  6. Sxydocma1 Says:

    My husband is a Philosopher.
    He and all the humanities people call their thesis the diss.
    I’m not sure why.

  7. JaneB Says:

    At my InternationallyRenownedUniversity, we abbreviated the hell out of everything. Computer Science was Compski, Natural Science was Natski, Russian Language and Literature was Ruskel… so of course it was a diss. And one prepped before a supe (prepared before meeting with your supervisor). Cultural differences!

  8. arrzey Says:

    Best thing my advisor ever did for me was die. Really. His students are now a limited commodity.

  9. Karl Knoeff Says:

    Humanities, history, music …….. LOVE

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