Roles of Research Faculty Resources

The Supervisory Role of Life Science Research Faculty: The Missing Link to Diversifying the Academic Workforce?

  • In addition to developing innovative research programs, life science research faculty at research-intensive institutions are tasked with providing career mentoring and scientific training to new generations of scientists, including postgraduate, graduate, and undergraduate students. In this essay, we argue for a redefinition of mentoring in laboratory research, to thoroughly distinguish three essential roles played by research faculty relative to their trainees: advisor, educator, and supervisor. In particular, we pay attention to the often unacknowledged and misunderstood role of a faculty member as a supervisor and discuss the impact of neglecting supervisory best practices on trainees, on the diversity of the academic pipeline, and on the research enterprise. We also provide actionable frameworks for research mentors who wish to use inclusive supervisory and pedagogical practices in their laboratory. Finally, we call for more research around the supervisory role of research faculty and its impact on trainees, particularly community college students, in order to help broaden the participation of underrepresented students in STEM fields.

Learning How to Run a Lab: Interviews with Principal Investigators

  • A research lab is the workhorse of modern science. Running a research lab,
    whether it is a wet lab, dry lab, or both, is a complex and costly endeavor, which requires a talented team, solid funding, lab space, and a principal investigator (PI). The success of a lab is normally associated with its PI and, indeed, very much dependent on his or her scientific achievements (hence vision), productivity, and, importantly, management skills. Management skills are essential, because the individual contribution of the PI alone is insufficient to make a lab flourish. Ultimately, it is the ability of the PI to envision, manage, motivate, and lead the team that makes this workhorse healthy and productive.


Mentors, advisors and supervisors: Their role in teaching responsible research conduct

  • Although the terms mentor and thesis advisor (or research supervisor) are often used interchangeably, the responsibilities associated with these roles are distinct, even when they overlap. Neither are role models necessarily mentors, though mentors are role models: good examples are necessary but not sufficient. Mentorship is both a personal and a professional relationship. It has the potential for raising a number of ethical concerns, including issues of accuracy and reliability of the information conveyed, access, stereotyping and tracking of advisees, and the abuse of power. Nevertheless, mentors can be critically important for professional success and are one of a number of elements that affect the responsible conduct of research. In addition, the community as a whole has a responsibility to mentor junior members.

STEMulating Conversations Podcast: Mentoring Moments with Dr. Beronda Montgomery

  • Mentoring expert Dr. Beronda Montgomery shares thoughts on mentoring from her two unique perspectives:  a principal/primary investigator (PI) and a biologist who shares "life lessons from plants." We discuss:
  • the importance of delineating the role of the PI into mentor and advisor
  • the effectiveness of formal mentoring programs
  • tips on cultivating mentoring relationships



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updated September 17, 2020