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Mentor-Mentee Compact for the Gould Lab

Goals: The Gould lab is united by a common passion for discovering new biology and training the next generation of scientists. The primary scientific goal of our lab is to uncover new insights into the mechanism and regulation of eukaryotic cytokinesis. Our research relies heavily on the use of yeast and cell culture models, and techniques such as state-of-the-art live cell imaging, yeast genome manipulation, protein production and biochemical analyses, mass spectrometry-based proteomics, and single cell analyses.

My job as a professor, which I enjoy greatly, is to obtain funding to conduct our research and to disseminate the knowledge we discover by publishing manuscripts and giving presentations nationally and internationally. My job also involves training and advising you and helping you set and achieve professional goals.

Your job is to help me carry out this work by performing experiments, analyzing data, creating figures for presentations, writing manuscripts, and also by sharing your ideas, knowledge, and insights.

We should both benefit from our relationship.  And, we should have fun working together!

What you can expect from me:

  • I am 100% committed to the success of the lab and everyone in it. The success of all PhD trainees in the School of Medicine is also very important to me and when I am away from the lab some parts of most days, that is what I am focused on. You will benefit from my administrative efforts.
  • I will be available for informal conversations, weekly one-on-one meetings, and weekly group meetings. If my door is open, you are welcome to pop in to ask a question, propose an idea, show me a result, etc. I am a data junkie. Despite a busy schedule, I am available to you more than folks think and my administrative role does not consume all of my time or effort. I will make time for you.
  • I will help you with all graduate school-related work. For example, I will help you prepare for your qualifying exam, help select your thesis committee, introduce you to other scientists and other faculty, etc. I will come to all of your committee meetings, presentations, etc.
  • I will communicate with you transparently about authorship and will do my best to provide you with collaborative opportunities within and outside the lab. I have a high standard for the quality of manuscripts from my lab and I like to publish complete work that is received well by reviewers.
  • I will help develop your communication skills. I will guide you in writing papers and grants and I will teach you how to make good slides and give a good presentation.
  • I will encourage and financially support you to attend national and international conferences and also advanced courses that will help you in your research. I will also help you find opportunities for travel awards.
  • I understand that each trainee has a unique background and may have distinct professional goals. Therefore, I do not treat everyone in the lab identically. I strive to foster each person’s research skills, independence, confidence, critical thinking, creativity, and career development in a manner tailored to their personality, background, and goals.
  • I will be your advocate for life! Even after you leave my group, I will do whatever I can to help you in your career including providing honest letters of recommendation, finishing projects you were working on so you can have additional authored papers, and providing the best advice I can whenever you ask.

Expectations of you:  While it is my job to advise and mentor you, it is your job to take ownership of your training experience. You have the primary responsibility for the successful completion of your degree or postdoc experience. You should:

  • Become a scholar. Master the previous literature relevant to your project and keep up with the current literature so that you play a major role in guiding your own research and contribute intellectually to the entire group. Attend seminars. You can learn something from everyone.
  • Learn how to document your work. Write something in your lab notebook each day even if it just says that you were working on a presentation or preparing for class. Write your experimental details as you go – every one of them. Include your conclusions and next steps.
  • Learn how to properly store and annotate your data. Your data belongs to the lab and should always be accessible to me or if the NIH comes looking for it.
  • Learn how to design and conduct high quality scientific research. As in carpentry, careful planning saves time and resources. Please never do an experiment without a negative and a positive control.
  • Learn how to present your work competently in a public setting. This takes practice so expect to be asked to practice in front of the group.
  • Learn how to write scientifically. This also takes practice so I like to have folks get started early by writing as they begin to acquire data. If writing is not your forte, the VU writing studio is a great place to get help as is an ASPIRE module on scientific writing led by experts from the writing studio.
  • Prepare for our one-on-one scheduled weekly meetings. These meetings should include updating me on your research progress, discussing technical issues so we can trouble-shoot, discussing ideas for next experiments, projects, or collaborations, or discussing an interesting seminar or paper. If applicable, meetings should also include updates on course progress and/or other professional activities.
  • Become knowledgeable about the policies, deadlines, and requirements of graduate programs, the graduate school, and the university. Use the websites that the BRET office, CDB department, and grad school have designed for us. Comply with rules related to chemical safety, biosafety, and radiation safety. I will help you interpret policies and rules if they seem ambiguous.
  • Actively cultivate your professional development. Take advantage of the expansive career development opportunities the BRET office offers through the ASPIRE Over the course of your training, identify a career path(s) that matches your skills, values, and interests.
  • Participate in the larger scientific community. Some examples to consider are:
    • Look for relevant conferences to attend to present your work and advanced courses to participate in. I will send you to them! The more often you present your work, the easier it will become and the better you will be.
    • Join national societies and participate in their training activities and/or committees.
    • Communicate science to lay people.
    • Pay attention to issues of inclusion in STEM and strive to actively defeat exclusionary attitudes and behaviors in our environment.
  • Be respectful and communicate in a professional way (in person and via email) with everyone: faculty, students, research assistants, postdocs, program managers, equipment managers, housekeeping staff (they bake us cakes!), etc. You represent the Gould Lab – all of us – all the time.
  • Work hard and persevere. In general, research assistants work 40 hours/wk; students and post-docs should expect to work significantly more than that, including time on weekends. Some of this work, reading and writing, can be done at home. Working hard at your research passions does not mean that you cannot enthusiastically participate in other aspects of life (e.g. friends, family, music, art, exercise, sport, travel, literature). I believe that pursuing such other passions will make you a happier human and a more efficient scientist. Some days or weeks you should expect to work quite long hours and other days or weeks you will not. Some flexibility with one’s work schedule is a great privilege of life as an academic scientist and you will have to learn to manage your time in order to take advantage of this while maintaining productivity and progress. VU’s guideline is that students and postdocs can take 3 weeks of vacation and 12 days of sick/wellness leave per year.
  • Be resourceful. Vanderbilt is an amazing place, full of opportunities for you to learn new research skills and approaches. You will learn from your lab-mates, and you can also learn from folks in other labs, collaborators, core lab personnel, seminar speakers, the literature, etc. Please take advantage of all learning opportunities that can propel your research forward.
  • Consider helping to train others. We always have undergrads asking to work in our lab. Mentoring junior students (undergrads, rotating, summer) is a valuable learning experience and is usually very rewarding.

Our TEAM:  We value a lab culture that is supportive, inclusive, and respectful of diverse backgrounds and experiences. We routinely celebrate everyone’s successes, accomplishments, and birthdays. We also enjoy a good laugh. Practical jokes are not unheard of. The dynamic of the group strongly impacts how each member, including me, feels about coming to work. YOU are an important contributor to the group dynamic – for better or for worse. Thus, I ask everyone to:

  • Actively participate in the group.
    • This means not only presenting your work in lab meetings when it is your turn but also thinking about and providing ideas and suggestions for your lab-mates’ projects.
    • This means reading drafts of lab-mates’ manuscripts and providing feedback in a timely manner.
    • This means going to lab-mates’ practice talks and providing encouragement and constructive feedback.
    • This means participating in celebrations of everyone’s accomplishments and milestones reached.
    • This means refraining from using your phone during our meetings or in seminars. It means leaving your ear-buds out until you are doing routine tasks alone in order to encourage scientific interactions. I realize the modern culture includes devices everywhere all the time, but I think it is important that we show respect to one another or guest speakers by removing these distractions until work breaks.
  • Strive to be a good lab citizen.
    • We have a lot of common equipment and supplies and they all have their place. Please wash things you have dirtied, return things where you found them, and update the order list if we are running low on a supply.
    • Treat all equipment and instruments with care. Take responsibility to report any mal-functioning instrument and proactively work to get it repaired.
  • Be a good collaborator.
    • Find ways to contribute and work together with your lab-mates or others. Do let me know about these collaborations though!
    • In your slide presentations and in manuscripts, make sure to acknowledge the individuals in and out of the lab who have helped us.
  • Deal professionally with conflicts.

Our relationship:  A good working relationship with you is very important to me. Besides you, no one wants to see you succeed in your training and career more than I do.

  • Be responsive to advice and constructive criticism: I will do my best to guide you, encourage you, and push you. This may sometimes feel like criticism and be uncomfortable. It will never be my intent to hurt your feelings, but rather to help you develop as a scientist.
  • Be on time: Time is valuable to me. Please be on time to individual meetings with me, to lab meetings, to seminars, etc. or communicate with me if something has come up that will delay you.
  • Be mindful of deadlines and time constraints: I will get any written draft back to you in a timely manner and I will flex my schedule to make it easier for you to get important meetings such as thesis committee meetings scheduled. However, consider the old adage “Procrastination on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine”. So, please get drafts to me early enough that I have a reasonable amount of time to provide meaningful comments before deadlines. Consider that we will go back and forth multiple times on research proposals, manuscripts, and even conference abstracts before producing a final version.
  • If you are feeling overwhelmed or need help prioritizing your efforts, please let me know.
  • If you need time off for sick or personal reasons, please just let me know. I will understand.

Yearly IDP evaluation:  Every year, we will take time to discuss your goals, progress, plans, and level of satisfaction. We should also discuss any concerns that you have with respect to my role as your advisor. If you feel that you need more guidance or would like to meet with me more often, please tell me. Or, if you feel that I am directing too much of your work, please let me know. I will strive to flex to your needs. Of course, your feedback need not wait for these yearly meetings.

**  This compact is modeled after ones developed by the AAMC, Dr. Trina McMahon from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Drs. Alyssa Hasty and Chuck Sanders at Vanderbilt.