SBNet

SBNet - Mentor system evaluation

In order to decide if some form of mentor system should be made a part of the activities of SBNet in case it gets funded for another five-year period, the current mentor system has been evaluated. Of the 20 SBNet-supported PhD students, 19 responded (after some threats :-).

On the whole it seems as if the mentor system is perceived as something very positive, even though at this stage the tangible impact is modest. I would suggest to include a general mentor system in the proposal for "SBNet - The Next Generation".


How long have you been employed on SBNet money ?


1 = 1.5 years
2 = 2.5 years
3 = 2.5 years
4 = I'm not yet employed on SBNet money, but will be in the near future
5 = 2.5 years
6 = 0.5 years
7 = 1 year
8 = 2.5 years
9 = 2.5 years
10 = 1 year
11 = 3 years
12 = 2.5 years
13 = 1 year
14 = 1.5 years
15 = 2 years
16 = 2 years
17 = 0.5 years
18 = 2 years
19 = 1.5 years


How often have you met your two mentors ?


1 = 1 / 0
2 = 3 / 3
3 = 4 / 4
4 = several times (same building) / 0
5 = 2 / 3
6 = quite often (same building) / 2
7 = 1 / 1
8 = 4 / 4
9 = twice a year / once a year
10 = 1 / 1
11 = 2 / 2
12 = 2 / 1
13 = 1 / 0
14 = 0 / 1
15 = 1 / 0
16 = 2 / 1
17 = >10 / 1
18 = 3 / 1
19 = 2 / 2

=> on average, once per year (Tällberg conference), with some exceptions


Have you visited any of your mentors in order to give a seminar at his/her institute, or do you have plans to do this within the next year ?


1 = not yet, but plans to visit both this year
2 = perhaps just before I finish my PhD, which might happen within a year
3 = yes on both. I met mentor 1 in May and will visit mentor 2 in
September/October
4 = I have plans to visit mentor 2 and give a seminar during this summer
5 = not as yet. But I have plans to do so shortly
6 = I am planning to visit mentor 2 within the next month
7 = plans to do so
8 = have visited to talk about work situation, but not to give seminar
9 = I haven't done it but plan to do it within the next year
10 = not yet, but they mentioned it when we met
11 = no
12 = no
13 = I have plans to do it
14 = not yet
15 = I have never visited them but I plan to visit mentor 1 during this
year
16 = no, but I have plans
17 = no
18 = have plans to visit mentor 2
19 = not yet. I will do it in the future

=> not many students have visited their mentors yet. I suspect this may
increase as they get closer to their PhD and become interested in
post-doc positions.


Have you ever contacted any of your mentors outside the annual SBNet conference (e.g., by phone or E-mail) ?


1 = no
2 = yes
3 = not anything more than for the planning of visits
4 = no
5 = no
6 = no
7 = no
8 = yes
9 = yes, to get practical advice on a purification problem that I thought
mentor 2 might have experience with
10 = not yet
11 = yes, but not often
12 = no
13 = no
14 = no
15 = yes
16 = no
17 = yes, mentor 1
18 = no
19 = no

=> on the whole, not many students contact their mentors outside the
Tällberg meetings


Do you feel that the contact with your mentors has helped you with the scientific aspects of your work (e.g., they may have given you a useful idea for an experiment) ?


1 = no
2 = not as much scientific help as more general good advice, like what
projects to include in the PhD thesis in order to be competetive also in
industry. We have discussed more scientific questions as well
3 = at the last meeting: Yes. Previously: I don´t think so. But maybe
some of the ideas comes from them...
4 = since I haven't been on the program for very long I have to say no,
but I'm sure it will help me in the future
5 = yes
6 = at the first meeting I hadn't started but at this meeting we were
discussing possible approaches to solve the problems I am facing at the
moment in the labwork
7 = no
8 = hmm, not really
9 = yes, but only in one small case
10 = they encouraged me the one time I met them
11 = not really
12 = no
13 = no
14 = I haven't had the contact so I don't know
15 = no
16 = no
17 = yes, mentor 1 has been a great asset for me in analysing NMR data
and in a more general perspective
18 = it is always nice to hear that other people think that you do a good
job
19 = yes

=> with some exceptions, tangible results of the student-mentor
interaction in the students' research appear to be modest


Do you feel that the contact with your mentors has helped you with the non-scientific aspects of your work (e.g., in your relation with your supervisor, or with respect to future job prospects, or maybe they have tipped you regarding a useful conference or workshop) ?


1 = no
2 = see answer to previous question
3 = I have them in mind if something shows up
4 = not yet
5 = yes
6 = we haven't discussed any of these things so far
7 = no
8 = have discussed a few things, not sure it helped though
9 = not yet, except that I got to know at least my mentors in Uppsala and
Stockholm, which might be useful. Maybe I will ask them for advice when
looking for a post-doc opportunity
10 = not really
11 = no (not yet at least)
12 = no
13 = no
14 = I don't know
15 = no, at least not yet
16 = no
17 = yes
18 = not yet
19 = (no reply)

=> this may change as students get closer to their PhD


On the whole, do you consider the mentor system to be very useful, somewhat useful, or not useful ?


1 = very useful if you can choose the mentor yourself
2 = very useful. I regret that I have not, so far, used it to its full
potential
3 = somewhat useful. I think it can be very useful and might as well be
even
for me (i.e. to get contacts for post-doc lab)
4 = I think it's a very useful system, and will try to use it as much as
I can. Maybe the mentors could be instructed to take an initiative to a
meeting as soon as they know they have a student to take care of
5 = very useful
6 = I am sure that the mentor system can be very useful if you keep
contact with the mentors. Besides being an extra input giving you new
ideas for the work, it can probably increase the probability of picking
up students who are stuck in any kind of problems before it goes too far
7 = it seems to be a good system
8 = somewhat useful - can be nice to have some input from the "outside",
but probably could have managed perfectly well without it
9 = I find it useful. Somewhere between very and somewhat
10 = extremely useful. It is an excellent idea to have someone to ask
outside your own lab. And it is also provides an easy way to contact a
lab without knowing anyone personally
11 = somewhat useful
12 = could be useful if some input is needed
13 = very useful when needed
14 = somewhat useful
15 = somewhat useful
16 = I think it can be very useful and it is a very good opportunity to
have the meeting in Tallberg
17 = very useful, sometimes it is good to force people to meet
18 = I think it is very useful, but I have not yet taken full advantage
of it
19 = somewhat useful

=> nevertheless, the students are mostly positive about the mentor system
(see also the responses to the next question)


Given your experiences with the mentor system, if you were starting as a PhD student and you had the option to have a mentor, would you choose to have one ?


1 = yes
2 = yes
3 = yes. I think it is good to have at least one extra contact-person
within the scientific filed but outside the laboratory. The only problem
might be the "ankdamm"-problem of Structural Biology in Sweden. The
mentor might have problem with giving real scientific advice without the
feeling of interfering with the PhD-Supervisor-relationship because the
mentor and supervisor are good friends
4 = definitely
5 = yes
6 = yes
7 = yes
8 = don't know
9 = yes, definitively
10 = yes
11 = yes
12 = yes
13 = yes
14 = yes
15 = yes
16 = yes, because it is good to have someone that you can talk to if you
have any problems
17 = yes
18 = yes, for sure
19 = yes

=> only one student doesn't know; all the others would opt to have (a)
mentor(s)


Any other remarks ?


1 = The mentor system has the potential to be very fruitful, but for me I
have never had the chance to get to know my mentors or meet them. (Only
once in Tallberg I met Liljas). Now I have a new "mentor" that I know and
that I have met some more times. He has  helped me with the scientific
aspects of my work and also regarding conferences etc.

2 = As far as I can judge from the mentor student list, mentors for each
student have been choosen from the same field. Eg. both my mentors
currently use NMR as the main technique, although both of them are also
very experienced in other spectroscopic methods.I would prefere to have
it organized in a way, that each student have one mentor that is
specialized in the research area of the student and one from a related
field of research. To exemplify, I could have one NMR-spectroscopist and
one biochemist or crystallographer or .... as mentors. Perhaps it is only
me (???) but I tend to get a lot of good advice from chrystallographers,
because from my point of view they often look at structural biology in a
broader perspective. In general there is a risk of getting to narrow
minded (especially in the field of NMR, I fear), but I think the mentor
system and the Tallberg conference are excelent instruments to promote
understanding between neighbouring research fields.

3 = It is worth keeping for people wanting it

5 = I think the mentor system is very useful and a pleasant experience
for the student. I recommend the same for all students

10 = I think every Ph.D. student should have one, preferably two,
mentor(s) to meet sort of regularly

14 = I believe that the mentor system would be really of benefit it it
would really work

=> the idea to have one mentor from a different field (which is as we had
planned originally, but didn't do in the end) might be worth reviving. Of
course, a general mentor system for all Swedish PhD students would
require a large number of mentors, and I doubt whether we could afford
the luxury of two mentors per student. On the other hand, we could ask
the younger structural biologists (post-post-doc as it were) to
participate as well and team them up with a more senior scientist.


SBNet Latest update at 21 September, 1999.