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".
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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)
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)
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.