Our Mentors WOW: Words of Wisdom from the mentors of the Diversity Program Consortium

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Contact Info: ehoh@mednet.ucla.edu

collage of mentors featured in this article about mentoring

One of the Diversity Program Consortium’s goals is to elevate the future generation of scientists and researchers, and this is only made possible with the passion and dedication of the current generation. Faculty mentors play a critical role in the mission to reach inclusive excellence in the biomedical research workforce, and they inspire this vision everyday. Read mentors’ words of wisdom on mentorship below. 

Devin Drown picture“Listen to your mentees as they each need different kinds of feedback. At the same time, listen to yourself and have your own vision of your abilities. You are only a capable mentor when you trust what you are doing.”

— Devin Drown, Ph.D.
Assistant professor, Department of Biology and Wildlife, Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks. 


“My mentees have taught me to be patient and very optimistic.”Niangoran Koissi picture

— Niangoran Koissi, Ph.D.
Lecturer of chemistry, Morgan State University



Asem Abdulabad picture“Be an active communicator, stay organized (the students you mentor will notice), and listen to your students–communication is a two-way street.”

— Asem Abdulahad, Ph.D.
Assistant professor of chemistry, Xavier University of Louisiana



Avis Jackson picture“I have a thing about embracing the efficacy of failure. My students never want to admit failure and struggle with being wrong, and I see myself in that too. So, I've created and presented modules on the benefits of failure and quotes from famous people on failure and its necessity. I remind students and myself that perfection is not only not possible, but doesn't give as much information as failure. It gives me, and hopefully them, room to be imperfect, make efforts, learn, improve/grow, and live a growth mindset.”

— Avis Jackson, Ph.D.
Researcher and summer program director, NRMN lead facilitator, Morgan State University


Givania Griffin picture“My experience as a near peer mentor with MSU ASCEND has built my leadership, people- management and team player skills. I develop self-efficacy as a mentor by using peer role models, autonomy, allowing active feedback from the students and encouraging opportunities for problem-solving.”

— Givania Griffin, BSc 
Morgan State University, Near-peer mentor for the ASCEND program


Jacob Kagey picture“I have had experiences in graduate school with anxiety and panic attacks related to challenges in graduate school. I learned that it is OK to ask for help and that is it OK to prioritize your health over your science. I try to share these lessons with my research mentees and my students in class.”

— Jacob Kagey, Ph.D.

Associate professor, University of Detroit Mercy, ReBUILDetroit, Director, Student Training Core 


Julia Burrows headshot“I have learned so much from my mentees. One thing is that they have taught me to be a much more compassionate mentor and educator. Through my mentoring relationships, I have learned of the struggles many students face on a daily basis: to pay rent, to care for family members, to understand wording on an exam when English is their second language, and how hidden curriculum makes navigating college so much more challenging for a first generation student.”

— Julia Burrows, Ph.D.

Adjunct instructor of biology, Portland State University, BUILD EXITO, Senior Enrichment Lead, Career Mentor


Laura Elena O'Dell headshot

“We do not have to mentor how we were mentored. We can be better versions of our mentors.”

— Laura Elena O’Dell, Ph.D.

Professor of psychology, University of Texas El Paso


Lisa Marriot headshot“Accepting failure as a normal part of science is a challenge that takes some time and practice. Trying to help students understand that failure is a part of science, and to stay with it, is key.”  

— Lisa Marriott, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, OHSU-PSU School of Public Health, Laboratory mentor, career mentor, enrichment lead for junior scholars


Lori Gildehaus“I think it's incredibly important to share personal experiences so students know that they aren't alone in their struggles. I struggled with a faculty member who was on my graduate degree committee. I didn't feel that he made me or my degree completion a priority. I learned self advocacy and how to persist. I share this challenge, along with others I encountered, with my students.”

— Lori Gildehaus, M.S.

University of Alaska Fairbanks, BLaST Program, Lead research advising and mentoring professional 


Maegan Weltzin headshot photo“To develop self-efficacy, I try to keep in mind what I used to know five years ago, one year ago, one month ago, etc. I try to also remember what I have accomplished and maintain an upbeat attitude. These are key concepts that allow me to maintain a positive perspective, especially when facing new challenges.”

— Maegan Weltzin, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of chemistry and biochemistry, University of Alaska, Fairbanks


Marilyn Rampersad Mackiewicz headshot“Listen to your mentees! They have important things to say and open your heart to those that are very different from you. Don’t be afraid to change yourself!”

—  Marilyn Rampersad Mackiewicz, Ph.D.

Research Assistant Professor in chemistry, Portland State University, Research mentor, career mentor, enrichment lead, mentor trainer


Thomas Kuhn headshot“Although it might sound peculiar, mentoring to some degree shares many aspects of parenting. In either situation, you should be aware of the immense responsibility you are taking on, because you will inevitably shape the future outlook of an individual. The main goal is for this individual to go off into the world and make her or his place and succeed – that is where the satisfaction for a mentor should lie.”

— Thomas Kuhn, Ph.D.

Professor of biochemistry and neuroscience, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry University of Alaska Fairbanks, BLaST mentor


Michelle Starz-Gaiano“I think it is good to strike a balance in giving students things that need to get done, and things that are just really cool and likely to give a nice result, even if it is not "new."  If students get results, it is a great motivator for them to learn more, do more experiments, and think more deeply about the possibilities.”

— Michelle Starz-Gaiano, Ph.D.

Associate professor of biological sciences, University of Maryland, Baltimore County


“Challenge mentees to articulate what they're looking for in a connection to you. Nobody can be the be-all, end-all solution for somebody else.”

— Mercedes Burns, Ph.D.

Assistant professor of biological sciences, University of Maryland, Baltimore County


“I remind myself that each lab member is an individual human being. A very unique person with different needs and expectations. We all have our own challenges and problems inside and, more importantly, outside of the lab. The crucial ingredient is effective communication in a welcoming environment. It is important for me to listen to their ideas, plans, and concerns to adjust my mentoring strategies accordingly. At the same time, I have ethical principles as a researcher and as a person that I keep in all situations and share as a role model.”

— Fernando Vonhoff, Ph.D.

Assistant professor of biological sciences, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

“Rather than forcing students into one mold that aligns with my way of doing things, I realized that I needed to be a different PI to each student to get the best out of them. This process of figuring out what worked well for different students helped me to develop self-efficacy over a short period of time and continues to strengthen the overall dynamic in our lab.”

— Lee Blaney, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of chemical, biochemical, and environmental engineering, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

The Diversity Program Consortium Coordination and Evaluation Center at UCLA is supported by Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health / National Institutes of General Medical Sciences under award number U54GM119024.
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