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- Mean Girls, Nell Benjamin and Tina Fey - 

“find your group, your herd, your flock...                              here's where you belong”


I stepped into my first faculty position at 27 years old, and quickly realized two things: first, that I didn't have the sage experience-based advice to give that my mentors had given me, and second, that I was the same age or barely older than most of my students. I wanted to be an effective and committed mentor to my students, but didn't have anyone to learn from that was in the same position as me—young, fresh out of grad school, and a woman in a male-dominated field. I approached becoming a mentor the same way engineering designers approach new product design problems: defining the problem, ascertaining the needs of stakeholders, clarifying objectives to meet these needs, ideating, testing, and iterating. I identified the elements of mentoring that I thought were important for my students—effective communication, interpersonal skills, being a team player, having difficult but productive conversations, networking—and researched and improved these skills on my own, before bringing them to my first cohort of graduate students. Over time, we've added more skills to our collective skillset, like handling stress, managing our time, and how to ask for help, with me learning from my students just as often as they learn from me. I've continuously researched and communicated these skills through a workshop series called Best Practices for Graduate Student Researchers, which I give as part of my role as the Chair of Student Activities at American Society of Mechanical Engineers conferences and as an annual, multi-term seminar series at Oregon State University. As of 2020, over 1000 graduate students have attended these seminars. Topics in this series include:
  • How to formulate research questions
  • Conducting a literature review and synthesis
  • Creating effective slides and giving good presentations
  • How to create a research poster
  • Technical writing
  • Time management
  • Managing your manager
  • Mental health in graduate school
  • Publishing and the peer review process
  • Mentoring
  • Using GitHub 
  • University Teaching
  • Public science communication
  • Open Science
  • Grantsmanship and Research Funding
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, one of these seminars was presented virtually and can be viewed here.  I am happy to share the content of these seminars with you if you'd like additional resources for advancing your own mentoring program, and hope to record live versions of these seminars.
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