How the pandemic widened scientists’ mentoring networks

In the final episode of this seven-part series about mentoring, Ruth Gotian and Christine Pfund outline their hopes for post-pandemic mentoring and the changing nature of other collaborative relationships in scientific research.

As lockdowns took hold and mentoring sessions went online, many conversations moved beyond workplace topics and led to honest exchanges about work-life balance for the first time, they say.

The most successful relationships were ones where mentors led by example by showing their own vulnerabilities as they juggled home schooling, running labs, and trying to publish, they add.

“The pandemic opened an opportunity for us to talk about what’s happening in our home life in a way that had never happened before,” says Pfund, a senior scientist at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research and the Institute for Clinical and Translational Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Gotian, chief learning officer and assistant professor of education in anaesthesiology at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City, anticipates a future where early career researchers cast their net more widely when selecting mentors.

“I think the pool of mentors has expanded exponentially, because we can easily and comfortably look outside of our department, outside of our institution and outside of our industryNo longer do we have to meet in person,” she says.


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