May 11, 2017, by Lisa Chin

Role models, advisors, mentors…

This post is written by Dr Maysoun Mustafa, CFF-UNMC Doctoral Training Partnership Manager. 

Education today has evolved and changed considerably, particularly for postgraduate students. Technology is constantly advancing, boundaries between disciplines are increasingly blurred, and data is much more abundant. Additionally, the people involved in the educational sphere have increased in both number and diversity. As such, the trove of experiences and skills that can be found within an academic institute is very diverse and extensive. Postgraduate students can benefit from this abundance of experiences, as various players may be involved in their training and education and play a key role in the student’s growth and development. The main players involved may include:

  • Supervisors monitoring and guiding academic and professional progress;
  • Advisers contributing towards academic progress and support with scientific information and instruction;
  • Trainers teaching transferable skills and professional responsibility;
  • Role models exhibiting admirable qualities and values to aspire towards;
  • Mentors combine academic guidance with emotional support, career advice and role modeling.

Students can learn considerably from observing their supervisor’s role in teaching, conducting research, writing grants, presenting and publishing. Occasionally, a supervisor may take on an additional role as the student’s mentor. In such scenarios, their involvement will extend beyond academic and scientific instruction, such as introducing the student to a strong network and to the norms of the scientific community. However, a mentor need not always be the supervisor. It is someone with considerable interest in the student’s professional development and career growth. A mentoring relationship is a nurturing one, that will help the student identify their weaknesses and strengths both professionally and personally.


When identifying a mentor, the first step is to identify your own needs and how the mentor can help you grow. A mentor could be anyone from a fellow PhD scholar with more experience, to someone whose career choices you admire. Choosing a mentor is an important step in a scientific journey and contributes significantly towards a focused and guided academic path.

Postgraduate training plays a big part in enhancing your professional and social networks, and finding a right mentor is one of the many platforms for achieving that. It is important to create a community among your peers, as these are the next generation of researchers. Coordinating social activities such as journal clubs all serve to strengthen relationships and share experiences within the community. Most importantly, become a mentor yourself.

Posted in Postgraduate lifeResearcher Development