Tips for mentoring students

Your official job is to mentor students and oversee their research. However, to be a successful mentor, you need to care about the entirety of your student. Care about the physical, mental and emotional health. Listen to their concerns in all areas, not just research.

To assist you, we have compiled mental health resources for graduate students.

At one of your first meetings, set clear expectations for your student. Create a contract which outlines deadlines for degree completion, research requirements and appropriate conduct. Let individuals know what you expect, and also outline what they can expect from you.

To assist you, we have created a fillable form of expectations for graduate students.

A principle investigator must balance the personalities of their lab group. Think intentionally about different lab cultures and how to implement them. Work to establish group expectations and decorum early. Institute structures to deal with common lab group challenges including shared spaces, the competition for your time and attention, intergroup conflict and the rise of romantic relationships. When conflict arises, don’t just brush it under a rug. Students can be in labs for two to five years. That’s a long time for frustrations to fester.
When conflict inevitably arises, remember to conduct yourself in a professional manner. You may be feeling frustrated, hurt or angry, but likely so is your student. It may be beneficial to step away from the issue seemingly at hand and recognize what’s really bothering you. TEDxUSU speaker, Clair Canfield, talked about how the dishes may not be the cause of conflict, but the lack of respect you feel by not having a lab mate clean up after him or herself may be the real problem. Try to listen to those involved within the conflict, and don’t be afraid to look for creative, satisfying solutions.

Resources for mentoring students

Calendly is a useful tool to help schedule time to meet with students. Completely customizable, you can set this software to only allow a certain number of appointments per day; you can set the meeting length (15 minutes, 30 minutes, 60 minutes). Reminder emails can be sent to both you and the individual you are meeting with. When an individual makes an appointment through Calendly they can add information such as what the meeting is about and if they would like you to review any information before the meeting. Students can also cancel or reschedule the meeting from the app.
Along with allowing convenient scheduling, Boomerang for Outlook allows for individuals to schedule when to send an email from their account, and it can monitor who reads these emails, if they’ve clicked on any links, and this system will notify you if an email has not been responded to, and it can prompt you to send a follow-up email. According to their website, a follow-up message increases response rates by 48%. Respondable, an add-on within Boomerang for Outlook, allows you to customize your emails based on reading level, word count and subject length.