The Research Triangle Park

Would science survive without mentoring?

By Mar 16, 2017

I interviewed Ernest G. Heimsath, Jr. Ph.D on January 25, 2017. He is received his Doctorate at the Dartmouth University and is currently a  postdoctoral fellow at the UNC school of medicine. During the fall of 2016, Ernest participated in our Arts n’ STEM expo by being an expo presenter and speed mentor. Here’s is our discussion about mentoring: 

Q. Tell me about how mentoring plays a role in your daily life as a postdoc.

Ernest: In my career trajectory, I see myself becoming more involved in my community. Mentoring helps me pass on my acquired skills on to the next generation. Mentoring plays a big role in inspiring others who have a curiosity in a certain field. When they have an interest, I help to foster that interest in them.

Q. Who do you mentor and how specifically do you mentor in the lab?
Ernest: At UNC, I mentor undergraduate students from different levels from freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors. I also assist graduate students sometimes. My way of mentoring is quite different. I mentor with the approach of teaching people how to gain necessary skills that they can apply in a particular field. I teach them how to think and help them walk away with learning to think within their capacity. Alongside tutoring, I assist students with scheduling, and time management techniques. I aid students who are struggling in lab by showing the different available options and guiding them towards the right one.

Q: Have you had any great mentors in your career/education?
Ernest: Yes, at every stage in education, I’ve had mentors who helped guide me to where I am today. My strongest mentors are my mom and dad. My father has always been a strong pusher of education. My lab professor also pushed and challenged me when I took difficult courses. He thought me to be a researcher and go to grad school.

Q. What role does mentorship play in the success of science as a whole?
Ernest: The knowledge of science has been shared throughout generations through mentorship. A good mentor takes the knowledge they’ve learnt, and pass it on so someone else may learn it too and hopefully be able to improve it. The same goes for a person on the receiving end. 

Q. Do you think science could work without mentoring? If not, why?
Ernest: No. It simply just can’t. Unfortunately, not everyone has had a good mentor, and things sometimes go astray for those people. I had a few colleagues whom I started with that didn’t have any mentor. Things turned out for them quite differently. Mentors help to bring light to opportunities where otherwise students, mostly those in disadvantaged communities would not that that opportunity. Mentors encourage and give wisdom to get people to believe even when it seems impossible. With science, mentoring encourages the flow of information and I believe that necessary.

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