Reflections on a career as graduate mentor-from baby steps at Wisconsin to today

J Anim Sci. 2023 Jan 3:101:skad136. doi: 10.1093/jas/skad136.


Graduate education is an important aspect of the life of most academic scientists and a serious responsibility because it comes with the obligation to help students achieve their career and life goals. It can also be very fulfilling for the graduate mentor in terms of personal satisfaction and advancement of the research program. Learning to be a good major professor is an active process that depends on developing a formal framework of education and modifying that framework for each student based on past experiences and experimentation, advice from colleagues, and the individual personality of the student. Perhaps most important is for the graduate mentor to buy into the success and well-being of the student. Among the characteristics that a major professor could seek to instill in his or her students are critical and independent thinking, self-confidence, a thick skin, teamwork, laboratory skills and understanding, and the ability for hard work. Work to make science joyful by celebrating accomplishments, creating a fun environment in the lab, and stressing the societal value of science as compared to personal rewards or ambition.

Keywords: animal science; graduate education; physiology.

Plain language summary

Science is dependent on education of the next generation through the formal and informal instruction that new scientists experience in graduate school. This paper focuses on some approaches to be considered by the graduate mentor as he or she guides his students into the world of science.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Education, Graduate / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Learning
  • Male
  • Mentors*
  • Students*
  • Wisconsin