Tag Archives: communication

Thoughts on Mentoring: The Bodil Schmidt-Nielsen Award, 2019

As I put “pen” to “paper” (I still really do that, although I don’t use IBM punched cards any longer), I begin in fear and trepidation. Not so much because as you read this you might disagree with it, but more because what follows may come across as patronizing (“Father knows best”) and will be tossed aside for that reason alone.  What father has not endured the eye-rolling dismissal of their children when lecturing them on the foolishness of using their phones while driving? What authority out there gives me the much lesser right to lecture to you on what is important in mentoring? None, but common sense has never stopped me before, and will not now, because I have not learned to say no (see below!).

First the good news: In spite of ever-increasing demands – for ever-more coursework, of increasing automation, of Ever-Increasing Rules and Regulations (EIRR), and of greater and greater pressure to career-advance, training in scientific research remains very much an old-fashioned, slow, apprenticeship experience, and thank goodness for that. I cannot think of another profession where “Do as I do” trumps “Do as I say” quite so much. This is so important because while an apprentice car mechanic has absolute proof of having fixed the car (the brakes now work, they did not before), the apprentice researcher does not usually have absolute proof that their work output is correct because it will take time and replication to establish that to an acceptable probability. That is the “bad news”.

I began in research as a trainee back in the 1970’s well before EIRR. Training (and being trained) was an implicit, not explicit, part of academic life. We never talked about it, never broke it down into “skills and knowledge, attitudes and behaviors”. We just did research working together, we trainees and our trainers, setting up and fixing the equipment as needed, playing with the data using pen and paper, and learning the process as we went along without realizing it. 

Looking back, one can however pull some structure out of our apparently random learning process: It was about achieving the goals necessary to move from academic dependence to independence. My trainers would, without my realizing it, push me in directions needed to accomplish those goals, even when the goals were never actually written down via pen on paper or discussed in a meeting. I think it fair to say that I therefore inherited a training philosophy that is best characterized as first thinking of the goals to be met and only then worrying about how to achieve them when it seemed that a trainee was going off the rails.

So what I will do in the remainder of this “Father knows best” dissertation is lay out what I see as the main goals of training for someone who aspires to a career in scientific research, especially within an academic institution. Importantly, the following goals (7 are shown below) are likely very much the same for all academic trainees. In a given laboratory, it is the trainee’s time course towards, and aptitude for, reaching each goal that is the big source of variance. This is why I reason as follows:

Goal  =  X . Mentor + (1 – X) . Trainee

Hopefully this is clear: For a given trainee to reach any of the following “universal” goals will require work by both Mentor and Trainee. However, for some goals and trainees, the Mentor will need to put in a lot of effort (X near 1) while for others not so much (X near 0). What the Mentor needs to figure out is the solution to this equation for X for each trainee and for each goal.

The goals may be partially different, at least in relative importance, for those going into industry. I have never worked in industry, and thus what follows may need adjustment for that domain. Although I was instructed to provide five “mentoring tips” for this essay, I am providing 40% more than that at no extra charge.  I know they say you get what you pay for, but hopefully this will be an exception.

Goal 1: OCD about data integrity, first & last

By far the most time I spend in training is instilling the 100% – not 99.9% – need to assure data integrity. This effort takes place before a study, during the study and after the study. I do not mean avoiding scientific misconduct – that is a given. I mean being sufficiently obsessive and compulsive that you don’t sleep at night until the data set is beyond question. Calibration twice as often as you think you need; not relying on the equipment or reagent supplier’s specifications but taking the time to verify them yourself; real-time spot checks during a study; constantly moving from close-up (raw data) to 30,000ft and back again in viewing a data set for consistency, for variance, for outliers, for physiological reasonableness; having an unbiased plan for handling outliers before they pop up. Especially important is looking closely at the findings after the first experiment in a new study – i.e., before the second experiment.

What has always worked best for me as a trainer has been to start by DOING these things myself (X close to 1), yet of course side by side with the trainee – not just TELLING my trainee to do them (X close to zero) – until they “get it” and can be relied upon to follow suit. Many think I am too obsessive with data (wasted time and unnecessary hard work), but that’s OK. I welcome that criticism, it is a badge of honor. That is what time is for. Taking a hands-on approach not only shows the trainee how data integrity can be maximized, it shows the trainee how much time and thought I am willing to put into data quality control, and that leaves a lasting impression of how important it is.

Goal 2: Creative thinking ability & discipline

Duh, you say. Of course one needs to be creative and disciplined to succeed. But why, you ask, am I linking creative thinking to discipline as one goal? At first glance, creativity means brilliant, ethereal stuff that comes suddenly out of nowhere; discipline conjures up an image of the very converse – the willingness to stay chained to a deliberate, possibly even boring, process, often in the face of more appealing distractions.

The marriage between creativity and discipline is the key here. What I have come to realize, after reflecting back on my own experiences, is that creative thinking rarely ends up anywhere without a heavy dose of discipline. An idea may come out of nowhere, but without the subsequent discipline to think it through, take it apart, rebuild it another way, look at the logical strengths and weaknesses, do reality checks and so forth, it is not likely that the creative spark will actually lead to anything.

Goal 3: Communication skills

Here is another obvious one….obviously. I do not care for scientists who shamelessly push their agenda, conflating science with ego. I much prefer to let the findings speak for themselves. While I am still turned off by those who claim more from their data than the data really allow, I have come to realize that a bigger problem is scientists who have not learned to communicate their findings clearly. They usually understand their own work pretty well, but have a hard time explaining it to others. The most common mistake is thinking the audience is all at their level of knowledge and understanding. Too often I hear and see a seminar speaker spend far too little time on a slide that contains far too much material, and I am lost. Once you lose a listener they are “gone” for the remaining 20 slides, and so may be your research impact. It is critical to learn the art of: a) knowing your audience and speaking slowly and to their level of knowledge; b) not over-filling your power point slides or having too many; c) mentioning everything on each slide; d) minimizing and defining abbreviations; e) using fonts and symbols big enough to read from the back of the room; f) giving the bottom line of each slide before moving on to the next one. The same research may well have to be presented differently to different audiences, (depending on their expertise), the time you have to speak, and how your talk fits into those before and after yours. The holy grail here is to achieve audience understanding of your message. Duh.

But communication is not just about powerpoints. It is also about grants and papers you write. As a continuing study section member, I will simply say: please think of the reviewer as you write your grant. Density (bad), clarity (good), brevity (good), trees (good) then leaves (as few as you need for rigor). Reviewers are instructed not to read between your lines.

A more insidious communication concern is the all-too-frequent occurrence of burying a great data set in a drawer (metaphor for sequestering it in a database) and deferring writing it up for publication – because it is understandably more fun to get on with the next experiment. You all know that research that goes unpublished may as well never have been done. Not only will this practice damage your own career, it disrespects the subjects you studied and the funding agencies who supported it (often the American people).

Goal 4: Ability to play serendipity vs intent

This is a fun goal. Not that rarely, you will discover something in your data that could take you in an unexpected direction, or maybe you will come across information at a conference or in a journal that starts you thinking in a new way. This can be exciting and fruitful, but it competes with “business as usual” where you may (and likely should) have an existing, considered pathway for a series of studies based on a larger research plan.

When this happens, it will be necessary to sit down, close the door (metaphor for turning off the phone and email and social media) and analyze what you have – both planned and unexpected – and make forward pathway decisions. This can be complex, time-consuming, and anxiety-provoking. No magic formula here, but the usual way is to engage colleagues you trust, especially your mentor, in a disciplined discussion. You cannot follow every lead, but you do not want to let an important opportunity escape.

Goal 5: Care in choosing those around you

You cannot choose your parents, but you can and must choose those you work with at every stage of your career. To me, nothing is more important to success than surrounding yourself with a critical mass of folks with whom to engage in hallway conversations (metaphor for turning off the phone and email and social media). These must be people who: a) are actually interested in your work; b) have your best interests at heart (not thinking about what you can do for them); c) are somewhat knowledgeable about your work; d) are still apart enough scientifically to have fresh thoughts and be relatively unbiased; e) have the time and interest to help you; and most importantly, f) are more intelligent than you.

Goal 6: Knowing when to say no

Pretty easy problem to identify, pretty hard problem to solve. Researchers are seemingly endowed with a family of genes, one of which is the “Don’t know how to say no” gene. Invitations are ego-stroking, career-advancing and often fun, especially when travel is involved. Often a source of new research ideas and collaborations, too. But the downside is clear – hours in the day. What is worse, the most recent invitation is always the most appealing, and often will be distracting from your “day job”. It is always tempting to knee-jerk a “yes” response, but a better approach is to sit down and close the door (metaphor for turning off the phone and email and social media) and thinking through the effects of what you might be agreeing to against your actual job description and long-term career goals and needs. Heaven forbid, bring your mentor in on this.

Goal 7: Ability to get things done

All of the above funnel down to this attribute – the ability to start and finish a task. This usually takes integrating your (see above) scientific thinking skills, discipline skills, communication/people skills, decision-making skills, organizational skills, yes/no skills, technical skills – all, dare I say it, – before you even put “pen” to “paper”.  But even if you don’t own a pen and don’t use paper these 7 goals will never go out of date, and you will be a better scientist once you have reached them all.

Dr. Wagner completed his medical degrees from Sydney University in 1968 and subsequently sought research opportunities as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California San Diego.  He then promoted to faculty in the Department of Medicine and remains there today as an Emeritus Professor.  Throughout his impactful career, Dr. Wagner pioneered studies that advanced the understanding of pulmonary gas exchange and contributed to the understanding of human responses to hypoxia.  This includes, but is by no means limited to, his development of the Multiple Inert Gas Elimination technique (MIGET) and novel findings based on experiments he conducted as part of the Operation Everest II research team.  His research continues to integrate across disciplines of mathematics, cellular and molecular biology, animal models and human studies to address unanswered questions regarding oxygen transport and limitations in health and disease.  The impact of Dr. Wagner’s work is reflected in hundreds of invited chapters and more than a few hundred manuscripts as well as several hundred publications that have applied the principles of his work.

Peter Wagner Biography

Dr. Wagner is uniquely equipped with an extensive skill set that he has shared for many years with colleagues and trainees in the School of Medicine at UC San Diego and abroad.  He has provided numerous international, national, and local lectures on his research and was recognized with the Faculty Distinguished Lecturer in 1994, the European Respiratory Society Teaching Certificate in 1996, and the Distinguished Teaching Award from the UC San Diego Academic Senate in 2002. These are in addition to various lectureships and visiting professorships.  He has established collaborations and training opportunities in more than a dozen countries, received an Honorary Doctorate from University of Barcelona where he continues to participate in training programs, and recently taught undergraduate physiology courses in Australia for which he was granted the Sandford L. Skinner Oration award. He has made a lasting contribution in many lives and the field of Physiology, as exemplified by many achievements during his tenures as President of the American Thoracic Society, President of the American Physiological Society, Associate Editor of the Journal of Clinical Investigation and Editor of the Journal of Applied Physiology, and Division Chief of both Physiology and Pulmonary Critical Care in the UC San Diego School of Medicine.

In addition to these contributions to research and teaching, Dr. Wagner is a tour-de-force in every aspect of mentorship.  His unique ability to fine-tune his comprehensive skill set to meet individual trainee needs is remarkable and has ensured success in others that will continue to ripple for generations to come.  He provides a true model for success: explains complex concepts with impeccable clarity, holds the bar high and expects others to do the same, and will invest however long it takes to help a trainee achieve their goal or answer the question at hand.  Colleagues and trainees alike have greatly benefitted from his leadership, direction, and example.  Dr. Wagner also teaches through experience, providing opportunities trainees likely never dreamed possible.  Many of his trainees apply techniques he pioneered decades ago, and he continues to promote their research objectives, working beside them and well beyond the call of duty, ensuring full involvement and an unwavering commitment to research.

More than 110 trainees’ professional and personal development has thrived under Dr. Wagner’s mentorship for the nearly five decades of his extraordinary career.  Being a mentee of Dr. Wagner in many ways is like being part of an orchestra where he, as the conductor, never misses a supportive cue, where everyone is instilled with a sense of pride for their contribution, and each trainee is motivated to achieve their own level of mastery.  Dr. Wagner’s immeasurable contribution to training — his legacy — will continue to propel the field of physiology forward for years to come.

Trust and Open Communication: Successful mentoring strategies that transcend differences in language, culture or style

Caroline B. Appleyard, PhD, Ponce School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Puerto Rico

What is a mentor?

According to Webster’s dictionary being a mentor is defined as ‘a wise and trusted counselor or teacher’ (1), more recently ‘a trusted counselor or guide’ (2), or on google ‘an experienced and trusted adviser’. The common theme here appears to be trust which holds up to my own perception and experience that as a mentor you are privileged by the fact that someone has chosen to place their trust in you and believes that you have their best interests at heart in your efforts to guide them. When I was asked to write an article based on my experiences and insights on mentorship for underrepresented minorities I really had to think about what mentoring means to me and try to articulate how I mentor. For the last 20 years I have been on faculty at a Hispanic-serving institution located in the south of Puerto Rico and have been fortunate to mentor over 100 underrepresented minority students (undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral) either within my laboratory or through our graduate training program. Each of these experiences has been unique, and often both rewarding and challenging.

My introduction to mentoring

My own awareness of having a ‘mentor’ versus a Laboratory Principal Investigator during my scientific training didn’t really become apparent until I started my postdoctoral training in the early 1990s and heard of mentoring programs under various professional societies. Although the word’s origins date back to the mid-18th century the popularity of the concept of mentoring appears to have blossomed during the last 20 years perhaps in part by an increased understanding of the importance of role models to achieving equity in science for both, women and underrepresented populations (3). Although I am not considered an underrepresented minority (by ethnicity) it is notable that throughout my undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate education in Britain, Canada and the United States there was one common denominator – a lack of female role models. I have never been taught by a woman. Further, it was very obvious that the vast majority of the professors, and later colleagues, were both male and white. Although slowly changing, it is unfortunate that the numbers of underrepresented groups in academia and the sciences still remain low (4).

During my post-doctoral studies in Canada and South Dakota I first became aware of the hardships faced by Native Americans in science.  One of my prior mentees that I remember the best was a young girl pursuing summer research in the lab at the University of South Dakota.  She told me that it was completely expected for her to get pregnant and leave high school like the rest of her family, and that the summer program opened her eyes to a whole range of other possibilities. It was at that time that I became aware of the potential impact of STEM outreach. Dr. Barb Goodman (long time American Physiological Society (APS) member and Physiology Understanding (PhUn) week advocate) was already very involved in going into the local schools in Vermillion, South Dakota, to expose the kids to science. She told us about her experiences and this was illuminating for me since I had received very little information during my schooling as to what a career in science might entail, aside from the pharmaceutical industry. I began to appreciate that for many students, the path towards a successful career in science should depend on things other than luck, such as guidance towards opportunities and how to make the most of these. This has become readily apparent as we appreciate the difference that successful targeted research mentoring can make in an effort to overcome inequities in retention of minorities in the sciences (5). When I was asked to become the Graduate Student Association Advisor I became aware that the students within our graduate program were asking for additional training and had an interest in improving their competitiveness for life after graduate school. I also noticed that there were issues which were hindering the students’ progress so that many times they were underperforming not due to lack of ability, but rather a lack of mentoring.

Mentoring Styles – How does mine fit?

As I started my own lab I ‘mentored’ my own students how I would have liked to be mentored, trying to set guidelines, expectations, milestones and deadlines.  I learnt that what worked for some (strict deadlines and constant follow up) would not work for others. We are all individuals and respond to stress and obligations in different ways. It has always been very important to me to stress to my trainees that what they want to achieve in life is a very personal decision and I see success in all forms. I have had to adapt my own way of ‘balancing’ things as someone who completed graduate school and had a family later in life, to help provide advice to students in my laboratory who have been through all stages of family life while completing their studies (single, engaged, married, pregnant, children, divorce). I have tried to provide an open space encouraging my mentees to identify their own passions and what interests them. It is important for them to realize that there is ‘no right way’ and that our depth and amalgamation of background experiences help to shape our research and our contributions to our scientific endeavors.  However, I strongly believe that it is also extremely important that when one enters a mentoring situation there is a realization that a commitment is being made on both sides which must be upheld for the outcomes to be successful. Each side of the equation is trusting the other to follow through on their promises. Although this does not always need to be formalized with written documents, in my own experience, written expectations and timelines have always proven very useful for helping to ensure that mentoring relationships stay on track.

The single biggest failing I see which causes a multitude of problems in different laboratories and mentoring relationships is simply poor communication.  This inevitably leads to not clearly outlining and understanding expectations from both the mentor and trainee. The risk for this can be even higher when mentoring an underrepresented minority where there can be great differences in language, culture and accepted social norms on top of differences in communication style and personality, and even implicit bias.

Working in a predominantly Spanish speaking U.S. territory I very quickly realized that all sorts of miscommunications can occur when rapidly giving instructions with an apparently ‘strong’ Scottish accent. In person, a nodded head often did NOT equal understanding. It is important to realize your mentees might be hesitant to ask you to explain what you mean, or to slow down.  A helpful solution is to ask the trainee to reiterate what you agreed upon, and this can also be followed up by emailing a summary of the decided plans after the meeting with follow up deadlines (also a good way of tracking for both mentees and mentors). Likewise, my ‘to the point’ requests have sometimes been misconstrued as being ‘brusque’ in a culture where there are commonly many more niceties first. This can be especially true when communicating by email where you lose the ability to interpret facial expressions.  Ask trusted colleagues and staff, or more senior students, for feedback. It was a revelation to learn that when trainees sometimes didn’t do something as quickly as I was expecting this was in large part due to my tendency to preface requests with ‘when you have time’ when really, I wanted it as soon as possible (and apparently when I say ‘as soon as possible’ it means I wanted it yesterday!).

How I implemented vision across the graduate program from my own lab

There are many levels of mentoring ranging from those relationships that take place both formally and informally within the single research lab (undergraduates, graduates, postdocs), through to mentoring those students at a programmatic level, and then to junior faculty who are colleagues. In general, I have found very useful a ‘team mentoring’ approach and setting realistic milestones within a supportive but accountable environment. This has been one of the cornerstones for the success of students in our NIH-NIGMS funded Ponce Health Sciences University (PHSU) RISE Graduate Training Program (6) which has helped increase the competitiveness and retention of underrepresented Hispanic students participating in biomedical research in our interdisciplinary PhD Program. Novel initiatives we put in place to help our students succeed better include team mentoring programs and ‘pairing’ of trainees with peer mentors chosen to help provide advice and direction matched according to the student’s family and personal circumstances. We have a unique situation in Puerto Rico in terms of language and also culturally with many first-generation graduate students. Taking into consideration the individual as a whole, not just their research or career goals aims to provide a more solid support system.  We have also implemented various workshops targeted specifically towards handling stressful situations and focusing on building our trainees self-esteem and confidence by working on their oral and written communication skills, goal setting and time management.

Mentoring models

There are many different formalized mentoring models which are outside the scope of this column however those which I have encountered and found to be useful include:

Peer Mentoring – in this scenario a mentee is paired with another trainee or professional who is in a similar situation or stage of their career in order to share experiences.  This can be very valuable both within a research laboratory where the common situation is most likely the research topic and PI but can also take place between labs. In many ways this is the type of mentoring I have most utilized for my own personal needs, alternately using colleagues as a sounding board for gathering insights and information to deal with every-day situations (akin to a ‘buddy’ support system) to asking for advice and guidance from those just a little ahead of me. This latter situation we have found extremely beneficial for our PHSU RISE Graduate Training Program where we pair trainees with a ‘successful’ student a couple of years ahead of them, the idea being that they can share their insights and give tips and pointers as to how best navigate the graduate school process.

Team Mentoring matches a trainee with multiple mentors. These can be selected by the mentee or by the institution. The team has a common goal directed towards helping the trainee succeed. In my own institution, under our PHSU RISE Graduate Training Program, we have used this approach very successfully to provide a variety of input and guidance to the mentee. The ‘team’ comprises the mentee, their research mentor, a faculty advisor from the program’s internal advisory committee and their peer mentor.

Network Mentoring recognizes that it is hard for one mentor to provide all the support that a trainee needs, especially as the requirements change over time. A network of mentors each provides their own unique expertise and experience on different aspects of the mentee’s career and research.

E-Mentoring allows trainees to access a mentor online without any geographical limitations. This can be particularly useful for those who are training in a smaller institution where they might not have such a broad range of expertise readily available on campus.  I have mentored students as an APS member through MentorNet and am now part of the National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN) which we actively encourage all our students and faculty to join. My experience with this type of mentoring has generally been positive but I think depends largely on what the trainee’s expectations are and what kind of resources/help they are looking for. An extension of this kind of mentoring model are the more formalized hybrid versions whereby there is an in-person ‘kick-off’ followed by a year-long follow up with several formal meetings.  Examples of these which our own underrepresented doctoral students have participated in include the Yale Ciencia Academy (7) and the Academy for Future Science Faculty (8). Both aim to provide graduate students with opportunities for mentoring, peer support and networking to help develop important skills for their career. The latter, a randomized controlled trial developed, and is testing, a coaching-based model to complement more traditional mentoring scenarios.

Nuances to mentoring underrepresented groups

Although I strongly believe in treating everyone fairly, this does not equate to treating everyone the same, particularly when it comes to mentoring underrepresented groups. It is crucial to remember the old saying ‘one size does not fit all’. Language, culture and personality differences all play a role. Having lived in several countries with different languages, accents and cultures I have often been the outsider in the room and can perhaps understand to some extent the feeling of ‘being the only one’ that underrepresented minorities can experience in science. For many students at our institution their primary language is not English and also for many they are the first in their family to attend graduate school. In addition to facing the regular academic challenges they are often balancing conflicting family demands and expectations. In my opinion it is important to help the trainee identify their weaknesses and strengths in order to set realistic expectations and timelines.  In our program one of the more useful tools are having all students assemble and constantly update a professional portfolio (9). This highlights their professional and community service activities and provides documentation of their achievement of goals. Not only does this provide a great way for the students to visually organize all their materials and provide them with evidence of their accomplishments but also helps the mentor to be aware of which areas need strengthening and what skills the trainee has that even they might not be aware of.

Related to the point above it is important to take time to celebrate successes. I think Mentors need to promote their mentees so they can believe in themselves and help to overcome the well-recognized ‘imposter syndrome’.  The feeling that one does not belong, cannot succeed or continually doubts one’s capability is common at all levels of higher education (and even as we advance further in our careers) but has been identified as a particularly relevant issue affecting participation in STEM by underrepresented minorities (10,11).

Recognizing that a common weakness in our students is their English communication skills it is important to appreciate that more time is needed for review and refinement of written assignments. As a mentor, I try to focus on the point that the trainee is trying to get across and provide as many opportunities as possible for the trainee to develop their communication skills. This has been combined with encouraging our students to become involved in outreach activities within our local elementary and high schools, such as the APS PhUn week, where they become more proficient at speaking in public. This also helps them to explain better to their families what graduate school involves and communicate their science to their family and friends.

It is vital to be open to new ideas and honest feedback. Over the years my own mentoring style and activities under our graduate training program have evolved through input from colleagues, but more importantly my mentees. It is important to get to know your mentees outside the lab so you can build trust and encourage further open communication. They are the ones who often come up with requests, ideas and suggestions for addressing their needs.  A phenomenal example of this are our annual RISE program Philosophy of Science Retreats. These offsite two-day activities enhance team building and increase interactions between faculty and trainees in a less formal atmosphere, enabling the students to recognize how the program staff can be of help to them, and how their interactions with other people in the program are a valuable source of research, academic, and personal support. This activity was implemented in response to specific requests by trainees. Themes are varied, ranging from ethics and scientific philosophy to science policy and more general aspects of scientific life. Most recently we focused on ‘Science and Wellness’ encouraging trainees to self-reflect about their current practices for self-care and stress management with an aim to provide trainees with healthier life tools to help them succeed in their academic, personal and professional life.

Final closing thoughts

To be a successful mentor takes time (a lot!) and patience. There has to be follow through on both parts, and for many successful academics who are juggling already busy schedules with grant writing, research and teaching, the time required can be hard to prioritize. However, passing along our knowledge and helping the next generation of scientists to succeed can be immensely rewarding and are vital if we are to address the ongoing disparities in science. Some relationships may end as soon as the formal agreement or training is complete but others continue for years. In addition to the many requests for recommendation letters (where warranted), or advice, I continue to send announcements for opportunities that I feel a former mentee could benefit from and try to track their progress. The sense of pride felt when a former mentee wins an award, gains a faculty promotion or even finds their own path in an unexpected direction is enormously rewarding. Lastly, one cannot underestimate the fact that from each mentee we also learn something. They can push our research and thoughts in new directions and sometimes force us outside our comfort zone.

Author Bio

Caroline B. Appleyard is Program Director for the RISE Graduate Training program at Ponce Health Sciences University. She is a Professor in the Department of Basic Sciences – Physiology Division with an active research program directed towards elucidating the neuro-immune mechanisms and consequences of inflammation within the gastrointestinal tract with a view to developing complementary therapies.  She has personally mentored over 100 underrepresented students at all levels in her laboratory. The RISE program is supported by NIH-NIGMS (GM082406) and provides professional development and career skills training for graduate students pursuing a PhD in Biomedical Sciences in order to strengthen their future competitiveness. Caroline has served on the APS Women in Physiology Committee and the Career Opportunities in Physiology Committee. In 2017 she was the inaugural recipient of the APS A. Clifford Barger Underrepresented Minority Mentorship Award.



1. Webster’s encyclopedic unabridged dictionary of the English language. New rev Ed 1994 Published by Random House
2. Marriam-Webster Online dictionary https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mentor
Accessed April 3rd, 2018
3. http://www.sciencemag.org/features/2012/02/reaching-gender-equity-science-importance-role-models-and-mentors
4. National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. 2017. Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering: 2017. Special Report NSF 17-310. Arlington, VA. Available at www.nsf.gov/statistics/wmpd/.
5. Haeger H, Frsquez C. Mentoring for inclusion: the impact of mentoring on undergraduate researchers in the sciences. CBE-Life Sciences Education 15:ar36, 1–9, Fall 2016
6. Ponce Health Sciences University RISE graduate training program (NIH-NIGMS R25GM082406)
7. Yale Ciencia Academy for Career Development https://www.cienciapr.org/en/yale-ciencia-academy-career-development
8. Thakore BK, Naffziger-Hirsch ME, Richardson JL, Williams SN, McGee R. The Academy for Future Science Faculty: randomized controlled trial of theory-driven coaching to shape development and diversity of early-career scientists. BMC Medical Education 2014 14:160 https://doi.org/10.1186/1472-6920-14-160
9. Baez A, Pacheco W, Appleyard CB (2012) The Graduate Student Portfolio: Organize and Energize Your Career Development.  The Physiologist, Vol. 55, No. 5, 177-178 PMID:23155926
10. Barragan, 2009,“Overcoming Barriers to Higher Education: The Experience of Latina/os Graduate Students at the University of Washington,” The McNair Scholars Journal of the University of Washington, Vol. VIII: 53-64
11. Parkman A (2016) The Imposter Phenomenon in Higher Education: Incidence and Impact Journal of Higher Education Theory and Practice Vol. 16(1) 2016, 51-60