Mentoring in the Mills Lab: fostering a fun and collaborative learning environment


The best part of my position as a postdoctoral research scholar is the opportunity to work with diverse undergraduate and graduate students. In fact, I derive great joy from mentoring students in the scientific process, providing opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to participate as full collaborators/co-authors on soon-to-be published peer-reviewed research papers, fostering student connectivity with diverse scientists in different stages of their careers (e.g., early career, well-established), and modeling what it means to be a generous mentor and collaborator. I take this responsibility personally because I believe that by treating students the way I want to be treated by my peers that span academic and agency hierarchies, I can contribute in a small way to encouraging the next generation of natural resource research and conservation leaders not only to engage in empathy and respectful discourse, but also to seek creative opportunities in the future that will foster student inclusion and cooperation in the process of science. In my attempt to promote an inclusive and supportive learning environment, I often learn as much from my student collaborators as I hope they learn from me throughout the collaborative scientific process. Together we navigate the challenges of study design and implementation, data organization, analysis, and interpretation as well as manuscript development and the submission and revisions process. Perhaps most importantly, we learn about respecting one another’s time, appreciating the contributions each collaborator makes to our shared projects, and ultimately we contribute to one other’s personal and professional growth. Through collaboration we succeed together, we are more productive together, and we are stronger together as scientists.    

Dr. Diana Lafferty, Mills' Lab Postdoc

Feature Image: from left to right, De’Aja Sanders & Rebecca Venezia, undergraduate students processing snowshoe hare fecal samples.

In the lab

Image 2: from left to right: Rebecca Venezia (undergraduate), De’Aja Sanders (undergraduate), Sarah Whitcher (postbac), processing snowshoe hare fecal samples.