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New scientists, better mentors?

How many graduate students a scientist advises over the course of his or her career and when he or she does so can affect how successful those students are in their own careers, and not in the way one might expect, according to a study published this week in Nature that looked at the field of mathematics. Image: Wikimedia commonsSpecifically, the researchers found that students appeared to fare well (measured by whether they eventually mentored many students of their own) if they were advised

Jef Akst
Jef Akst

Jef Akst is managing editor of The Scientist, where she started as an intern in 2009 after receiving a master’s degree from Indiana University in April 2009 studying the mating behavior of seahorses.

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How many graduate students a scientist advises over the course of his or her career and when he or she does so can affect how successful those students are in their own careers, and not in the way one might expect, according to a study published this week in Nature that looked at the field of mathematics.
Image: Wikimedia commons
Specifically, the researchers found that students appeared to fare well (measured by whether they eventually mentored many students of their own) if they were advised by mentors who trained fewer protégés, or by mentors who trained more students but were early in their careers. "I thought the paper was really provocative and interesting," said neuropharmacologist linkurl:Joan Lakoski,;http://www.pharmacology.us/Faculty.aspx?FacultyID=61 associate vice chancellor for academic career development at the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences. However, it remains uncertain "whether or not this study in mathematics translates to mentorship in the...
R.D. Malmgren, et al., "The role of mentorship in protégé performance," Nature, 465: 622-6, 2010.



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