Mentoring the marginalized: thoughts by Shobhana Narasimhan

This was published on November 5, 2021

A huge and frequently unaddressed problem in science and academia is that people feel that they are faced with the task of climbing a huge mountain, all by oneself. Mentors can be the sherpas who lend a helping hand and share some of the burden, so that one no longer feels quite so alone. Shobhana Narasimhan, Professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, India – and member of the SNSF's MARVEL Review Panel – shares her thoughts on the matter.

I want to briefly share my thoughts on three points: who needs a mentor, and why; who can be a mentor; and how can a mentor help? 

I write from the perspective of a scientist in academia. Typically, no one teaches us how to be a scientist – rather, they teach us science: quantum field theory, organic synthesis, virology or algebraic geometry. Other things that are equally vital in order to be a functioning scientist or academic — how to choose and approach a research problem, how to reply to a referee report, how to write a grant proposal, how to plan the syllabus for a course, how to deal with hostile colleagues, or even how to be a good mentor to one’s own students – one is generally expected to have somehow picked up by osmosis. This is not terribly effective or efficient. As a result, many early-career researchers and teachers are left floundering.


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