Someone pointed out this Lesson Learned from the Dept of Energy's system and I think it applies to the academic as well as the national lab setting.
It Takes a Village to Raise an Intern: The Role of Mentors for LTEs
Originating Organization or Contracting Company: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Date: 11/22/2016 Contact: Lessons Learned/Operating Experience Program Manager, Patti Ammonet (509)375-2275
Statement: We are all mentors, whether formally or informally. Look for and respond to opportunities to help those who are new to the Lab. Providing strong leadership to new staff members is vital to their safety and success, contributes to a positive experience, and helps lower the risk to the Laboratory.
Discussion: The summer months herald the arrival of hundreds of short-term staff members in the form of Limited-Term Employees (LTEs). While these groups typically enjoy a rewarding experience at the Lab, much of their success is dependent upon the quality of their onboarding process and mentoring relationships. If you are assigned student(s) to mentor, you have a specific set of expectations to follow, however, it really does "take a village". Its the responsibility of everyone at the Lab to model safe behaviors, engage with students when appropriate, and contribute to their success at the Lab.
Analysis: We all play a role
Strong mentorship and supervision is one way to lessen the safety and operational risks to students and fellow staff members. Limited-term employees (LTEs) include Alternate-Sponsored Fellows, Post-Doctoral, Post-Masters, and Post-Bachelors and undergraduate students, and high school interns.
Whether you are a formal or informal mentor, keep the following in mind:
* Be available. One of the keys to a successful experience for your mentee is your presence and guidance. Mentoring is not a "one and done" conversation, its an ongoing demonstration of safety in the workplace. It includes covering not only where the restrooms are, but emergency procedures, laboratory safety and etiquette, when to call PNNLs Single Point of Contact, work scope, and much more.
* Set a good example. The most powerful message about PNNLs vibrant safety culture is when students see it in action. Good lab housekeeping, proper notification of events, stopping when unsure: A student who sees a staff member displaying these behaviors and understands why is more likely to follow suit. For additional perspective from a scientist on the value of strong mentoring, see the Lessons Learned article, "Researcher Embraces Safety Culture in the Catalysis Science Group".
* Encourage a questioning attitude. The more a student is alone or without supervision, the higher the risk. Instill in students the importance of stopping and asking another staff member if they are unsure about anything. Would you rather answer similar questions multiple times or manage an event that occurs because of an interns uncertainty?
* Recognize safety culture differences. Many interns and students are new to the national laboratory environment. Our strict adherence to procedures, hazard mitigation, and compliance may be a culture shock but reinforcing our safety culture frequently is important.
* Practice patience. As chemistry researcher and associate professor Philip Lukeman, Ph.D., of St. Johns University advises in his article from the journal Nature Nanotechnology, "A Guide to Mentoring Undergraduates in the Lab", if novice students are afraid of your emotional response to mistakes they unwittingly make or misunderstandings they display, they will not be open with you about their work or come to you for guidance. They will also develop negative associations with what should, hopefully, be a joyful experience. Many students will be soured on research and lost to the practice of science.
Recommended Actions: No recommended actions.
Keywords: MENTOR, MENTORING, STUDENT, POST DOC, INTERN, SAFETY CULTURE
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