Vol 9. Issue 25 / August 31, 2009

Mentors Offer Helping Hand to Entering Students

By Mika Ono

The transition to graduate school just got a little easier for many students entering the Kellogg School of Science and Technology at The Scripps Research Institute. Thanks to an initiative of the Network for Women in Science (NWiS), first-year students can now turn to assigned senior graduate student mentors for advice and support.

A happy hour on Friday, August 21, 2009, hosted by NWiS provided a relaxed atmosphere for first-year students on the California campus to meet their mentors for the first time.

After introductions and time to sample some tasty snacks, the 11 volunteer mentors broke into small groups with first-year students. Suggested topics for discussion included what to expect during the first year, making the most of lab rotations, building a support network, acquiring a useful skill set, and how to engage your advisor.

"I think the event went very well," said Anke Mulder, a sixth-year graduate student who is chair of NWiS. "I was delighted by how many first-year students showed up. There was a buzz in the air from all the discussions going on."

Members of the entering class seem to appreciate it, too.

First-year student Johnathan Litz commented, "The event was a good way to get to know other students. It was a comfortable introduction to what life will be like for me from people who have been through it."

This year's entering class to the Kellogg School—a program that is currently ranked among the top ten nationally in both chemistry and biology by U.S. News & World Report and other publications—consists of 24 students, bringing total enrollment to 210.

Among the entering class are three M.D. students, who are beginning a new two-year master's program in clinical investigation offered jointly by the Kellogg School and the Scripps Translational Science Institute (STSI), thanks to a Clinical and Translational Science Award from the National Institutes of Health. This program is tailored to young physicians envisioning a career as both clinicians and scientists.

All other first-year students started classes at the beginning of August, including the three first-year students on the Florida campus, who participate in classes held on the California campus via two-way videoconferencing. New students have also started laboratory work.
"I've benefited so much from mentors during graduate school," said fourth-year student Jackie Blankman, one of the volunteer mentors to incoming students. "They have been important to my science and my sanity. I'm happy to try to help someone as much as I have been helped."

Mentors and mentees plan to keep in touch over the coming months. Some have planned regular meetings in addition to more casual telephone and email communications.

In addition to continuing to support the mentor initiative, NWiS is hosting a number of upcoming events, including a New Faculty Happy Hour on Thursday, September 3, as well as regular planning meetings and monthly coffee hour discussions. For more information on NWiS and its activities, see the NWiS website or check out the group's new Facebook page.


Send comments to: mikaono[at]scripps.edu



First-year students chat with their upper class mentors. Photos by Kevin Fung.