One aspect of my research training and career development that I am very passionate about is the opportunity to mentor students. As such, I am always looking for opportunities to get involved with students at earlier stages in their education. So when I discovered PlantingScience.org, an online mentoring resource which was advertised on the American Society for Plant Biology (ASPB) website, my first reaction was, “this is awesome, why haven’t I heard about this before?”
The major appeal for me was the minimal and flexible time commitment, which allows you to make an impact even with a busy schedule, and the opportunity to work with a diversity of students at a middle/high school academic level. The expectations are to communicate with your assigned group of students about 2-3 times per week. Being an online forum, you are able to post suggestions and recommendations to your group from any mobile device, maybe when you are on the bus or waiting to be seated at a restaurant.
The fact that the student groups are diverse both academically and culturally provides an enriching experience for me. For example, I had the opportunity to mentor an amazing group of students from a secondary school in Holland. I was impressed by their commitment to the project and by how well the experiments were designed and performed. In addition, you are able to see the conclusions of the projects because the students do an amazing job of posting images of the experiments and results at the end of the session.
Overall, I feel that it was a fulfilling experience for me and also the students. Participating in these types of mentoring activities contributes to the students’ understanding of basic plant biology principles and may foster a new interest in a plant science career. For the mentor, this opportunity provides a basic foundation that can be integrated into the broader impacts section of your research grants, and more important, a chance to develop relationships with these students and teachers that can lead to further collaboration.
The benefits and rewards are obvious to me, and once they hear about the program, many of my colleagues are very interested and eager to participate. So I strongly encourage graduate students, postdocs, and faculty members to explore this amazing opportunity, spread the word, and offer ways to further contribute to this program.
Become a PlantingScience mentor! Check out www.plantingscience.org/newmentor to learn more and register. The next session will begin in mid-September. See what projects the student teams are working on this spring by browsing the research gallery.