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029: Tenure Tracker – Choose a Mentor, Not a Lab

Choosing a lab for your graduate or postdoc research is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. Most people read papers and abstracts to find the coolest science.  Or they favor the big labs with lots of people and solid funding.

But those features can distract you from the real secret of scientific success.

facultytitanic

 

Your Mentor Matters

Natasha Snider, PhD
Natasha Snider, PhD

This week on the show, we kick off a new series where we interview the people with truly alternative careers – the tenure track faculty!  Josh sits down with Natasha Snider, Assistant Professor of Cell Biology and Physiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

As a recent faculty hire (just over 1 year), Dr. Snider remembers all the details of graduate school and postdoc life that contributed to her success, and shares them on the show.

First and foremost, she recalls the importance of good mentors in her scientific training.  Rather than choosing high-profile labs or being drawn into the latest research craze, she assessed the character of the PI and the culture of the lab.

“[I did one interview with] one of the brilliant scientists where you know you’re going to get these hot papers, but one of the first things he said was that he doesn’t yell at his people as much as he used to… After that, I sat through the interview but I knew that wasn’t [the lab for me]”

Aside from obvious anger issues, Dr. Snider shares the warning signs of monster mentors (those are anagrams!), and what type of lab environment you should seek instead.

Good mentors were a foundation for her training, but she also took every opportunity to explore other careers and to build a solid network.  She talks about the importance of meeting as many scientists as possible, and tells the story of how she decided to take a faculty position instead of an industry job.

 

A foraging we will go

And to celebrate the first cold-snap of the season, we enjoy the Fullsteam Brewery – First Frost 2015 Foraged Persimmon Ale.  If you haven’t gotten around to foraging your own persimmons this season, then you’re probably too late, and this high-gravity brew is your best bet for sampling the “Fruit of the Gods.”

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