Research Mentorship Through The Eyes of a Mentor: An Interview with PI Raz Zarivach

[caption id="attachment_2265" align="alignleft" width="438" caption="Dr. Raz Zarivach examines a diffraction pattern of a protein crystal at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF), France, 2010. ©Chen Guttman 2011"]Dr. Raz Zarivach examines a diffraction pattern of a protein crystal at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF), France, 2010. ©Chen Guttman 2011[/caption]

How do you see mentorship in the academia? I like to think of “throwing” (the student) into the water and then rescuing them. For lab work, I teach the students basics of the how and the why of the different procedures and after a short while I let them experiment on their own and make their own mistakes. Students should learn from their mistakes and this is my role: to show them what their mistake was and how to make sure it doesn’t happen again. I encourage my students to press that red button and see what happens. I believe in giving operational freedom to my students, letting them plan their day/week/month but try to keep track of their activities and also make sure they understand the protocol and encourage them to ask me questions in that regard. I also guide and advise my students in regard to career path, collaborations choice etc.

What was your most memorable moment as a mentee in your career? Ada Yonath, who was my mentor, has given me a lot of good advice which has directly effected my own mentorship style. The most memorable thing she told me was “focus on the science and let me take care of the rest.”

What lessons have you learned from your mentors? What aspects you’ve decided to keep and what you need to change? Currently I feel that I can’t reach every student equally and this is my weakness. On the one hand, it is important to make smart use of your manpower but on the other hand I have the responsibility to teach and improve the scientist capabilities of each student which requires giving them the freedom to decide how and when they want to do their tasks. I feel that under the time and tasks I am committed to, I can’t adapt myself to each student and find the way to reach and make him/her a better scientist. I would be glad if I could have more time for my students, and if the students themselves had more initiative to come and show me their current experimentation difficulties or troubleshooting, even those that are regarded as trivial. This is my job, to help my students overcome technical and scientific barriers.

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