Case Study: Adam
I am a male Ph.D. candidate at Stanford University in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department. I am of Afro-Caribbean descent, married, and happy. I have very eclectic career goals, which includes multiple direction, from academia to media executive. Right now, I am trying to figure out the best path forward. I was interested in research from my ERC mainly because of the ability to work with a variety of faculty and graduate students from other institutions. I thought it would be a great networking possibility.
I worked in an environmental organic chemistry lab. Although my research was not funded by the ERC itself, my project was adjacent to their goals, which allowed me to partake in research through the ERC.
Through my experiences being on a research team, I learned a lot about research funding. Funding drives research agendas—this is something that scientists often have little control over. Additionally, through my experiences, I learned what research I find the most interesting. I encourage students from underrepresented groups to prioritize mentorship over research areas. I was connected to a mentor who is very good at understanding my needs, and I hope all students can have that experience.
Leaders and mentors that want to be more inclusive need to place themselves in the shoes of their mentee. Leaders need to recognize that the weight of their words often has a greater impact on their mentees’ lives than they can imagine, particularly for underrepresented students. Many times, leaders are not aware that they are saying something offensive or demoralizing. If there was more training on working with underrepresented groups, leaders and mentors could become better at guiding a wider range of people to success.
For faculty, my advice is to get to know their students. The fact that the student found their way into their labs to pursue research shows a level of resilience and hard work. If the student is not doing well, the mentor should work hard at listening to the student talk about challenges and spend extra time working with the student to identify solutions. The mentor may have to work harder at first, but once the barrier is broken, they will have a student that produces amazing work.