Dr Julie Worrell, Postdoctoral Fellow, Institute of Infection, Immunity & Inflammation, University of Glasgow
Julie is a postdoc working at the University of Glasgow who at the beginning of the year was looking to find a way to focus her career goals and expand her networking opportunities. She is part of the 2020 cohort on the scheme and is mentored by Prof. Mark Coles of the University of Oxford.
Where did you first hear about the BSI’s mentoring scheme and what drew you to it?
I’m an active Twitter user and first heard about the mentorship scheme through the BSI Twitter feed. I hope to transition from an early career researcher to a more independent researcher, ultimately leading my own research group. I felt this scheme would provide a useful space for me to think about my longer term career development goals and expose me to additional perspectives and insights.
How do you feel the BSI’s mentoring scheme has helped and supported you in your career choices?
The BSI mentoring scheme has been beneficial to me in a number of ways:
- Despite my busy and sometimes hectic schedule interactions with my mentor have helped me to dedicate specific time to think about and focus on my career goals.
- Having a mentor from an academic institution other than my own has expanded my network.
- My mentor has been an additional source of constructive feedback and challenged me to adapt to new ways of thinking to address potential difficulties and obstacles.
- The interactions with my mentor have helped to reassure me that everyone is adjusting to the many new challenges of scientific research in 2020.
During the scheme what level of frequency of contact did you have with your mentor and what level do you think works best?
My mentor and I met at 6-8 weekly intervals. This was a relatively flexible schedule and on average we would chat for around an hour. At first we met face to face, usually scheduled in parallel with scientific meetings. However, as 2020 has been quite challenging we quickly transitioned to virtual Zoom meetings. I believe this level of interaction and frequency worked well for me, enabling me to focus on what I wanted to discuss and to drive the interactions. There was sufficient time between interactions for me to set clear goals and to feel I had made progress in achieving them.
What qualities in a mentor are ideal for a scheme such as this?
I believe enthusiasm, objectivity, honesty and a willingness to listen are ideal qualities in a mentor.
Can you discuss a particular highlight of the scheme that you feel best exemplifies your mentoring experience?
A particular highlight for me was the mentor/mentee training session that we participated in at the start of the programme. I gained a lot of insight into the potential benefits of a mentor/mentee relationship that is driven by the mentee. This instilled me with the confidence to be a more active participant. I felt comfortable driving the interactions I had with my mentor and having them act as a ‘sounding board’. I think both aspects of the mentorship scheme have encouraged me to be more open about my concerns and ideas while working more constructively to achieve my goals.
Finally, would you recommend to your peers and colleagues to join a mentoring scheme as a mentee?
I would definitely recommend this mentoring scheme to my peers and colleagues. It has expanded my network, provided me with new and fresh perspectives and enhanced my professional development.