Discussions BY Episode

Each episode includes an episode summary (as a quick reference of what happened in that episode of the film) and a logbook summary (which activities lab members should have completed on their own in the logbook). These summaries are followed by groups of discussion questions. Most episodes have two strands of questions for you to choose from:

  • Program Reflection Questions: Questions that ask participants to reflect on some of the situations presented in the film and the exercises they completed in the logbook
  • Science Questions: Questions focused on science issues presented in the film.
    Choose the approach that best fits or seems most helpful for your lab as you work through the program.

Do not feel obligated to read through or complete every episode prompt.

Act One

1.1 Articulating Your Values

Summary: New grad student Ana Sofia Flores arrives for her first day in the lab of Dr. Jules Sorenson and finds herself immersed in the interpersonal dynamics of a high-productivity research lab. She accompanies postdoc Dr. Jayna Bell to a meeting with colleagues in a collaborating chemistry lab led by Dr. Malcolm Heideberg. Tensions rise over the differing working styles and objectives of the two labs; the chemists and biologists “other” their colleagues based on their disciplines, dismissing their work and its value.

Logbook Activities: Values Exercise

Program Reflection Questions:

  • What did you notice about the interactions portrayed in this episode? List examples of positive interactions and negative interactions (or conflicts).
  • Think about the conflicts shown in this episode. How do they reflect conflict among strongly held values (either within one person or between individuals)?
  • List specific examples in this episode that illustrate cultures of excellence and that undermine cultures of excellence◦
    • Which of those elements can be affected by your own conduct?
    • Which of these elements can you observe/detect as you think about joining a lab?
  • What is the connection between values and cultures of excellence?

Alternate Option:

If lab members have questions about how values can impact the culture in the lab, present simple examples where values may conflict and ask lab members to think through how they might choose one value over another.

  • Offer a simple example, like working with a group to order a pizza. If a lab member values fairness, perhaps each person gets to pick a topping – pepperoni, mushrooms, and onions. If that same lab member also values loyalty, and knows that one person refuses to eat mushrooms, they now have a conflict of values. The choice they make indicates which value means the most to them in that situation.
  • Provide examples of simple, low-stakes, everyday values conflict which sets the foundation for understanding the concept of ethical dilemmas. Entry-level discussions are best run with simple examples, saving more fundamental conflicts—such as, confidentiality at work over sharing information that would benefit a friend, family over honesty, etc.—for later discussions.

Summary: Jules (Dr. Sorenson) is in a hotel lobby, getting ready to head home from a conference when she learns a pending grant has been awarded. She shares the news with Dr. Evelyn Towne, a colleague who attended the same conference. They talk about what lab growth means as the PI shifts from hands-on involvement in day-to-day activities to a bigger-picture role. Evelyn offers some advice.

Logbook Activities: Individualized Development Plan (IDP)

Program Reflection Questions:

      • For you, what is the most important aspect of an IDP?
      • How do the values you identified for yourself help move you from where you are to where you want to be?
      • Did you find a good balance of development in skills that help the work of the lab and the science per se, and skills that are more aligned with your own professional development?

Science Questions

    • How might a lab head being less involved in day-to-day activities of the lab negatively impact the quality of the science?

Summary: Harold Wendling, a third-year grad student, is struggling to replicate Darren’s work synthesizing the compound used in the collaboration, much to Darren and Dr. Heideberg’s frustration. Harold and Meena discuss Harold’s struggle to replicate the compound, and Harold grapples with how to make progress. Harold’s request for help from Dr. H is dismissed. The path forward is unclear, and Harold intends to keep trying, despite feeling like he is failing as a chemist.

Logbook Activities: Decision-Making Framework

Program Reflection Questions:

  • How would you apply the Decision-Making Framework to this episode?

  • Does this structured format help you see aspects of the situation that you did not see before?

For this group discussion, it may help to have visual cues to support the discussion. An effective technique is to have the headings for each of the questions written on a blackboard, like this:

Issues      Rules      Questions      Resources      Options      Who Affected?

Science Questions

  • What is the main reason for inconsistencies in experimental techniques? Differences in innate skill? Training?
  • What are the standards for training in experimental techniques?
  • What are the standards for clearly noting each step in a process such that it can be replicated?
  • What kinds of things don’t typically get recorded, but should, in the course of doing an experiment?

Summary: Darren and Dr. Heideberg discuss the delays in getting the compound to Jayna in the Sorenson lab. Darren and Dr. H. both express surprise and dismay at Harold’s inability to recreate the compound. Darren insists that the inconsistencies in the compound that Jayna is observing are due to sloppiness on the bio side of the collaboration, and he denies that anything could be causing a problem from the chemistry side of the collaboration. Dr. H decides to “make a change” by telling Darren to replace Harold with Meena for the remainder of the collaboration.

Logbook Activities: Decision-Making Framework Application

Program Reflection Questions:

  • Apply the Decision-Making Framework (DMF) to the 1.4 scene (i.e., to Heideberg’s decision, from his perspective). Did the DMF structure help open up any aspects of the problem you may have overlooked at first?

  • Try this Two-Minute Challenge (2MC). A 2MC is a short case study that lets you practice with new tools you’re learning about (e.g., the Decision Making Framework).

You began working in a new lab a few weeks ago. You met with your new PI in your first week to discuss the project you’d be working on, but you realize now you didn’t ask as many—or the right—questions to really understand the work. After a few weeks of working, you do not have much to show for your time. You are supposed to present your work at next week’s lab meeting, and you are afraid that, because you do not have much to show, your new PI will think you have not been working hard enough. You feel that it is too late to ask for additional direction or help because you have waited so long. You haven’t gotten to know any of your new colleagues well enough to feel comfortable asking them for advice, or whether any of them are doing work close enough to yours that you could ask for help. What do you do?

Go through the Decision-Making Framework:

1.) What issues does the situation present?

2.) What rules and regulations apply?

3.) What questions do you need/want to ask?

4.) What resources are available to you to work through this situation?

5.) What options do you have? Who will be affected by each?

6.) What are you going to do? What (exact) words will you use?

Science Questions

  •  When a replication issue arises, what protocols/procedures are in place to address it?
  • How would you proceed when faced with a replication issue?
  • When a new/different person is put in charge of a project component, what is the process for onboarding them? What should the process be for onboarding someone to take charge of a project component?

Summary: Jules Sorenson returns to the lab. Lab manager Dr. Loretta Wenstrup brings up items requiring her urgent attention. Jayna talks to Jules about her frustration with the Heideberg lab. Jules throws the lead back to Jayna for resolving this issue and asks Jayna to take Ana Sofia under her wing.

Logbook Activities: Choices in Leadership

Program Reflection Questions:

During their meeting, Sorenson equates her own experiences with sexism with what Jayna is experiencing, saying, “I’ve been there.”

      • Do you think that Jayna felt supported by Sorenson’s statements? Would you, in her place?
      • What are some ways Sorenson and Jayna’s experiences in science are likely to be different, based on what you know about them? How the same?
      • With the previous questions in mind, what might you rather or additionally have seen in Sorenson’s interaction with Jayna?

Alternate Option:

During their meeting, Sorenson tells Jayna that once she’s a PI of her own lab, there won’t be anyone she can go to when she has questions/needs direction or guidance for making good decisions.

      • Do you think this is accurate?
      • Do you think this kind of advice is helpful? Why or why not?
      • With the previous questions in mind, what do you think it would have been more helpful for Sorenson to say?

Science Questions

The episodes so far have centered around issues of inconsistencies in lab results. In addition to the questions you have discussed already, consider the following:

      • How should replication be built into the work of a lab?
      • Should there be a process of replication as a matter of course, rather than waiting for issues to be discovered? In other words, should replication be considered a part of a lab’s usual quality control?
      • What are the pros and cons for building replication protocols and what would those look like?

Summary: Darren informs Meena of Dr. Heideberg’s decision to put her in charge of the synthesis for the Sorenson collaboration. Meena breaks the news to Harold. Harold is despondent and feels like a failure

Logbook Activities: Reflections on Failure/Thoughts and Behaviors

Program Reflection Questions:

      • What is the difference between experiencing a failure and being a failure?
      • Think about Meena and Harold’s responses to not being able to make the compound. Can you identify any good or promising strategies? Can you identify any strategies that could have been effective had they occurred in a different environment?
      • In an ideal lab, how would mistakes be handled so lab members can learn and grow from the situation?

Science Questions

    • In an ideal lab, what should happen when someone cannot replicate a procedure in a lab notebook? What protocols should be in place?
    • What is the cost of not having these protocols in place?
    • What aspects of lab culture might hinder attempts at rigor and reproducibility?

Summary: Alex is struggling to find a starting point for his project—and the review for his fellowship is approaching. Loretta notices his struggles and suggests he meets with Jules. Alex mentions that he is frustrated by Jules’ mentoring style, as he is seeking “answers” for what to do. He is short with Loretta and  eventually agrees to a meeting.

Logbook Activities: Assessing Communication Skills and Style

Program Reflection Questions:

  • In thinking about Alex’s struggles to find a direction, how does one develop scientific independence? How does it change through the course of: 1) a graduate program, and 2) a post-doc career?
  • Think about the larger issue. What kinds of questions might Loretta and Jules ask that could help find a starting place and give Alex ownership? For example, “Have you thought about X process? How can I help you with that?”
  • Let’s say you notice someone in your lab who seems frustrated or shut down. How might you effectively communicate with this person? What questions would you ask or what types of things would you be listening for?

Science Questions

  • If you are stuck while trying to make progress on a scientific project or collaboration, who are the people you would seek out for advice?
  • What are the most important components of an annual review for graduate students (i.e., fellowship review, graduate assistantship review, standard annual review)? What should be evaluated, and how?
Summary: Jayna feels time pressure and struggles to mentor Ana Sofia, giving her direction to replicate an old experiment to keep her occupied. Ana Sofia cannot understand the lab notebooks, so she consults Alex, who confirms that there is some disarray in the lab protocols. Alex makes a racist comment about Jayna, and Ana Sofia voices her disapproval. Logbook Activities: Personal Scripts Program Reflection Questions:

Begin the discussion by reading the following statement:

Think of a situation you have faced in which you didn’t know what to say, wished you had said something different, or perhaps even said nothing at all. What might have helped in that situation? With the benefit of hindsight, what would have been the right thing to say? Next, participants are going to create their own personal scripts. Prompt as follows: Now think of a situation you may face in the future that you are anxious about, not necessarily the most important one in your life but a simple one. We’re going to spend a few minutes developing some scripts that you can use to share and talk about. After giving a few moments to think, ask who is willing to share a situation and speak up about it so that the lab members can help to generate scripts. This way you aren’t making the script for people, people are making their own. Collect a few of the best, or designate a notetaker who records them for the group. Lead the room in a discussion as you decide together which are the best and most useful. Science Questions
      • What controls should be in place to ensure that all relevant information makes it into a lab notebook?
      • What IS relevant information? While that might differ project to project, are there any pieces of information that should ALWAYS be included in a lab notebook?
      • How can lab members hold each other accountable?
Alternate Option
    • How do negative interactions among lab members or tensions in the lab affect the science being conducted?
    • What controls can be put in place to reduce conflicts?

Act Two

2.1 Power

Summary: The men in the Heideberg lab watch the World Cup at a billiards lounge. Harold sinks the 8 ball and feels his lab status is in jeopardy. He asks Darren for another chance on the synthesis, to no avail. Ana Sofia takes materials to the Heideberg lab and meets Meena, who mentions preparing for an upcoming poster session. A friendship between the two starts to form.

Logbook Activities: Consider Power Dynamics

Program Reflection Questions:

  • In a recent examination of students’ thoughts on mentor/mentee relationships, one student noted: “A key component to feeling confident about being a mentee is realizing that the relationship is symbiotic. This provides a frame to contribute to your mentor’s experience either through contributing to their work or promoting learning in terms of unknown knowledge. Recognizing the nature of the relationship makes me feel less guilty for seeking help as I now understand that it is a cycle that science development thrives on”.

  • In any one of your mentoring relationships, how clear are you on what you’re contributing to that mentor’s experience, and how clear are you on what they’re contributing to yours? Are her/his contributions meeting your needs?

  • How can each of the parties help sustain continuing mutual benefit?

[1] Wrighting DM, Dombach J, Walker M, et al. Teaching Undergraduates to Communicate Science, Cultivate Mentoring Relationships, and Navigate Science Culture. CBE Life Sci Educ. 2021;20(3):ar31. doi:10.1187/cbe.20-03-0052

Science Questions

  • What are some of the ways in a science lab that some people may have more access to the lab head outside of the lab or in more informal settings?
  • What are some of the impacts on the science and career of individuals who have more or fewer opportunities for such informal access?

 Summary: Jules receives an email from Malcolm informing her that Darren will be leaving soon his lab soon, and Meena will take over the collaboration. At the Sorenson lab meeting, Jayna is frustrated by the news, anticipating even more delay in her own work while Meena gets up to speed on the project. Sorenson tries to reassure Jayna, commits to meeting with Ana Sofia, and recognizes the need to meet with Alex again.

Logbook Activities: And Stance Practice

Program Reflection Questions:


Science Questions

  • What are the ways in which competence in the lab/at the bench can be realistically/appropriately assessed?
  • What are the ways in which competence in the lab/at the bench is often inappropriately assessed?
  • How might competence (or incompetence) in the lab/at the bench be presumed across an array of contexts (postdoc, graduate student, man or woman, white or non-white)?

Summary: Meena describes her experience at the poster session during a Heideberg lab meeting. Dr. H doesn’t notice Meena’s visible discomfort about her interactions with conference attendees and with Dr. H’s colleague, Dr. Brennan. Later, Meena describes Dr. Brennan’s inappropriate behavior to Darren and Harold. Darren minimizes Meena’s experience, and although Harold is slightly more supportive, he ultimately also dismisses Meena’s experience.

Logbook Activities: Decision-Making Framework

Program Reflection Questions:

  • How might the idea of science as a meritocracy undermine both the assessment and rewarding of performance?
  • What are some examples of specific barriers that women and people of color might face which contribute to an uneven playing field?
  • If Harold were a faithful ally for Meena, what might an appropriate and supportive response to Meena’s experience have been?
  • If Harold were to be an upstander, what might an appropriate response to Darren have been?

Science Questions

  • In what ways are poster sessions valuable to your research or your career?
  • What are some helpful things you can do in preparation for a poster session and/or during?
  • How can a lab head help support a lab member who will be presenting at a poster session?

Summary: Meena talks to Ana Sofia about her frustrations with the poster session. Ana Sofia coaches Meena on personal scripts, helps her process the experience, and gives her resources going forward.

Logbook Activities: Personal Scripts

Program Reflection Questions:

  • At a lab group meeting, a male postdoc argues with the PI about the interpretation of results. The PI thanks him for the rigorous scientific debate. Later in the meeting, a female postdoc brings up a point related to the interpretation issue. The PI responds, “When you’ve worked with this team a little bit longer, you’ll understand better what we are trying to do here.”
    • Use the Decision Making Framework (DMF) and develop a personal script for how you would respond to any of the individuals in this situation (recall the DMF includes the following questions: 1.) What issues does the situation present? 2.) What rules and regulations apply? 3.) What questions do you need/want to ask? 4.) What resources are available to you to work through this situation? 5.) What options do you have? Who will be affected by each? 6.) What are you going to do? What (exact) words will you use?)

Science Questions

  • When presenting a poster at a conference, how might you respond to someone who is challenging your findings?
  • When debriefing with your lab leader after presenting at a conference, what are the important points to discuss? How can lab leaders support lab members with getting the most out of their conference experiences?

Summary: Jules Sorenson has a mentoring meeting with Alex, and Alex leaves feeling frustrated. Jules doesn’t recognize that she has failed to hear or understand Alex’s concerns. Ana Sofia and Jules still haven’t had their meeting.

Logbook Activities: Active Listening

Program Reflection Questions:

Research has described six behaviors that effective mentors exhibit: 1. aligning expectations; 2. assessing understanding; 3. communicating effectively; 4. addressing equity and inclusion; 5. fostering independence; and 6. promoting professional development[1]. A recent article suggests that “quality four, addressing equity and inclusion…. should be used in developing a set of practices for the other five behaviors” (ibid.). How might you imagine that analysis being used in:

  • aligning expectations?
  • communicating effectively?

How might that orientation – addressing equity and inclusion – impact the questions we ask our mentees and the way we listen to and hear their responses?[1]https://arxiv.org/pdf/2203.11518.pd

Science Questions

  • When you consider your scientific career, what are the advantages and disadvantages of having more or less direction from your lab head?
  • How do you navigate the tension between learning to become an independent researcher versus being part of someone else’s lab? Does it change depending on your career stage and level of expertise?

Summary: Jayna has a racially-charged encounter with faculty members in the department mailroom. Darren emails Jayna insisting that her reproducibility issues stem solely from the bio side of the collaboration. Loretta approaches Jayna to check in and provide support. Jayna vents her frustration, and Loretta empathizes with Jayna and provides insight. Jayna sends a constructive email response to Darren.

Logbook Activities: Personal Scripts

Program Reflection Questions:

      • Scientific culture has been described as the “culture of no culture” (objective, rational, without context, “without loose ends, without temperament, gender, nationalism”) [1],[2]. What are some of the most compelling repudiations of this that you’ve seen thus far in the film?

[1] Traweek, Sharon. 1988. Beamtimes and Lifetimes: The World of High Energy Physicists. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA

[2] Subramaniam, B., & Wyer, M. (1998). Assimilating the “Culture of No Culture” in Science: Feminist Interventions in (De)Mentoring Graduate Women. Feminist Teacher, 12(1), 12–28. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40545803

Science Questions

    • Darren asserts that the two samples are the same molecule. On what basis does he make that statement?
    • What is the science that allows him to know this?
    • Why/how might he be in error? What are some checks against the error?

Summary: Meena fails, as Harold did, to make the compound. She seeks help from Darren, who insists that all necessary information is in the notes. Harold arrives late to lab and is called out by Malcolm for his tardiness. Meena persuades Harold that the two of them should talk to Malcolm tomorrow to ask for help.

Logbook Activities: Practice self-talk and cognitive reframing

Program Reflection Questions:

    • One thing that is certain in science is that there will be mistakes in the work we’re doing. How can a lab leader set the tone for using those mistakes as a learning opportunity?
    • How can the kind of feedback you get about a mistake inhibit or encourage true learning?
    • How can a lab head reasonably balance the expectation of good science (accurate results) with compassion for/acceptance of human fallibility?

Science Questions

  • When reproducing an experiment, how careful are you about recording each step in each attempt?
  • How do you account for what might be different from attempt to attempt in trying to reproduce an experiment?

Summary: Ana Sofia looks over the electronic notes for her lab and cannot make sense of them. Ana Sofia and Meena talk on the phone and practice their personal scripts to prepare for their discussions with their respective PIs. Ana Sofia shows Jules (Dr. Sorenson) and Loretta the online materials, and they agree that the electronic notes are problematic. Jules advises Ana Sofia to pause on working through the electronic notes until they can overhaul the lab’s data management protocols.

Logbook Activities: Decision-Making Framework

Program Reflection Questions:

After going through the DMF, compare your responses to each step to those developed by others in your discussion group. Did you or others distinguish between:

  • finding support for the stress and fear of raising an unwanted conclusion, and
  • the process of bringing it forward?

Summary:  Loretta notices that Alex is still struggling to get started on his project. Eliciting information about his frustrations, she persuades him to have another conversation with Jules and offers to be there to facilitate. Loretta suggests to Jules that Alex might need more direct guidance; Jules is surprised, as she’d thought the previous meeting with Alex went well.

Logbook Activities: Asking the Right Questions 

Program Reflection Questions:

  • Think about the last substantive question you were asked. Was it confrontational, diagnostic, process-oriented, humble/pure, or some combination of these? If the question didn’t quite work (e.g., the purpose wasn’t clear, or it made you feel uncertain in your response, or it felt aggressive), how would you re-phrase that question to be a more effective one?
  • Think back on the last question you were asked. What did it help you learn?
  • Thinking back to feedback you’ve received when you made a mistake, how might that feedback have been more effective if posed in question form? How might an approach of questioning, rather than telling, help you better learn from your mistake?

Summary:  Harold meets Meena briefly and tells her he can’t face Dr. Heideberg. After Meena tells Dr. H that she cannot reproduce the compound, he reluctantly agrees to ask Darren to demonstrate again. Jayna learns from Meena that she won’t be receiving more compound that week. Upset by this news, Jayna approaches Dr. Sorenson, exasperated by the situation and what she perceives as a lack of support.

Logbook Activities: Facilitating Psychological Safety

Program Reflection Questions:

  • It seems clear there is no sense of psychological safety in the Heideberg lab. Thinking about the places where you feel like you belong and feel accepted and valued, what are elements in that environment that are missing from the Heideberg lab? How are those missing elements part of a lab culture?
  • If you were to become a lab leader yourself, what would you do to foster psychological safety in the lab?

Science Questions

  • In what ways does the science being conducted in a lab suffer if lab members do not feel safety to speak about their struggles and concerns?
  • What protocols/processes/support can be put in place to make sure that lab members can do the best science?

Summary:  Professor Elliot Barr, the Director of Graduate Studies for the Chemistry Department, visits Malcolm Heideberg to inform him of Harold’s attempted suicide and departure from the university. Malcolm is shocked and suggests Harold hasn’t been doing well in the lab. Malcolm reluctantly agrees to participate in a department-wide initiative aimed at building healthier labs.

Logbook Activities: Identifying Resources for Mental Health and Wellbeing

Program Reflection Questions:

  • The logbook asks you to consider, if you were in charge of the lab, what you would include in a manual or strive to make part of the working climate to support lab members to deal with difficult emotional issues.
    • If you were in charge of a department or research institution, what would be different?
    • How would you create an institution-wide safety net for struggling lab members?
    • How would you suggest knitting together all the various and siloed programs that might currently exist to strengthen that net?

Act Three

3.1 Proactive Leadership

Summary:Malcolm Heideberg tells his lab that Harold has left without mentioning why, though some lab members—including Meena—know the truth. Malcolm requires Darren to work through the synthesis with Meena to root out the problem that is holding things up. Jules Sorenson realizes that her current approach to mentoring may not be best for each of her students. Jules and Loretta agree to work together to improve their mentoring and data management approaches.

Logbook Activities: Reflect on Mentor-Mentee Relationships

Program Reflection Questions:

    • What can a lab group reasonably do to respond to instances like what happened with Harold?
    • What might taking honest stock of lab culture look like?

Science Questions

  • Heideberg tells Darren to help Meena so they can “find out where she’s going wrong”. What are the assumptions being made in that statement?
  • How can you better anticipate and keep track of possible sources of error?

Summary: Darren and Meena go through the synthesis together and discover the source of the irreproducibility—an error made by Darren. It doesn’t explain everything; the compound’s color is still off. Dr. H suggests a method for testing the lab’s two batches of raw material, which reveals that one batch resulted in a stereoisomer of the desired molecule. Darren suggests glossing over the issue when reporting back to the Sorenson lab, but Dr. Heideberg insists scientific integrity requires transparency. Darren realizes the implications of the error for Harold’s situation; defensively, he blusters that Harold would have washed out anyway. Meena calls Harold to explain the issues with the raw material.

Logbook Activities: Personal Scripts and Avoiding Career TRAGEDIES

Program Reflection Questions:

  • Which elements of the TRAGEDIES would you say is most harmful to
    • the science?
    • the work of the lab overall?
    • our own professional and personal development?
  • What systemic conditions in a lab might make these elements of the TRAGEDIES more likely to occur?
  • Which of these conditions could be changed?

Summary: Malcom Heideberg emails Jules Sorenson to explain the delays with the synthesis. The two of them have coffee to discuss the issues with the collaboration. Jules has clearly prepared for a difficult conversation, while Malcom is caught off guard and is defensive about problems in his lab. Both sides agree that there will need to be clearer communication in the future.

Logbook Activities: Reflecting on Difficult Conversations and Practicing Personal Scripts

Program Reflection Questions:

Discuss the following 2-Minute Challenge using the Decison-Making Framework:

“Your lab, along with other labs at different institutions, collaborates frequently with a field researcher who periodically sends you data for analysis. Although you have never met this scientist, your name appears on several papers with her because you helped with some sections of the manuscripts. But now you are concerned. This week, you and colleagues at other institutions received an email from a reader pointing out a troubling discrepancy in the data in one of those articles, which was recently published in a top journal. The field researcher, who is on a research trip in Bolivia at the moment, has insisted by email that everything is fine, but you are not so sure. After all, you think, how hard would it be to fabricate results if no one else has access to the full data set? Meanwhile, your colleagues at other institutions—most of whom are tenured, unlike you—do not seem to be in a hurry to address the problem. “

    • What should you do?

Science Questions

  • Why do you need to collaborate in your work?
  • Think about some of the collaborations you have been involved in. What has worked or not worked?
  • Are there best practices for initiating a collaboration and keeping it on track?
  • What are some red flags?

Summary: After acknowledging the ramifications of her hands-off approach, Dr. Jules Sorenson is reconsidering how she matches mentoring with individual needs. Dr. Sorenson, Alex, and Loretta get on the same page and discuss what Alex will work on. Alex thanks Loretta for her help and acknowledges his reluctance to engage with her due to his cultural background. Dr. Sorenson discusses new directions with Ana Sofia over coffee and proposes some new ways to help students feel both productive and supported.

Logbook Activities: Personal Scripts for Mentoring Conversations

Program Reflection Questions:

Jen Heemstra, an associate professor of chemistry at Emory University in Atlanta, started to ask her research group for feedback in 2015, around the time she went up for tenure. Up to that point, she’d thought that “if I know what sort of culture I want in my lab, if I know what kind of mentor I want to be, I can just lead from that notion and everything will work out,” she says. After 5 years as a faculty member—at a point when Heemstra’s research group had grown and become more established—she had gained enough experience to realize that setting out to be a good mentor “helps, but that only gets you so far,” she says. To become a truly great mentor, “it really takes a lot more intentionality; it takes a lot of intentional learning and growth and things like critical feedback”.

  • How can the kinds of feedback Heemstra is talking about best be sought and given?
  • What are some concerns about giving and receiving feedback in this situation?

[1]. doi: 10.1126/science.caredit.aax8575

Summary: The Heideberg lab has figured out the problems with reproducing the compound; Jayna is vindicated. Jules explains the issues that the Heideberg lab uncovered and advises Jayna on next steps in the collaboration— and her career. Jules broaches the topic of using a mentoring map and suggests that Jayna connect with a fellow lab leader who is a person of color, to augment Jayna’s mentoring network. Jayna happily agrees to guide Ana Sofia’s work exploring the stereoisomer. 

Logbook Activities: Planning a Mentoring Map

Program Reflection Questions:

Let’s focus on our central character, Jayna: Ultimately, her paper may be better with the hard-won knowledge gained. Once it was traced to its source, the error offered a richness she hadn’t foreseen (the shape of the enantiomer is important to whether the drug works) and might lead to a better paper. At the same time, there were methodological approaches neither she nor anyone else thought to take.

  • Look back over the events in the collaboration between the two labs: at what point would you have done something different that might have changed and improved how events unfolded?