I was recently asked by a reporter about the mentors who helped me along my scientific career. I've been blessed with many mentors over the years, but one always stands out in my memory: Dr. Celia Brosnan. She was my main thesis mentor during the doctoral program at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Dr. Brosnan's method of mentoring me was simply this: focus on your strengths.
Once she identified that I was a strong writer, she gave me more writing assignments. Getting some wins early in scientific writing gave me the confidence to stay in the program and to gain the other skills that I needed to succeed in STEM. I have found the hard way that not every mentor will do this.
I now see that as professors we tend to zero in on students' mistakes and give them more of whatever it is that they lack thinking that that is the best way to "train" young minds. Dr. Brosnan's approach was the opposite. She identified the strengths in each student she mentored and focused on those, then built each student's career around those strengths.
During my darkest hours when doubt and failure would threaten to derail me from my goal of becoming a scientist, she would give me writing assignments. These would build my confidence enough for me to then dare to tackle the things that were more challenging for me.
In the interview with the reporter I said:
“I moved from Puerto Rico to New York in 1985 when I was accepted at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine to study neuroscience. I knew my scientific training at the University of Puerto Rico was excellent, but my English skills weren’t great. Because of a lack of resources in Puerto Rico, I hadn’t been exposed to the most advanced technology.
During my training, Dr. Celia Brosnan saw great potential in me despite my limited English. She encouraged me to study with technicians in the lab, even some who didn’t work directly with her.
Amazingly, she asked me to write scientific papers. At the time, I had trouble expressing myself verbally, so it was pretty amazing that she trusted me with writing these papers. She recognized my writing ability, encouraged it and allowed me to have credit for it. Not every mentor would have done that. She had a lot of patience. Working with her, I was able to author papers early on in my career. Thanks to her, I’m currently a tenured professor and chief of the international health division. I’m also the author of “How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper: The Step-by-Step Guide.”
I now mentor many students. One of the most important things I teach them is scientific writing. It’s the main thing Dr. Brosnan taught to me and was the biggest key to my success.”
To read the full article about titled: She inspired me: The role models who helped these women envision a career in STEM By Neil Gladstone click this HERE.
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Dr. Luz Claudio is an environmental health scientist, mother and consultant, originally from Puerto Rico. She is a tenured professor of environmental medicine and public health. Luz recently published her first book: How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper: The Step-by-Step Guide. Dr. Claudio has internship programs and resources for young scientists. Opinions expressed in this blog are solely her own and may not reflect her employer's views.