In a culture that emphasizes productivity, the value of a supportive mentor can be overlooked. Mentorship, however, is the backbone of a strong research community. That was the message of the Society of Research Fellows at Scripps Florida that recently awarded its first Mentorship Award to Professor John Cleveland.
“We wanted to raise awareness of what good mentorship is and to emphasize its value,” said Research Associate Sietse Jonkman, the events and activities co-chair of the society who was intimately involved in establishing the award.
Inspired by a similar honor on The Scripps Research Institute’s California campus, the award recognizes one principal investigator (PI) based on campus-wide opinion of his or her role as a mentor. Selections were based on an anonymous survey of postdoctoral fellows who ranked their PI on accessibility, supportiveness, propensity for providing constructive criticism, and concern for mentees’ future career interests. The survey also allowed fellows to nominate one PI other than their own for the award.
Of the 15 nominees, Cleveland, who is chair of the Department of Cancer Biology, was announced as winner at the recent Research Fest 2012: Scientific Symposium and Vendor Show on the Scripps Florida campus.
“[Mentorship] is the most important part of my job,” he maintained. “It’s what the job’s about. Your legacy is in the people you train.”
Cleveland’s six years at Scripps Florida are marked by the noteworthy success of his mentees, many of whom are now associate or full professors. One of Cleveland’s goals is for lab members to leave with a research project to take with them. Lab members describe him as having a “genuine heart and exceptionally positive attitude” and as “always encouraging… so his workers strive for the best.”
Cleveland places high priority on his group members developing in every area of research, from lab work to manuscript writing. He also works passionately to create an environment conducive to success.
“It starts with a talented, supportive staff,” Cleveland emphasized. “You also need a lab atmosphere that makes teamwork a priority, where every member has a project that can contribute to the team goal.”