Why we need good mentoring


Cancer research relies on key values such as creativity, collaboration, research integrity and resource sharing. A positive research environment which fosters these key values is becoming a decisive factor for some funders and research institutions. To create a supportive research culture in laboratories, the training and mentoring of young scientists is important. However, the fast-paced and fierce competition for funding and jobs can present a challenge to the younger generation of scientists who depend on the guidance and mentorship of scientific leaders. The annual Nature Awards for Mentoring in Science have been created to bring attention to one of the most essential but least recognized skills in scientific leadership. Thus far, 35 scientists from across the world, who are working in a range of disciplines, have been recognized by this award for their outstanding scientific mentorship. In this Viewpoint, we have asked three recipients of this award who work in fields associated with cancer research about their views on good mentoring, and how a revised approach to mentorship can help to achieve a positive research culture and contribute to scientific discovery.

The contributors

Martin Clynes was founding Director of the National Institute for Cellular Biotechnology at Dublin City University, Dublin, Ireland, and he has an interest in several applications of cell culture. His cancer-related interests, working closely with clinical experts, include research on mechanisms of chemotherapy resistance and investigation of potential therapeutic targets and biomarkers in pancreatic, lung and breast cancer and in cutaneous melanoma. His research has contributed to a number of clinical trials.

Anita Corbett received her undergraduate degree in chemistry from Colgate University and her PhD degree in biochemistry from Vanderbilt University. She was a postdoctoral fellow at Dana Farber Cancer Institute/Harvard Medical School before joining the Department of Biochemistry at Emory University School of Medicine in 1997. In 2016, she moved to the Department of Biology at Emory University, where she is a tenured professor of biology and Co-Director of the Emory MD/PhD Program.

Julie Overbaugh, PhD, is the Endowed Chair for Graduate Education and Associate Director for Cancer Research Career Enhancement at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Her research focuses on HIV transmission and the study of HIV immunity, including how it evolves and its impact on infection risk and pathogenesis. This research has been a long-standing collaboration with the Kenya Research Program. She has served in numerous leadership roles for grant review groups and major meetings in her field.

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The authors acknowledge the many mentees who have helped them embrace mentoring as an important skill throughout the years. A.C. also appreciates the insights of C. Freeman as they share ongoing conversations about mentoring.

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Correspondence to Martin Clynes or Anita Corbett or Julie Overbaugh.

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Clynes, M., Corbett, A. & Overbaugh, J. Why we need good mentoring. Nat Rev Cancer 19, 489–493 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41568-019-0173-1

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