Mentoring Students and Early-Career Scientists

The importance of good mentoring

Strong mentoring relationships enhance trainee experiences and outcomes. Providing high-quality mentoring to students and early-career scientists is an expectation for all MIT faculty members. The MIT Biology department supports the development of strong mentoring relationships by outlining high-level expectations for mentors and mentees, recommending best practices, and providing resources to help everyone improve their skills.

Good mentoring is rooted in our values, can take many forms, and is adaptable

There are common principles associated with good mentoring that stem from our values.

Communication & feedback:  Trust is an important part of any mentoring relationship, and building trust requires good communication. Differing expectations and power imbalances can create barriers that can be addressed using purposeful communication and feedback strategies.

Professional growth and training: Doctoral training should cultivate independence and empower students to direct their own learning. Mentors can help students define and reach their goals while fostering autonomy.

Respectful environments for learning and discovery: At MIT Biology, we expect all labs to provide a respectful, inclusive, and professional environment that encourages and enables everyone to contribute their best work and ideas.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to mentoring. The mentoring practices that work best for one mentor-mentee pair may not be ideal for another, and the best strategies can change over time; an individual approach is essential. Mentors and mentees should reflect on and revisit their practices, adjusting as needed for mutual benefit.

Evaluation of mentoring

Mentoring is an essential competency for our faculty. Our values and agreed-upon expectations, as presented here, provide a framework for evaluating mentoring in a consistent way for promotions and other merit-based recognition (e.g., annual salary increases or awards). These guidelines should not be interpreted as absolutes. It is important that both mentors and mentees recognize that unexpected things come up, people will not always be their best selves, and mentoring relationships – like all relationships – require mutual understanding and flexibility. We expect mentors to strive for excellence and learn from feedback and missteps to improve over time. We ask mentees to engage in this partnership by bringing a growth mindset and being open to two-way communication.

Mentoring competencies

Communication & Feedback Professional Growth & Training Training Environment
Setting expectations Setting training goals Establishing a positive training culture
Communication standards Enabling trainee learning and growth Instituting equitable group policies
Constructive assessment and feedback Supporting professional development and career goals Respecting trainees as individuals

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We have assembled a list of people, training opportunities, online materials, books, articles, and more on the Mentoring Resources page. Suggestions for additions to the resources page are welcome; email

View Mentoring Resources