The success of our graduates is primarily a testament to their talents and hard work. There is no doubt about that.
Even so, we (the professors) like to think that we had some role in launching these careers. I should say here that I am using the research group ‘we’, although I am the youngest professor in the group and #3 in terms of number of PhDs graduated, so the credit primarily goes to my colleagues.
In any case: What, if anything, do we do that maximizes the chances of post-graduate success for our advisees? Earlier today, I discussed this with one of my research group colleagues, the most successful mentor of us all. We came up with the following, only somewhat-self-serving hypotheses:
1. We encourage our advisees to consider their doctoral research in a broad context.
2. We work with our advisees to find interesting research topics.
3. A combination of 1 & 2: we encourage breadth and depth in the research topic
4. Most of our graduates are supported by a combination of research and teaching assistantships
5. We push them to publish, attend conferences (and present their research), and write proposals.
I have stated many times in the FSP blog, and probably here in Scientopia as well, that I view a research group as a community: a community of people who work together and who, by the work of the individuals and the group, help each other. Today’s topic is a great example of the community concept: If graduates of our research group are successful at getting good jobs, this becomes widely known and attracts new excellent students to our group, and the cycle continues for as long as we are fortunate to have ideas, students, grants...It doesn't seem so difficult when she describes it, so, why is it so rare to find a lab like that? I don't know about you, but I am beginning to think that being nice cannot be enough anymore for a PI to be put in the bag of good mentors...