Mentoring Guide

Our lab strives to create innovative data-driven and human-centered solutions to support human flourishing. Parallel to this mission is my genuine desire to support each lab member’s flourishing, i.e. to fully realize your potential, to be a better version of yourself while taking yourself well.

What you can expect from me

  • Create a fun and supportive community essential for your personal growth
  • Provide you with the best research advice I could provide, including, but not limited to, big picture ideas, directions for exploration, and where applicable, detailed guidance
  • Provide you with the research infrastructure (computing resources etc.)
  • Provide you with learning resources (e.g. access to the conference, workshop, tutorials, books)
  • Be an advocate for you while you are at the lab and after you leave the lab
  • Be a motivator for you
  • Be understanding and compassionate of your personal obstacles and, if possible, work together to overcome them
  • Timely feedback (weekly meeting and email response within 24 hours)
  • Constructive feedback

My Expectation of You

Developing Growth Mindset/Resilience

  • The research process is a process of creating failures and learning from failures. I strive to create a safe environment for failure where you will develop a growth mindset by treasuring the failures as opportunities to learn and necessary steps leading toward success. I hope you will develop a good habit of spending energy to reflect upon and learn from your failures instead of self-criticism and ruminating over the failures;

Fail Fast and Fail Often

  • I expect you to become a courageous explorer: this includes tinkering with new tools, new methods, and new ideas, which lead to fast iteration. Fail Fast and Fail Often allow us to learn constructively from many failures. However, please take time to document your exploration; You don’t have to wait until the next meeting to share the results. I expect you to share the results (either good or bad) as soon as you get them. In addition, I expect you have some preliminary interpretations of the results and preliminary thoughts on the next step. This is a crucial step for you to become an independent thinker/researcher. 

Work Smart

  • Attention is a rare resource. We need to be intentional about it. If you have trouble focusing for a sustained period of time, there are techniques that you can use.
  • Become a master of your own energy management. You know when is the best time to do intellectually demanding work, schedule wisely
  • You should aim for productive work during the week and take the weekend off and limit off-hour work; you should also deliberately develop hobbies and find things you are excited to do outside of work

Organization of Work

  • I expect you to take good notes during our meeting, including but not limited to
    • Feedback given
    • New idea discussed
    • Agreed-upon to-do list for the upcoming week
  • Progress report
    • This is a centralized document to keep track of the progress
    • Please update the to-do portion of the progress report by the end of the day of the meeting
    • Please update the work-finished portion of the progress report before the next meeting
  • I expect you to take detailed notes of your exploration, e.g. the experiment you run, the results, the reflection on why it works or does not work
  • Reading papers: Please keep track of the paper you wrote in a spreadsheet and write a brief summary of each paper you read in the format of an annotated bibliography; use a reference manager such as Zotero to collect and track the literature
  • I expect you to organize your documentation/work products neatly in a shared space. I strongly encourage you to use google doc, google slides as they are easy for me to give written feedback;

Deliberate Efforts to Improve Communication Skills

  • Oral: take advantage of each opportunity to practice articulating your idea and communicate with the best effort to your advisors, colleagues, and collaborators
  • Written: engaged in regular writing, preferably, daily writing. You should shoot for 1-2 substantial writing products (conference/journal/arxiv submissions or white paper/blog post) every semester. Those writing could be surveyed papers/literature reviews/primers or papers that report new findings or new methodology
  • Communicate effectively and professionally with data, i.e. the essential skills of data storytelling
  • Take advantage of the professional development opportunities offered by the school or department

Cultivate Good Well-being Habits 

  • Sound physical and mental health is the foundation for flourishing;
  • I encourage you to adopt the evidence-based practice for promoting physical and mental health, such as eating healthy food, exercising regularly, sleeping well, and practicing stress management techniques such as mindfulness and meditation;

Develop ability for self-monitoring and self-regulating 

  • I expect you are engaged in a self-regulated practice of self-improvement. You will continuously monitor your weakness/strengths and resources needed and frequently check against your goal. You will be fully in charge of your own development.

I am mostly happy

  • To see that you are able to take yourself well (eating, exercise, sleep, meditation …)
  • To see you are passionate and fully engaged with the research work
  • To see you develop child-like curiosity and strive to be a lifelong learner
  • When you show me the result (you don’t have to wait until the next meeting), even if the result does not look good
  • When you share with me how you are inspired by an interesting paper you read or talk you heard about
  • When you respond promptly to my email, normally within 24 hours during the workdays of the week

My shortcoming

  • I often underestimate the time/effort to finish some tasks (especially those related to data analysis) and I often like to give a lot of ideas, it can be overwhelming sometimes.  At the minimum, you should note down the idea and then apply judgment to implement the ideas that are realistic to carry out within the time frame;
  • Sometimes my ideas are not the best, I would like you to evaluate critically those ideas, and share your thoughts with me. Eventually, I would like to see you come up with a lot of ideas (good or bad) on your own;
  • I often give very straightforward feedback so don’t be discouraged if you hear only negative feedback from me. I am trying to be constructive but I don’t want to hold back the feedbacks that I think is essential to help you to be productive in research;
  • I have a lot of experience in data analysis/modeling but I don’t have much deep experience with hardware/infrastructure, and software engineering/system development, so you will need to figure out those nuts and bolts yourselves and bring your expertise to complement my weakness

(Credits: This mentoring guide is inspired by Dr. Nancy Kanwisher (MIT Neuroscientist)’s mentorship page)