Our research group celebrates the transdisciplinarity of our interests and previous experiences. We seek out opportunity to broaden rather than focus. We do this deliberately to enrich our work and to support each other. My approach to mentorship and graduate student supervision has been recognised by my colleagues. In 2020, I was awarded the Graduate Student Mentorship Award for the College of Biological Sciences and I serve as an adjudicator on several panels for the Canadian Association of Graduate Studies.
Two principles guide us in building our team:
1) Members do not need to be engaged in research that addresses the direct strength of the principle investigator. Research expertise is easy to come by and can be addressed by co-supervision if needed. Membership in the research group should be motivated by a desire to be part of how we support each other, how we value our work, how we ask questions, and we prioritize community partnership.
2) Members do not need to come with financial support or proof of admission to a program. The team recognizes that access to grants/scholarships/admissions is not equitable. Therefore, we offer our credentials, experience, and expertise to help members acquire the funds/grants/scholarship required. We cannot guarantee success but our track record is really freakin' impressive! **note for non-Canadian citizens: welcoming students from countries other than Canada has been a real challenge. The funding requirements are greater and access to scholarships is limited. We work and support each other:
1) As Principle Investigator, my job is to teach/support you; you do not work for me. There are no pre-requisites to joining the group. Instead, I expect you to be honest with yourself about your skills and confident enough to ask for clarification, instruction, or help when you reach the limit of your knowledge or skill.
2) We set low expectations and then regularly practice exceeding them. The institutional expectations for graduate research are pretty low. Seriously. Check them out. You'll be surprised. Our own misunderstandings of research culture will constantly inflate our threshold for success. Your job is to meet those institutional expectations. My job is to help you exceed them to your next career step.
3) In the first month of joining the lab, we will discuss your career goals beyond your graduate work. Then, alongside your research and course work, we will work together to ensure that your next step is available by the time that you graduate. If we go to conferences, I will introduce you to people in my network. I will arrange meetings or events for you. I will pass along job ads, or other opportunities.
4) In the lab group, we respect that we are whole people. We do not reward exhaustion, we do not compete to work long hours. I expect you to work no more than 35 hours per week . If you feel that you need to work longer hours for extended periods of time, I expect you to talk with me about it. Recently, lab group has agreed to work towards adopting a 30 hour, 4 day work week. We will be transitioning to this as a group and we will develop a plan for each of us to be able to accomplish our goals and stay healthy. For incoming undergraduate students, we know that this is more challenging so we will support you in obligation-reduction and streamlining so that you too can be healthy and productive.
5) The lab group meets once a week on Tuesdays. Each student in the lab should meet with me for at least one meeting every other Tuesday. I will block off the alternate Tuesday for any student who may need that time to work together or brainstorm. If you get stuck on something and need an immediate nudge, I expect you to text me. Email is okay too, though things might get lost. Trust me to not answer the text if I am unavailable.
6) Good research is not done in isolation; it is a collaborative act and its meaning is defined by the community that will use it. I expect that community to be part of the process. I expect the list of co-authors on your work to grow. As PI, I generally expect to be last author (if you have a co-supervisor, we may switch things around). If I'm working on an article that I think would fit with your career goals, you can expect to be invited to join.
7) Mentorship is an essential component of good research. Each graduate student joining the research group is expected to mentor another person during their degree. This mentorship can be many things, from participation in the coBump program (this is awesome and we should all support it), to taking on a co-supervisory roll with me of an undergraduate honours thesis student. If we each mentor two people, then we grow our research culture!
8) As Principle Investigator of the lab, my role is to take responsibility for all the things that happen, good and bad, and give the credit to my students. It means that I have a vested interest in your success, but you are in charge of determining which successes you want. It is my job to provide you with as many opportunities as possible. You do not have to choose them all.
9) Though I am the leader, I practice 'a different way of leading' (or so have I been told many times by many people). This means that I will not write you an email to ask to speak with you without telling you exactly why I think we should chat. This means that I will not allow you to fail so that you can learn a lesson. This means that I will create a safe learning environment for you to authentically experience the research process, to explore different options, and to develop your own style of collaboration. With this, I expect only that you are kind to yourself. We are here to learn together.
10) I expect you to respect and nurture your data. Please do not speak ill of them. They will be flawed but they are important and have great value. Your data are yours, but they also belong to the community from which they were collected, and to me. That means that decisions about the use of data need to be inclusive of their owners. If I publish work with the data set that you are also owner of, I will include you as a co-author and, I expect the same for me.
Graduate studies in Guelph - The numbers $$$
Becoming a graduate student is a big decision. We find that many students are not fully aware of the financial context and we will do our best to lay it out here.
1) Graduate students at the University of Guelph are not all equally supported. Some departments/programs offer guaranteed stipends, while others do not. 2) Where guaranteed stipends are offered, the 'guarantee' part is 'top down' where the 'stipend' part often comes from a variety of sources. The total stipend usually has to total about $21,500 per year for a Masters, and $25,500 per year for a PhD student. The money can come from your supervisor's grant, your supervisor's general research account, an external scholarship to you, an internal scholarship to you, a Teaching Assistant contract from your department, or something else. Very rarely can the money come from personal finances. 3) Irrespective of how it comes, it's not a lot. 4) There are other ways that supplement that stipend, including an extra Teaching Assistant contract, Research Assistant contracts, other internal scholarships, other external scholarships, none of which are guaranteed. 5) This means that though you may have a consistent small income, it can fluctuate throughout the year. Careful planning is necessary, especially because costs of living can change seasonally. If you are paying to heat your apartment, then winter months will cost more. 6) Here is a link to a website that tracks the cost of living in Guelph: www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/in/Guelph . Check out how much it is to rent an apartment. Also note the cost of daycare. It's a lot! And if you need daycare that is more affordable, I can help you find home daycare! 7) The stipend guarantee is only for 6 semesters (MSc) or 12 semesters (PhD). After this period, you may need to cover expenses on your own. We will know well in advance if you may have to 'go over' and we can work together to ease this situation.