In Search of a Few Good Mentors


Mentors inspire, support, guide, help develop skills, encourage thinking outside the box, and pave the way for the next generation. The Summer Scholars Program in Genome Sciences and Medicine for Underrepresented in STEM builds on the positive impacts of mentoring, both for mentees and mentors, and provides first- and second-year undergraduate students the opportunity for hands-on research in labs that fit their interests.

The importance of engaging with students underrepresented in STEM can't be overstated. The Summer Scholars Program provides students from diverse background with an opportunity to participate  genome sciences and medicine research, which will increase awareness about the field and a potential career in research.

So far, this 10-week program has hosted 38 undergraduates from 19 colleges and universities across the country, Puerto-Rico, and Duke Kunshan University. For many, this is the first time they have worked in a research laboratory. The program is supported by an R25 grant that was recently renewed by the National Human Genome Research Institute at NIH.

ashley chi

The main driver to the success of the Summer Scholars Program is the mentors who so generously volunteer their time to help these scholars flourish. "Being a mentor for the Summer Scholars Program is an opportunity to give back," said Jen-Tsan Ashley Chi, MD, PhD, professor in molecular genetics and microbiology. He has hosted a Summer Scholar in his lab since the program began in 2018.

Mentors help shape the next generation of researchers not only by teaching them how to design a research project, carry out experiments, and present their work, but also by instilling strong research values. "Mentees learn about being a good colleague and how to collaborate with team members," said Ornit Chiba-Falek, PhD, professor in neurology and long-time Summer Scholars Mentor. "They learn the value, integrity, and rigor in high quality research."

Ornit Chiba-Falek

In turn, the energy a Summer Scholar brings in benefits the rest of the lab. "Sometimes having a younger student in the lab who is interested in science and eager to learn can help make the people in the lab rekindle their passion for science," Chi said, "With all the frustration in the lab, sometimes you forget why you came here, but mentoring young people brings that passion and energy back into focus."

Chiba-Falek loves seeing the growth her mentees make over their 10 weeks in her lab. "Since the program is focused on students early in their careers," she said, "we have the opportunity to help shape and present opportunities to them, from basic, translational, and clinical research."

The 2024 Summer Scholars Program will take place from May 20 – July 26, and we are looking for more mentors like Chi and Chiba-Falek to expose our students to new research opportunities and career paths. If you are interested in becoming a mentor for the Summer Scholars Program, please contact Program Director Susanne Haga for more information.