Departmental Mentoring Statement

Duke Chemistry Department Mission Statement

The Duke Chemistry Department. The Duke Chemistry Department aspires to create a community built on excellence, collaboration, innovation, creativity, and belonging. As scientists, educators, collaborators and co-workers, we are committed to promoting a culture of mutual respect that inspires creativity, relishes scientific inquiry, fosters intellectual curiosity, and rewards collaborative engagement. Our collective success depends on the robust exchange of ideas – an exchange that is best when the rich diversity of our perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences flourishes. To achieve this exchange, it is essential that all members of the community feel secure and welcome, that the contributions of all individuals are respected, and that all voices are heard. All members of our community have a responsibility to uphold these values.

Mentorship During Your Duke Chemistry PhD Training

Overview.  Your PhD training will be an intensive apprenticeship in which you learn how to conduct scientific research and create new knowledge.  Your PhD advisor and PhD committee will play a major role in this process, which culminates in your graduation as an independent scientist. Your advisor’s support, however, does not stop with graduation, but continues throughout your professional career.  During your Ph.D. studies, you will also be supported by fellow researchers not only in your immediate research group but also in other research groups in the Department and across the University. This statement is meant to outline the role of your PhD Advisor, PhD committee, and fellow Department members in your PhD training.  Also, included is a statement of the Department's expectation of your role as a PhD student.

            Your PhD Advisor. PhD students typically affiliate with a research group and are assigned a PhD advisor at the end of the first semester of their graduate study. Your PhD advisor will work with you to gain a fundamental understanding of a specific research area and to develop a research project that will ultimately constitute your dissertation research.  This will be done through regular communications that may be in the form of written reports, one-on-one meetings, and/or small group discussions according to the norms of the research group you affiliate with and/or your needs. These regular communications will continue as your research project progresses and ultimately culminate in the defense of your PhD dissertation.

            Your PhD advisor will provide formal written feedback on your progress toward degree at least once a year at the end of the Spring semester. This formal annual feedback will come in the form of comments on an Annual Progress Report that you submit to the DGS each year of your graduate study.  You should also expect to receive informal (oral and/or written) feedback on your progress to degree on a regular basis throughout the year (e.g., in one-on-one meetings between you and your advisor).

            To ensure transparency and effective communication concerning expectations of both PhD Advisor and graduate students, each mentor:mentee pair is strongly encouraged to complete and sign a Shared Expectations Document (SED) that includes the topics outlined in the “Duke Chemistry Shared Expectations Template” available at the link provided below. The PhD Advisor may provide a framework for this document that matches the needs and culture of their laboratory, which can be edited as appropriate for each mentor:mentee pair. Ideally, the likely contents of a SED will be discussed prior to affiliation. It is strongly recommended that a SED be signed at the time of affiliation and reviewed annually by both the PhD Advisor and the graduate student, for example, at the time of the Annual Progress Report.

            Your PhD Committee.  PhD students are typically assigned a 4- or 5-member PhD Committee at the end of the Fall semester of their 2nd year.  This committee is assigned by the DGS after consultation with the student and advisor, and it is ultimately approved by the Dean of the Graduate School.  The members of your PhD committee will help guide your PhD research and monitor your progress to degree.  Your PhD committee members will provide formal written feedback on your progress toward degree starting at your Preliminary Examination, which is typically administered in the Spring semester of your 2nd year, and then after that at least once a year at the end of the Spring Semester.  This formal annual feedback will come in the form of comments on an Annual Progress Report that you submit to the DGS each year of your graduate study.  After the Preliminary Examination is completed, meetings with your PhD committee members (either one-on-one and/or the full committee) will be scheduled (either by you or by your advisor) on an as-needed basis, but they will occur annually for all students in their 5th year and beyond. At each committee meeting you will have the opportunity to talk with your committee members in the absence of your advisor. These are opportunities for your committee members to get to know you better, and for you to share any concerns or issues with your committee.

            You.  Ultimately, you are the most important driver on your pathway to a PhD. You are responsible for seeking out and receiving the training and guidance you need to safely and ethically conduct your research. It is up to you to foster relationships with various mentors, including your advisor and PhD committee, who will support you in the pursuit of your PhD. You should actively request meetings with, and seek feedback from, your advisor on a regular basis. You are responsible for meeting or exceeding the expectations outlined in the SED. Above all, you must assume responsibility for making progress toward your degree, which is evaluated most directly in the Annual Report but should be the subject of a regular and ongoing conversation with your advisor and committee.

            Different faculty have different mentoring styles, and different students need different types of mentoring.  You should establish the overlap between your PhD advisor's mentoring style and your mentoring needs prior to the affiliation process, and you should solidify that overlap in the SED. Recognizing that your mentoring needs may change during the course of your studies, it is important for you to communicate with your advisor (and PhD committee members) what support you need to be successful in your PhD research and training. Reviewing the SED with your PhD Advisor at least yearly will facilitate this process.