Mentor-Mentee Relationships

Cellular and Molecular Pathology (CMP) Graduate Program

Based on mutual respect and trust, an effective mentoring relationship plays a unique role in graduate education. Mentors strive to establish an environment which naturally allows students to explore, learn, change, grow and achieve. Consider the thoughts below to work toward a fruitful and rewarding mentoring relationship.

                                                    How to be a Graduate Advisee

For Mentees:

Upon arrival to the CMP Program, you are tasked with making a very important decision: find a PI mentor and lab. This match needs to be mutually beneficial for the mentor and you so it is crucial to find a good fit.

  • Self-reflection – taking the time to reflect on past experiences, current interests and future goals can be helpful to define and narrow down what excites you most in your discipline. See “References and Additional Resources” for individual development tools that may help you with this process.
  • Do your homework – review CMP trainer profiles and interests, talk to other students, ask questions prior to or during orientation. Make a list of potential trainers whose work you find interesting and jot down why you want to learn more about their program.
  • Rotations – typically, the first step to relay your interest in a lab is to send an email to the PI. Be respectful of the PI’s time – compose a succinct, concise email which provides information about why you find the lab interesting. Make a good first impression – proof read and be thoughtful.

Once established in a lab, keep in mind your ongoing roles and responsibilities in the relationship.

  • Understand your PI’s role at the UW
    • Your mentor is responsible for providing you with an enriching environment to engage in research, which may include financial support.
    • Realize that faculty many times have teaching, clinical and/or administrative obligations in addition to their role in the lab.
    • Initiate meetings to keep your PI informed of research progress and results.
    • If problems arise, consult with your mentor. It is important to address problems, big or small, in a timely fashion.
  • Familiarize yourself with CMP and the University of Wisconsin-Madison policies and procedures. Ask questions if you need clarification.
  • Professionalism
    • Observe academic and scientific misconduct policies.
    • Pay attention to careful and precise collection of experimental data to ensure ongoing integrity of results. Respect confidentiality of results per your PI’s expectation.
    • Acknowledge contributions and funding in all publications and presentations. Refer to “How to Publish as a CMP Trainee” for more information.
    • Interact with faculty, staff and other students in a collegial, respectful and mature manner. Your interactions are a direct reflection not only of you but of your PI and CMP as well.


For Mentors:

Sharing knowledge and experiences is an inherent part of graduate education. The ability to cultivate dynamic mentoring relationships can benefit your lab enormously. A perceptive mentor does not need large amounts of time to be effective. Consider the following:

  • Listen – promote uninhibited exchange of information and allow for questions. Hear the student and observe their mannerisms. Repeat key ideas and discussion points back to them to confirm your understanding of the conversation.
  • Keep in touch – the amount of time spent with students will vary but try to maintain a sense of what your mentees are up to on a regular basis. Provide regular and informative feedback. Don’t assume all students will ask for help or verbalize challenges.
  • Acknowledge – recognize the student’s contribution in presentations and publications. Encourage students to participate in professional meetings and other venues where they can display their work to peers.
  • Policies and procedures – understand and disseminate laboratory procedures, department and university policies and academic requirements for degree.
  • Multiple mentors – students will benefit from multiple mentors. Coordinate mentoring activities with thesis committee members, lab personnel or other students to give the mentee a wide range of supporters.
  • Ethics – expose students to the idea of scientific integrity. Prepare them to respond to ethical situations that may arise in their own work.
  • Network – provide a realistic accounting of job options and career paths. Help with making important professional connections.


References and Additional Resources:

University of Wisconsin-Madison Institute for Clinical and Translational Research, Research Mentoring, Retrieved May 22, 2013 from

Fuhrmann CN, Hobin JA, Lindstaedt B, Clifford PS. My IDP: Individual Development Plan,, Retrieved May 22, 2013 from

Branchaw J, Pfund C, Rediske R. Entering Research: A Facilitator’s Manual. New York: W.H. Freeman and Company, 2010. Print.

Handelsman J, Pfund C, Lauffer S, Pribbenow C. Entering Mentoring. Itchy Cat Press, 2005. Print.

Vice Provost for Graduate Education, Stanford University. Guidelines for Advising Relationships Between Faculty Advisors and Graduate Students. Retrieved May 22, 2013 from

UW-Madison - Relevant Documents
Center for the Improvement of Mentored Experiences in Research (CIMER) - Home Page -
Delta Program in Research, Teaching and Learning -