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Vol. LX, No. 23
November 14, 2008
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SciMentorNet Wants You!

SciMentorNet is an e-mentoring web site that provides career guidance to students interested in the health sciences.
SciMentorNet is an e-mentoring web site that provides career guidance to students interested in the health sciences.

Many successful people can remember that “one special person” who had a big impact on their career. Maybe it was an engaging teacher in high school or college, or an inspiring professional who happened along just as you reached a crossroads in your career. That person’s positive influence nudged you in the right direction. Imagine trying to achieve a successful career in the medical sciences without an ounce of guidance from an experienced professional. It would be very difficult, if not impossible. Now there’s a new way for you to support the NIH mission and the next generation of health and science professionals.

SciMentorNet is an e-mentoring web site that provides ongoing career guidance to students who are pursuing or wish to pursue a career in the behavioral, social and biomedical sciences, or health care dentistry or medicine. The program stems from a partnership between the Office of Science Education and the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research. Through the SciMentorNet web site, high school and college students can view career profiles of professionals from a range of fields. The professionals are volunteers who provide career mentoring services. Once a student selects one or more mentors, the mentoring relationship is established and sustained via emails that are routed through a secure NIH network.

The goal of the program is to “attract and retain student interest in a range of careers, from human health to the behavioral and social sciences,” says Dr. Jonathan Arias of the Center for Scientific Review, who spearheaded the project. Students benefit from sustained mentoring support beginning in high school and potentially extending through their college years and beyond. Armed with relevant knowledge and experience, mentors provide valuable information, insight, guidance and support.

The use of asynchronous electronic discussion gives e-mentoring one clear advantage over traditional face-to-face mentoring. It allows mentors and mentees to connect effectively across different time zones and geographical regions. This provides a new option to students from rural areas of the country, who historically have had limited access to nearby role models in certain fields, including biomedical research.

Since the web site was launched in October 2007, Arias has worked tirelessly to increase awareness of the service. So far, close to 100 mentors and about 85 mentees from eight states are participating. Arias and his OSE partners are currently updating the site and are in the process of expanding the program with the help of a national marketing campaign. Two critical issues right now are getting the message out to all qualified students nationwide and signing up enough e-mentor volunteers to meet the demand.

NIH scientists, postdocs, clinicians and health care, grant review and program staff are encouraged to become SciMentorNet e-mentors. Professionals in biomedical, behavioral and social science research and the dental and allied health care fields are especially needed. You may wonder if you have what it takes to be a successful mentor. If you’re excited about your career and have a desire to share your knowledge and experience, you’re already well on your way. Volunteers who sign up with SciMentorNet are offered online training about how to be a successful e-mentor and make the most of the mentoring experience.

If you’d like to learn more or are ready to help an aspiring young scientist, visit http://science.education.nih.gov/SciMentorNet. Chances are good that you’ll become that “one special person” for someone else.— NIHRecord Icon

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