1. Mentorship approach (START HERE!)

My general perspectives as a mentor

1. You can do hard things. I want to help you identify challenging but doable goals. If you haven’t analyzed data before, let’s get you started on some analyses! If you haven’t written an Introduction before, let’s get you started on lit reviewing and outlining! If you want to learn a new statistical method, even a really complicated one that’s a little intimidating, let’s find you resources to learn! Why? Because you can do hard things.

2. I want to help you find what YOU want to do and make sure you have the skills to do it. My goal for postdocs, graduate students, post-baccs, and undergraduate students is NOT for you to become a mini-me. I want to help you find your niche—what you’re good at, what you’re interested in, what keeps you up at night wondering about. Your things don’t have to be (and shouldn’t necessarily be) my exact things.

3. Learn how to fail well. You’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to find typos in papers, have a wrong line in your R code, or forget to do something. You’re also not going to know stuff, and you might turn out to be wrong about stuff you thought you already knew. All of this is totally fine and expected. I want to help you close knowledge gaps and recover from mistakes effectively. When you find a mistake, my ask is that you acknowledge the mistake asap so that you or we can then figure out what/where the missing link was and how to correct it going forward. I would not get mad at a mistake happening. I would be disappointed if you knew there was a mistake but ignored it or tried to cover it up.

4. “If it’s not worth doing right, it’s not worth doing at all.” When I was in junior high, my dad would often help me with my algebra homework at night. Sometimes solving for X was easy and I could solve it in my head, without needing to write out the steps to arrive at X. My dad was not a fan of this approach. He’s a loving, thoughtful, patient, and accepting guy, but he was insistent that if I wasn’t showing my work for the easy stuff, it’d be harder to show my work for the harder stuff–and the harder stuff was where I really needed to be able to catch my mistakes, follow my thought process, see where things went wrong or right. His catchphrase (said lovingly and in humor) was “if it’s not worth doing right, it’s not worth doing at all.”

Applying this sentiment to clinical psychology, I aim to do things effectively and thoroughly, with the acknowledgement that we’re all fallible and we’re all going to make mistakes (see point 3 above!). I think thorough work creates the best science, fosters the most learning, and gives you the most skills. So, practically this translates to me encouraging a few things from graduate students in particular.

  • I’ll encourage you to use syntax or code when cleaning data and running analyses. This will save you time, help you troubleshoot, and help you remember what you were thinking when you were cleaning data/running analyses for 8 hours straight on a random Wednesday 2 months ago.

  • I’m a stickler for methodological details. I’m going to want to see your work and process. I will want to teach you how to anticipate potential reviewer and methodological concerns/flaws so that you can avoid them upfront and/or collect data on the question so that we can analyze it later.

  • I’m also a stickler for flowy writing. I’m going to give a LOT of edits on your writing. Science is meaningless if we can’t communicate it clearly. Even if it makes sense in your mind, it might not make sense to others. I want to help you communicate your findings and ideas in ways that make sense to you and other people. Also, it’s pretty rewarding when an editor or a reviewer who was initially critical of your paper comes back and says something like “wow, this was a really thorough and compelling response–you totally won me over!”

5. You don’t have to have everything figured out right now. This is a bit more philosophical…there’s such a balance between planning 5-10 steps ahead vs. living intuitively and figuring out where your interests are at a given moment/phase of your scientific development. Clinically, I’m a huge fan of behavioral experiments—you won’t know what happens unless you try it. So translating that perspective to research development, my ask is that you find a question that interests you now, see a project through on that topic, and then re-assess how that went. Is this something you want to continue researching? If yes, great! What’s the next gap you want to fill in this topic? If not, great! What did you like vs. not like about this topic? Were there methods you liked but would want to apply to a different topic? Everything is information to guide your next step—even if you don’t know where that step will lead 5 years from now.

Lauren Forrest, PhD
Lauren Forrest, PhD
Assistant Professor