feedback for students

Rae Nishi nishir at
Thu Sep 18 11:27:33 EST 1997

In article <5vr6r7$htg$1 at>
bjag at (Bharathi Jagadeesh) writes:

> How do you give feedback to students/and post-docs
> (who are supposed to be trainees?)? What is "good"
> performance?

There are many opportunities for feedback and I try to take all of
them.  For example, after they give a talk (journal club, lab meeting,
local meeting)...  If they did well I tell them so.  If they could
improve performance by changing something, I tell them.  Needless to
say, if it is praise, I do it in front of everyone, if it is criticism,
I do it privately.  I also meet with everyone individually once a week.
 This is a great opportunity to provide feedback (wow-- what a great
experiment-- nice gel!  beautiful photos!  good idea! your writing is
too convoluted.  are you OK? you don't seem to be very happy). 
> I've noticed an unwillingness in science to tell
> people that they aren't "good enough" (actually
> my desire to put that in quotes is a symptom).

If it's a significant problem, I try to tell them.  I had a postdoc who
was very talented and bright, but obviously not highly motivated (did
only what was necessary-- didn't have alot of initiative; seemed to be
finding more and more excuses to stay out of the lab).  I suggested
that she not seek a career in academic science (you know, the grant rat
race).  She went to law school, finished at the top of her class, and
is now a patent lawyer.
> In law, for example, recruiters/advisors/mentors
> are much more willing to say -- nope, you aren't
> going to get that job. Adverts for
> legal jobs often will say  "must
> have excellent academic performance and have
> attended a top law school." Translated, that
> means you must have been in the top 10% of
> your class, and have attended a top ten law
> school. 
> Do you give that kind of advice to your
> advisees? prospective students?

Jobs in biological sciences are much more nebulous.  No one really
cares where you went as an undergrad and what your grades were.  They
do care about your grad and post grad experience.  But schools differ
wildly in what they want.  A research institute or med school will want
someone to be successful at getting grants and doing great science. 
Smaller liberal arts colleges emphasize alot more teaching. 

Rae Nishi, PhD
Dept. Cell & Developmental Biology
Oregon Health Sciences University
Portland Oregon 
nishir at
**that's Orygun, NOT Ora-Gone**

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