It is an honor to teach and mentor young scientists in my lab. The goal of mentoring is to help mentees develop the skills that are necessary to conduct scientific research independently. This covers a wide range: learning about a scientific problem through careful evaluation of the literature, generating new hypotheses, using complicated equipment and methods, carefully collecting data, critically evaluating data, effectively communicating scientific ideas and results – both orally and in writing. Training as a scientist thus provides a strong foundation that benefits many different types of careers.

I am glad to help mentees acquire these skills by helping and inspiring them to conduct exciting research projects in my lab. Our approach to scientific research is built on two pillars: creativity and rigor. Our goal is to tackle important outstanding scientific questions on how the brain constructs a representation of the external world. We need creativity to come up with novel ideas that overcome obstacles by going beyond classical paradigms. To find truth, it is equally important to conduct experiments and interpret data in a highly rigorous manner. We therefore welcome and encourage honest and constructive feedback from all lab members. To make this approach work, it is critical to maintain an open and respectful lab culture. We therefore require that all lab members display appropriate behavior in the work environment and towards coworkers. There is zero tolerance for any form of harassment or discrimination, as well as for scientific misconduct.

A respectful lab environment spurs creativity and ensures that everyone feels safe and supported enough to think out of the box and raise challenging questions. Moreover, it fosters a growth mindset in the lab where everyone is encouraged to take ownership of their project. As a mentor I encourage these ideals during weekly individual meetings with everyone in the lab, and during weekly lab meetings as a group where we discuss ongoing projects, any other lab matters, as well as work published by others.

To help mentees reach their longer term career goals, I commit to working with each mentee to ensure that their training contributes to their career trajectory, by using an Individual Development Plan (IDP) or similar document. By revising and discussing this plan at least annually, we tailor the mentorship experience to the individual goals of the mentee.

We actively welcome diversity in our lab. The active participation of people from different backgrounds and identities in academia not only results in a richer intellectual environment where more perspectives are represented, but it is also the only way to ensure that science, a public good which is heavily funded by public means, represents and benefits society in all its diversity. Therefore I commit to use research-supported best practices to avoid bias against underrepresented groups in academia, both during recruitment as in day-to-day lab life, to ensure both representation and retention of individuals from diverse backgrounds. I commit to identifying and addressing barriers that may exist in the lab, so that all experience equity in opportunities to reach their maximal potential.

— Tom P. Franken, MD PhD