Encouraging Mentoring Relationships, with Dr. Valerie Fako Miller – Ep #13

What is the value of investing in and encouraging mentoring relationships? As you look at the progress you’ve made in your career, can you point to a mentoring relationship that made a significant impact on your development? Leading the charge and championing mentoring relationships at the University of Chicago is Dr. Valerie Fako Miller.

Dr. Fako Miller is the Assistant Director of Postdoctoral Affairs in the Biological Sciences Division at the University of Chicago. She was a postdoc at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the National Cancer Institute where she served as the liaison between NIH fellows and training directors of NIH institutes. Dr. Fako Miller also served as President of the Bethesda chapter of the Association for Women in Science. She received her Ph.D. in pharmacology from the Indiana University School of Medicine after getting her Masters and Bachelors in Chemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

What You’ll Hear On This Episode of When Science Speaks

  • [1:05] Mark introduces his guest, Dr. Valerie Fako Miller.
  • [2:30] How did Dr. Fako Miller discover her passion for Chemistry?
  • [4:10] Dr. Fako Miller talks about the value of quality mentorship programs.
  • [10:30] Are there any good resources on how to be a good mentee?
  • [13:00] Dr. Fako Miller shares insights about science communication.
  • [18:00] What has fueled the rise in interest in science advocacy?
  • [22:45] Should scientists stay out of politics?
  • [27:00] How scientists can get involved in science policy at the local level.
  • [29:00] Closing thoughts from Dr. Fako Miller and Mark.

Connect with Dr. Valerie Fako Miller

Resources & People Mentioned

Developing a healthy culture of mentoring

One of the best ways to invest in the next generation of leaders in our country is to pour resources into programs that focus on mentoring relationships. While some disciplines have robust mentoring programs, others are just getting off of the ground. Following the facts, key leaders like Dr. Valerie Fako Miller are leading the way as they seek to empower and encourage postdoc researchers and other young professionals. 

At the University of Chicago, in the Biological Sciences Division, Dr. Fako Miller and her team follow mentorship curriculum from the National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN). NRMN works to implement and disseminate innovative, evidence-based best practices to improve mentoring relationships at institutions across the country. If you want to go deeper with the fantastic work that NRMN is doing, make sure to check out the link in the resources section at the end of this post.

Breaking the gridlock and opening lines the of communication

There is no question that we are in the middle of a polarizing political climate. The problem is, how do we find a wavelength that both sides can use to open the lines of communication? From attack ads to misinformation, the way forward won’t be found by sticking to the same tactics that got us into this mess. The climate may be troubling, but there is hope, innovative leaders are hard at work encouraging and equipping young scientists with tools to bridge these divides. 

In her work at the University of Chicago, Dr. Fako Miller is witnessing some excellent progress in the area of science communication. She says that a significant number of postdoc researchers are jumping in and flexing their science communication muscles. Recently, postdocs planned and led a symposium that featured a keynote address and a workshop centered on science communication at the University of Chicago. Hopefully, the more these young leaders learn how to communicate their research and expertise in effective ways the greater our chances are for an engaged and receptive audience. 

Get the full conversation between Mark and Dr. Fako Miller by listening to this enlightening episode of When Science Speaks.

Connect With Mark and When Science Speaks

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