“Mentors at Each Step of the Journey”, Dr. K. Beth Beason-Abmayr, Biochemistry & Cell Biology

I had mentors from high school to college and in graduate school.  There was my biology teacher in high school. I also had my chemistry and physics teacher. I was very close with her, and she was very encouraging. So they were the ones that got me interested in studying science in college. As an undergraduate, I became very close to two professors: my physiology professor, who is the one I actually worked for as a teaching assistant, and then my genetics professor who I worked with in the lab my senior year. Those were my two primary mentors during college. They were faculty members; I didn’t necessarily have many peer mentors. When I was a Teaching Assistant (TA) for the first time I was the only undergraduate TA–all the other TAs were graduate students, and I worked closely with several of them. I still remember the one that I worked with the first time I taught: she was working on a master’s degree, but she was doing a non-thesis master’s because she wanted to go straight into teaching. She was really good and very patient and answered lots of questions. So there were a couple of graduate students, but it was primarily my two professors.
From high school to college and then to graduate school, mentors played an important role.  I really don’t know what direction I would have gone in if I hadn’t had the experiences I had as an undergrad. I probably would have gone to graduate school, but I might have ended up in microbiology instead of physiology. My relationships with my mentors, especially my physiology professor, had a huge influence on my career path. And it was a personal relationship, it wasn’t just, “Oh, ok, I took a class with you, you were at the front of the room of fifty or more students, and I recognize you but I don’t really know you.” By working as a teaching assistant with him, I was able to get really close with him. We have stayed in touch, and I have seen him a couple of times in the last couple of years. It is a very special memory.