Monkey Forest Tales: What means to be a good supervisor?

On past days I came across a twitter that make me thing about supervisors and how influential they are in our lives during and after we finish working with them. This twitter said: “It’s very important for grad students and postdocs to work with advisors who know when to say: that’s enough for today. Be sure to take time for yourself. Research is endless, but our lives are not. Sleep, exercise, cook a good meal, have some down time”. In all my time in academia, I only have one supervisor telling me similar words on our weekly meetings. He always asks me to socialize more and to participate not only on social activities in the lab but also to spent time with friends. To have time off. He even takes time off and sometimes didn’t went to conferences or academic events to put his family first… something that at that time I wasn’t sure I understood well, but that today I see as one of his best qualities as a human and a supervisor. So Jonathan thank you for had been my supervisor and an excellent person while I was learning…

I was formed by different supervisors from undergrad to postdoc, all of them from different countries, cultures, ages and ways to see life. From all of them I learned something (good and/or bad), and they all impacted the way I perceive and feel academia life. On the way I also interacted with other supervisors that even if they were not directly connected with my work, take time to talk about life and balance while doing research. However, it was only until I met a really bad supervisor that I start to understand what really means to have a supervisor that put you first as a person and really help you grow as a person and a researcher. Unfortunately good supervisors seems to not be that common, something that seems to be incentivized by a system that prioritize egos and publications over human quality and collaboration.

Although today I don’t supervise many students as I used to. I always try to stop myself when I push too hard students that show a real effort on keep their lives while doing a good job. I had tried to be as honest as possible about my own experiences with my students so they can learn from my experiences as well as from their own. Not so sure how successful I had been on that but there is always space for improvement…  

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