Marvin Cummings, Jr was part of the inaugural Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics (ACT-SO) mentoring team this year. We asked Marvin to talk about his experience as we begin recruiting mentors for the 2014-15 team.
What was your experience like as a mentor with the ACT-SO pilot program in its first year?
My participation as mentor in the ACT-SO program was a very worthwhile experience.
I had the chance to interact with students from Romeoville and Bolingbrook High school(s), and the thing that struck me was how bright they were and their staunch motivation. Each student seemed to have a very clear idea about i) the type of science or engineering they wanted to pursue in college, and ii) the type of problems they wanted to tackle throughout their career. These things were really not even on my radar when I was in high school. So, it was a bit of an eye-opening experience for me, and I learned, really, two things: 1) high school students are much more capable and prepared, today; and 2) it is quite a bit more competitive climate for students, today, who want to study in the STEM fields.
What did you learn about mentoring throug this experience?
As a mentor, I also realized very quickly that the jargon I use at work does not translate very well with a high school student. A sure sign of this is watching their eyes glaze over. So, I realized that communicating a new scientific concept to someone who is not so familiar is definitely a learned skill. But when my students understood the idea or got a chance to go and work in a lab, their eyes lit up and that was nice to see.
What would you say to postdocs who are considering becoming ACT-SO mentors?
I would recommend being an ACT-SO mentor to anyone in the post-doc community. There is some extra work involved, but nothing a post-doc should not be able to handle, and for any post-doc who interested in academia, it is a great way to interact with students and also hone your mentoring style as an future educator: a worthwhile experience for everyone involved.
Please see the invitation to join the mentoring team and the flyer linked therein.
Marvin L. Cummings Jr. joined the X-ray Science Division (XSD) at Argonne National Laboratory as a postdoctoral researcher in November 2012. After earning a Ph.D. from Rice University in December 2010, Marvin received a 1-year appointment at the Getty Conservation Institute as a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow, where he studied the production technology of Attic red-figure and black-figure pottery produced during the 6th to 4th centuries B. C. As a member of the Microscopy group, Marvin will conduct advanced-research, related to the development of the synchrotron x-ray scanning tunneling microscope (SXSTM). Marvin is active in the Postdoctoral Society of Argonne.