In the Words of a Mentor: Win Watson

Professor of Zoology, Department of Biological Sciences

What is your area of research?

I am involved in many areas of research including: lobster behavior in the lab and field, daily and tidal rhythms of lobsters, horseshoe crabs and nudibranches, and aquaculture/fish behavior. I began my career as a hardcore neurophysiologist. However, because this was not very amenable to undergraduate involvement, I expanded into areas such as animal behavior and behavioral ecology and marine biology. It was a wise decision because now I have lots of great students who are eager to work with me.

In your opinion, what should a mentor and student gain from a mentoring relationship?

For me, my students become part of my extended family. I try to treat them as I hope a professor would treat my own children. I do my best to guide them both professionally and personally, and I try to do this both by example and by spending time with them. My goal is for them to leave UNH knowing what they want to do in life, and having the background they need to accomplish that goal. I also want them to reach a point where they look at me as a peer, not a professor. I want them to appreciate that it is possible for them to know more about something than I know, if they put in the time.

I get satisfaction from knowing I have helped my students achieve their personal and career goals. I want them to respect me enough that they seek my advice and try to emulate some of the good things I do. I love it when I get thank you cards, or invitations to weddings, etc. It means I made a difference in their lives.

What are your most memorable mentoring experiences?

I think the most memorable, work-related incidents happened when one of my students had a eureka moment, or when we were able to solve a problem together without me having to tell them what to do. On several occasions I’ve received texts from students who are excited by some cool results they’ve obtained.

What advice or tips would you give a faculty member new to undergraduate mentoring?

  1. Patience.
  2. Treat them as if they are your own children.
  3. Don’t take someone on unless s/he guarantees that s/he will be able to commit sufficient time to the project.
  4. Don’t say “yes” to everyone.

Every year there are students who make it all worthwhile. These are the special students who are inquisitive, put in the time, take responsibility, and care about the outcome. They are engaged and invested and they inspire me to work just as hard.

Read more about Professor Win Watson