Xavier- A Summer Mentorship

 

From the first over-the-phone announcement to the Final Event, this summer has outdone every single one before it. But my favorite part was the summer mentorship. Working with Sam Reiss throughout the summer has helped me to understand concepts that most students don’t learn until college. Sam taught me about techno-economic analysis, where you consider current technological capabilities and how it will become more efficient over time. You can also consider the prices of the various compartments of your project. For example, current TEGs have a low efficiency rate and do not generate a high electrical output, but in 10 or 15 years, these devices be widely used and will generate double the electrical output.

Sam Reiss taught me how to explain mechanical concepts in a way that other people can understand. Sometimes you will need to explain your project in simplest terms or in as much detail as possible. It is important to know enough about your project to explain both ways. You can get better at explaining your project by reviewing it with your friends or family.  Above all else, Sam taught me one of the most important concepts you can ever learn. Communication. Being able to communicate with other people, such as scientists, professors, or a non-expert audience, has been the number one thing that took my project to the next level. Much of the progress I have made on my project would not have been possible without communication. Sam taught me that you can memorize facts, develop ground-breaking inventions, or solve the world’s biggest mysteries, but none of that matters if you cannot communicate. Communication is the exchange of information, and you do this every day in many ways. Communication is also essential in gathering information. My mentor had to reach out to other 3M scientists who knew valuable information about my project. Being a great communicator means you are great at explaining and listening.

 

He taught me practical netiquette such as showing up 5 minutes early for Zoom calls to show respect for managers and coworkers as well as reliability and seriousness of purpose. My mentor highly encourages the development of objectives, both short and long term.  He would always ask me:  what is the end goal? What do you want to accomplish with this project?  What would be meaningful to you?  Because the project could go in many different directions, there were different avenues that could be explored but he wanted me to decide what was important to pursue.  He knew that if I reflected carefully and found the path of greatest interest, where I was most curios, then I would have plenty of energy and grit for the tough times when I hit a dead end or was tired but still needed to read a few more papers. Developing an understanding of techno-economic analysis, communication, and netiquette has helped improve my skills as a scientist. These important skills were provided to me by my mentorship. This is why the mentorship is the most valuable part of the 3M YSC, and more science competitions should incorporate this model, because after the big trophies and award presentations have come and gone, what remains are the connections and learning that you gained from the mentorship.