Grad mentoring

The Wijeratne Lab student mentoring compact (Graduate Student focused)

Updated 5-22-2023

Adapted from Gitta Coaker lab mentoring compact.


Our primary goal is to conduct captivating research on plant-microbe interactions, aiming to make significant contributions towards feeding the world. The Wijeratne lab is a research lab that studies plant-microbe interactions. We are interested in how plants defend themselves against pathogens, and how pathogens overcome these defenses. We are also interested in how these interactions can be manipulated to improve crop yields.

Equally important to us is the mentorship and development of the next generation of scientists. We strive to provide a rigorous yet supportive research environment, fostering the growth of young minds in this field.


Agreements between junior researchers (undergraduate students, graduate students, and postdoctoral scientists) and their faculty supervisor (me) are often implicit. But an implicit agreement is little better than no agreement. This document makes things explicit. Much may be common knowledge, but writing down common expectations helps prevent misunderstandings. If you have been invited to join my research group or are already a member, please read the whole thing carefully. If you have questions or concerns, please talk about them; the document is a work in progress and can be modified based on your input. I am excited to work with you and help you develop as a scientist and I work tirelessly to help advance the careers of my mentees throughout their time in my research group and after they have left my program.


I am excited to work with you in my research group and take my role as a mentor seriously. I realize each individual’s mentoring needs are unique and change over time. I am ambitious and have high standards for myself, and I expect the same from you. Working with trainees and contributing to their professional development is the most rewarding part of my job. My ideal is to help students and trainees develop into colleagues.

  • Throughout your time in my laboratory, I will be supportive, equitable, accessible, encouraging, and respectful. I will foster the graduate student’s professional confidence and encourage intellectual development, critical thinking, curiosity, and creativity.

  • I will demonstrate respect for all graduate students as individuals without regard to gender, race, national origin, religion, disability or sexual orientation, and I will cultivate a culture of tolerance among the entire laboratory.

  • I will be committed to help provide financial resources for the graduate student to conduct their thesis/dissertation research. I have a good track record of obtaining federal grants from major granting agencies (NSF, NIH, USDA). I will work with students to help guide fellowship applications where they are eligible and notify them the quarter before if they need to TA.

  • I will be committed to the graduate student’s research project. I will work with each student to help guide and plan the research project, set attainable goals, and a timeline for completion of the project.

  • I will be committed to meeting one-on-one with students on a regular basis. I will regularly review student’s progress and provide timely feedback and goal setting advice. My schedule requires that we plan in advance for meetings to discuss your research every two weeks. If my door is open, you can stop in. We will generate an Individual Development Plan (IDP) and jointly review progress and goals every six months.

  • If I am concerned about your research progress, I will be upfront and directly address issues. If I notice a pattern of poor research productivity or time management, I will address these in a timely manner through a one-on-one conversation. We can jointly plan for how to get back on track.

  • I will promote the training of the graduate student in professional skills needed for a successful career. These skills include but are not limited to oral and written communication, writing fellowships, management and leadership, collaborative research, responsible conduct of research, teaching, and mentoring. I will encourage the student to seek opportunities to develop skills in these areas outside the lab as well.

  • I will create an environment in which students can discuss and explore career opportunities and paths that match their skills, values, and interests and be supportive of their career path choices. I will be accessible to give advice, feedback, and guidance/networking opportunities to help prepare for your career goals. I will provide letters of recommendation for the student’s next phase of professional development.

  • I will encourage the graduate student to seek input from multiple mentors. I will help guide students, if necessary, in finding appropriate external mentors. One person cannot be all things. You need a team of individuals to help provide feedback and expertise. These external mentors will be your network as you move forward in a scientific career. However, it is up to YOU to cultivate these relationships.


Work habits, organization, and time management

  • Acknowledge that you have the primary responsibility for successfully completing your degree. This includes commitment to your work in class and in the lab. You should maintain a high level of professionalism, motivation, engagement, scientific curiosity, and ethical standards.

  • Ensure that you are prepared to meet with me during our weekly meetings (4x month). Have your Electronic Lab Notebook up to date and any presentations or questions prepared. Communicate any new ideas or problems that you are facing. Remember, I cannot address or advise about issues you do not bring to my attention.

  • Try to figure out answers on your own before approaching me. My time is limited. Be resourceful and come up with potential experimental designs and approaches before meeting with me. Try to figure out answers to questions using your own resources first. If you have tried and need help, I am here. But I don’t want to waste time answering questions you can find out or troubleshoot.

  • Be knowledgeable about the policies, deadlines, requirements of the graduate program, school, and university. Comply with these policies, be up to date. This includes rules related to chemical safety and biosafety.

  • Be around the laboratory during general working hours. I do not require people come and leave at a defined time each day. However, I expect that students are around during general working hours. Be cognizant of wasting time. It is OK to take breaks during the day, but if you are not disciplined and multitasking, it can take you 60 hours to complete what a disciplined student can in 35-40 hours. I expect people are actively working ~ 40h per week (reading, etc. is part of this). Sometimes it is necessary to put in extra time to meet deadlines and also to come in to move experiments along during the weekend.

  • Strive to meet deadlines and manage your progress.

  • Organize your work week. Plan experiments that need to be done each week and allot time for them. Keep a running list of smaller experiments/tasks to do as well. Multi-task while you are in the lab to maximize your research output.

  • A good work-life balance is important. Everyone has a different balance that is optimal for their own happiness while still allowing you to achieve your career and scientific goals. Think about what your career goals are and the commitment it will take to get there. Science is a marathon. If you are disciplined and focused, you can make excellent progress and have good work-life integration. Take time for your physical and mental well-being. Do something you enjoy each day. Don’t work seven days a week; you will burn out and be less creative.

  • Attend and actively participate in all group meetings. We meet weekly. Be prepared for each meeting. Be engaged and ask scientific questions. If you are presenting, have your slides organized and practice ahead of time.


Aside from university holidays, each person is given 4 weeks of vacation a year. Let me know when you are planning on going on vacation so I am not expecting to hear from you.