At Harvard since 2014, Robin Hopkins, John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Natural Sciences, , is one of the recent winners of the Everett Mendelsohn Excellence in Mentoring Awards, a student-led award that honors GSAS faculty for their excellence in mentorship. Read more about this year’s winners in “What Makes a Mentor Great.”
Hopkins’ primary nominator, Benjamin Goulet-Scott, a PhD student in organismic and evolutionary biology, was the first graduate student who applied to join her lab at the Arnold Arboretum.
“I’ve known Robin almost her whole career at Harvard, and over that course of time I have realized that I’ve underestimated how amazing she is,” says Goulet-Scott. “Robin is a big part of why I came to Harvard to begin with, and I think I have the best advisor I’ve seen anywhere, which is a great feeling.”
As a plant evolutionary geneticist, Hopkins encouraged Ben to use his background in genomics during fieldwork—a first for him—to gain a deeper understanding of the organisms he was studying.
With Hopkins help and guidance—both in the lab and out in the field—Goulet-Scott is in the final stages of his research on three huge, hand-planted fields of different species of the wildflower phlox near the Tennessee and Kentucky borders.
“Having Robin come and help me plant the phlox fields was one of my most fun experiences in graduate school so far,” says Goulet-Scott. “She doesn’t have the opportunity to go off and do fieldwork of her own much anymore, so it felt like a reciprocal gift that I asked her to help me and she could come and share her expertise and hard work.”
Hopkins’ approach to advising is there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
“My number 1 goal is to get my advisees and students where they want to be next,” says Hopkins. “What do they want to learn; what skills do they want to gain; what experiences are they after? Everyone is different, so there isn’t one mentoring strategy that will work for everybody.”
For Goulet-Scott, he is happy that the Mendelsohn Awards exist because mentorship is hard to quantify, unlike publishing and teaching.
“I think it’s a lot rarer to see a mechanism that recognizes professors’ abilities in the area of mentorship,” says Goulet-Scott. “But the academic world is pretty small, and personal relationships mean a lot. Mentorship and networking and your connections with peers and the people in your field is an enormous part of being an academic, and Robin is great at solidifying those relationships for and with her students.”
Hopkins still feels very grateful to her entire team, who have built a very close bond working together offsite at her lab.
“It’s hard to know what to say about winning the Mendelsohn Award—in many ways it means everything,” says Hopkins. “The best part of my job is working with the people on my team, so being recognized for my interactions with them is the highest honor possible.”