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Reflections from a Scholar: Hayden Schechter

When John Henslow was first given the chance to attend a voyage on the HMS Beagle, he strongly considered the offer. However, when he saw his wife’s dismay as she reluctantly permitted him to go, he decided to stay home. Henslow was asked to recommend someone else to attend the trip. He had the perfect person: his young protégé, Charles Darwin. As a mentor, Henslow’s teachings inspired Darwin’s study of the natural world. In selecting Darwin, Henslow helped to launch Darwin’s career and ultimately develop the theory of evolution. The takeaway from this story is that a strong relationship with a mentor matters.

Kathleen W. Scotto, PhD. is the Vice Chancellor for Research for Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences and the Dean of Rutgers Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. Dr. Scotto spoke to the Governor’s STEM Scholars about the importance of developing meaningful relationships with mentors and shared the story above. Dr. Scotto made it clear that the path ahead for the scholars would be full of obstacles, surprises, and turns. To make this road a little bit easier, Dr. Scotto gave the scholars six steps they could take that would help their careers:

  1. Trust your instincts

  2. Find mentors

  3. Have multiple mentors

  4. Find mentors that listen to you

  5. Be proactive

  6. Your careers and mentors will evolve

Dr. Scotto emphasized the importance of having multiple mentors for different needs that you may have (emotional, career, sponsors, etc.). For example, a mentor who offers emotional support may not be the best person to consult for advice on your career. Dr. Scotto also stressed that mentoring is a two-way street and that mentees need to trust their mentors and be understanding of other aspects taking place in their lives.

The Governor’s STEM Scholars offers a unique opportunity to link students with leaders in the STEM fields and industry right here in New Jersey. In forming these relationships, we can gain tremendous insight and knowledge from these mentors. By listening to their journeys, successes, mistakes and creating meaningful connections, we can learn to explore our own passions in the STEM fields to make the world a better place. Who knows, with the guidance of esteemed mentors combined with our own ingenuity, one of us could turn out to be the next Charles Darwin.

Written by Hayden Schechter, 2023-2024 Scholar Hayden Schechter is a junior at the Marine Academy of Science and Technology (MAST) where his academic focus has been on environmental science and conservation. He was selected to be a Student Environmental Advocate and Leader (SEAL) by Clean Ocean Action to find solutions and help empower and educate the Jersey Shore community about environmental threats. As a part of this program, he conducted research on nitrogen and phosphorus levels in the Shrewsbury River, wrote an article in The Journal informing people how to reduce nutrient pollution, and educated middle school students about climate change. In addition, Hayden has volunteered for the After School Tutorial Educational Program (ASTEP) and Monmouth Stars Summer Camp where he has tutored disadvantaged elementary school students in STEM coursework, English, and time management skills. At MAST, Hayden is president of the debate club. Within this forum, he encourages an open dialogue about global issues and creates a safe space that encourages inclusion, tolerance, and respectful disagreements. Hayden hopes to extrapolate on his marine science and conservation work by pursuing environmental science and public policy in college to preserve and protect New Jersey’s beautiful coastlines for generations to come.


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