Conducting research at Rutgers University has taught me a lot about science, and has enhanced my communication, teaching, and most importantly, leadership skills. Research provides me with the opportunity to learn the practical application of many topics I have learned about in class. I think I have learned and enhanced invaluable competencies by observing and interacting with my research mentor, Dr. Lori Covey. I perform research under Dr. Covey in Nelson Biological Laboratories on Busch Campus. Her specific scope of research is in human immunology, and I specifically study human B- and T- cell interactions. It is through working with Dr. Covey and understanding her journey that I have not only learned these competencies, but also learned what it means to be determined and resourceful.
Dr. Covey has a fascinating story, and this is why I admire her as a mentor. She is originally from California, and is one of eight siblings. Her dad was a school teacher, and her mom did not work. This means that eight children were bought up on a single school teacher’s salary, which is unheard of today! When she was in high school, she was an excellent swimmer, but due to the financial limitations of her family, she was not able to pursue this dream. The lack of money in her family did not deter her from being an excellent student throughout high school and college. Her hard work was well rewarded after she finished her undergraduate education and was granted admission into the Ph.D. program of one of America’s most well respected institutions: Columbia University. During her Ph.D., she gave birth to two children (people doing a Ph.D. or aspiring to do a Ph.D. will realize how difficult this is). Upon completing her Ph.D., she was granted assistant professorship at Rutgers University. Now she one of the most experienced professors in the Cell Biology and Neuroscience Department at Rutgers University, reviews grants for the National Institute of Health (NIH), and conducts fascinating research in immunology.
With such great accomplishments throughout her life, there are many qualities that can be learned from Dr. Covey. The first quality she exudes is resilience. Throughout a difficult childhood and many other struggles, she did not give up and continued to be the best individual that she could possibly be. I think that this is a quality that is pertinent to us as student leaders because it is easy to give-up and make excuses, but it is always difficult to resolve problems. It is important to have a clear purpose, whether it is in life or for a student organization, and constantly pursue this purpose. Two more important characteristics that Dr. Covey possesses are confidence and honesty. Although these seem like completely different qualities, I believe that they are very inter-related. To state it briefly, Dr. Covey always has the confidence to be honest. This includes correcting others’ mistakes and having tough conversations. Since Dr. Covey is honest at all times, she empowers her student researchers to also be honest and perform outstanding research. We are student leaders for a reason; we are supposed to be confident and calm in the face of panic and chaos. Lastly, Dr. Covey demonstrates leadership in lab by taking time out of her busy schedule to interact with all her student researchers on a personal basis. She does little things, that seem insignificant and may even go unnoticed, that make the lab run in an efficient manner and provide structure and support for students working under her. She has not created a level of superiority over us with unnecessary titles, but rather considers us more as colleagues rather than employees.
“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” ~~Benjamin Franklin on mentorship
These competencies have made Dr. Covey successful throughout her life, and will continue to make her successful in all her future endeavors. Although she leads a research laboratory, many of the qualities that she possesses and exhibits are applicable to any individual who wishes to be a leader.