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  • By: Letizia Diamante
  • Graphene Flagship
  • Publishing date: 14 September 2021
  • By: Letizia Diamante
  • Graphene Flagship
  • Publishing date: 14 September 2021

Meet a mentor and mentee of the Graphene Flagship Mentoring Programme

Joyce Matsoso and Ana-Maria Ciubotaru share their experience

Last autumn, the Graphene Flagship’s Dissemination team launched the first Mentoring Programme. This initiative aims to promote a diverse culture within the Graphene Flagship, encourage knowledge sharing, ​​boost career and networking opportunities.

Mentee Joyce Matsoso and mentor Ana-Maria Ciubotaru met online every month to talk about career growth and job opportunities. Matsoso completed her PhD in renewable electrochemical energy storage devices at Graphene Flagship Partner CNRS National Centre for Scientific Research in France, and later moved to the University of Chemistry and Technology in the Czech Republic. As an engineer in the materials sciences, Ciubotaru changed her career path after her postdoc studying CVD thin film deposition at the Centre Inter-Universitaire de Recherche et d’Ingénierie des Matériaux (CIRIMAT) in France, and decided to focus on science policy, project management and grant evaluation. Now, she works as a Science Officer for the European Science Foundation (ESF) in France.

We asked both of them what they learned from this mentoring experience, and encouraged them to share their thoughts and ideas.

If you are involved in the Graphene Flagship, do not miss the opportunity to register as a mentor or mentee of the Graphene Flagship Mentoring Programme, which will run from November 2021 to November 2022. This event is part of the Diversity in Graphene initiative. And of course, don't forget to check out Inspiration Day at Graphene Week 2021!

Click here to sign up to the Mentoring Programme now.

Why did you join the Graphene Flagship Mentoring Programme last year? 

Matsoso: I joined because I knew that having guidance from a more experienced professional would greatly assist me in making better and more guarded career choices and decisions.

Ciubotaru: Participating in this programme was a good opportunity for me to try to help early-career scientists in meeting their career goals, expanding their opportunities, and accelerating their personal development and self-confidence by sharing my own experience and ideas with them. At a certain point in their careers, young scientists may feel unsure or require guidance on their personal or professional path, and this is where mentorship support may help by linking them with more experienced scientists.

What were your expectations before starting? 

Matsoso: Since this was the first time I joined a mentoring programme, I did not have any major expectations. All I hoped for was to be assigned an open-minded and very flexible mentor. I am glad I joined this programme because I have leant a lot from Ana-Maria: my mentor could not have been any better!

Ciubotaru: I hoped to be able to provide support to early-career scientists and also to learn from their experiences. I believe that no matter the knowledge one has, we can always learn new things and enrich our understanding. I am happy I have met Joyce, and it’s great that we can exchange ideas and interact on a regular basis.

What have you learnt during this year of the mentoring programme? 

Matsoso: First of all, Ana-Maria opened my mind about being patient with cultural differences. We talked about my concerns, and thanks to her guidance and experiences, I learnt to embrace everything that could be different. Recently, I moved to the Czech Republic, and I found it easier to adapt to a new place. Secondly, I learnt about ways to transition from academia to industry, as well as to continue along my academic path. Ana-Maria corrected my CV, and also gave me advice on how to make it more marketable. We also discussed funding schemes that would suit my career level, and she gave me advice on how to apply for these grants.

Ciubotaru: As a mentor, you continue learning new things – and this experience made me more aware of the challenges facing young generations of scientists nowadays.

Who would you recommend the Graphene Flagship Mentoring Programme to?

Matsoso: I would definitely recommend it to MSc students, PhD students and early-career researchers, because we all share the challenges of venturing into a field without knowing clearly what to expect at the end of the tunnel. Discussing your career choices with someone who has been in the field for a long time helps in seeing things from a different perspective.

Ciubotaru: I strongly recommend this programme to both young and experienced scientists who wish to exchange ideas and benefit from a mutual learning experience.

Do you have any suggestions for those who would like to register for the Graphene Flagship Mentoring Programme 2021-2022?

Matsoso: For now, all I can say is: be open-minded and look forward to an exciting adventure. Also, be ready to be told that ‘you are wrong’!

Ciubotaru: The mentoring programme put in place by the Graphene Flagship is an enriching experience that can benefit both the mentees and the mentors, and one should not hesitate to take the step and enrol in the programme. I am happy to be part of this exciting exercise.

Is there anything else that you would like to share?

Matsoso: My mentor has also been my source of strength: during our monthly meetings, as we talked about my workplace and the challenges of moving to a different country. Thanks to Ana-Maria’s encouragement, I am re-taking French lessons, which I had abandoned while I was in Lyon. I am looking at the benefits of learning the local language, so I am also learning Czech. Career-wise, I have benefitted from the guidelines we discussed on how to strengthen my application for the Marie Curie Fellowship.  

Ciubotaru: I hope I have been helpful to Joyce and that I have answered her questions and concerns. Joyce likes challenges and always wants to improve her skills, and this has inspired me a lot.

Would you like to register as a mentor or mentee? Please fill in this form before 25 October 2021.

The Graphene Flagship Mentoring Programme

The Graphene Flagship mentoring programme helps postgraduate students and early-career scientists to meet their career goals, expand their opportunities, accelerate their personal development and improve their self-confidence. Make sure to check out Inspiration Day at Graphene Week 2021!


Author bio

Letizia Diamante
Letizia Diamante

Science Writer and Coordinator of the 'Diversity in Graphene' initiative.