Creating a sense of belonging is critical to keeping people in science and engineering. There has been some really wonderful work showing this. Belonging
It is incredibly easy to feel isolated. The work is extremely challenging, and when you step into the lab, everyone seems to know what is going on, except you, because you’re the new person.
Most of us who stayed in science had many people along the way who helped us. When I was working on my undergraduate thesis, I wouldn’t have made or tested a single sample if it wasn’t for Jong-Ren Lee.
Jong-Ren worked weird hours. He came in around 4 or 5 and worked through the night. He then would go home and look after his kids while his wife went to work. I really don’t know when he slept, but when he was in lab, even though he was working on a totally different project and had to be bone tired, he showed me the ropes of making and testing materials. If it wasn’t for him, I never would have had a first bit of data. No one asked him to help. He just did.
Belonging is critical, and feeling like one has a clue is a small part of that. The seemingly small gesture of helping one evening or many evenings as Jong-Ren did, changes everything.