Oda to Joy: A Transatlantic Bridge Built on Science, Mentoring, and Enthusiasm

Prof. Dr. Joy Stewart and Her Mentee Oda Share How Their Passion for Science and Understanding the Human Body Connects Them Even when the Atlantic Separates Them

Engage­ment Spe­cial­ist Christin Graml caught up with men­tor Prof. Dr. Joy Stew­art, pro­fes­sor of bio­log­i­cal sci­ences at Broward Col­lege in Davie, Flori­da (Unit­ed States), and her mentee Oda from Ger­many to get their thoughts on what they have learned from each oth­er, both sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly and cul­tur­al­ly, and why they are excit­ed for what lies ahead in their men­tor­ing relationship.
15-Year-Old Oda from Germany
Oda is only 15 years old, but she already has her eyes set on pur­su­ing a career as a med­ical doc­tor and researcher in phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal sci­ences. Always look­ing for new top­ics to explore in her areas of inter­est, the young, dri­ven stu­dent from Ger­many is pas­sion­ate about learn­ing about humans through the lens of chem­istry in order to help cre­ate solu­tions in areas such as sus­tain­able food pro­duc­tion. Look­ing for ways to expand her knowl­edge and devel­op her skills, Oda decid­ed to apply for a mentee spot in Glob­al Tal­ent Mentoring. 
Nom­i­nat­ed by Cyber­Men­tor, Germany’s largest online men­tor­ing pro­gram for girls in STEM, Oda made the cut. Since being accept­ed into the pro­gram and being matched with her men­tor, Oda’s expe­ri­ence as a mentee has helped her to fill in gaps left in the tra­di­tion­al class­room expe­ri­ence at school. “I def­i­nite­ly appre­ci­ate the dyad sys­tem most,” says Oda. “It dif­fers a lot from school, where I am just one of dozens of stu­dents for my teacher. The dyad sys­tem sup­ports quick, effi­cient, and goal-ori­ent­ed learn­ing to an extent with which school could nev­er com­pare. Form­ing a team that con­sists of a men­tor and a mentee improves my study­ing and research habits immense­ly. I am thank­ful to be able to learn, research, and evolve through Glob­al Tal­ent Mentoring.” 
Form­ing a team that con­sists of a men­tor and a mentee improves my study­ing and research habits immense­ly. I am thank­ful to be able to learn, research, and evolve through Glob­al Tal­ent Men­tor­ing. –Mentee Oda from Germany
Prof. Dr. Joy Stew­art, Oda’s men­tor, has undoubt­ed­ly made a pos­i­tive impact on Oda’s Glob­al Tal­ent Men­tor­ing expe­ri­ence. Prof. Dr. Stew­art is a pro­fes­sor of bio­log­i­cal sci­ences at Broward Col­lege in Davie, Flori­da (Unit­ed States). She has writ­ten sev­er­al text­books and pub­li­ca­tions on bio­log­i­cal sci­ences, human anato­my, and phys­i­ol­o­gy and helps increase Oda’s under­stand­ing of the human body by shar­ing her exper­tise in these top­ics. One of her great­est joys when it comes to teach­ing and men­tor­ing is the abil­i­ty to con­nect with stu­dents and wit­ness that “Aha!” moment when a stu­dent or mentee is final­ly able to com­pre­hend a dif­fi­cult con­cept. The pro­fes­sor is eager to share her knowl­edge with moti­vat­ed young peo­ple and places a lot of val­ue on the men­tor­ing process—and men­tor­ing Oda is no exception. 
Peo­ple tend to focus on the ben­e­fits of men­tor­ing for the mentee, but it can be a process that is just as reward­ing in dif­fer­ent ways for the men­tor. Prof. Dr. Stew­art con­sid­ers this true of her own expe­ri­ence, which she finds extreme­ly ful­fill­ing. “I real­ly enjoy work­ing with my mentee because she adds so much to the whole process,” Prof. Dr. Stew­art notes. She has been espe­cial­ly impressed by Oda’s matu­ri­ty and focus—even at 15 years of age—and is encour­aged by work­ing with such a moti­vat­ed young tal­ent. “Oda is so respect­ful. She is always using the tips I give her, and you can see improve­ment. By the time she is 25 or even younger, she will prob­a­bly be doing her doc­tor­al work. She’s excel­lent! The fact that she works so hard, is so enthu­si­as­tic, and so appre­cia­tive makes me say that this has to be some­thing spe­cial. It’s so reward­ing for me that I can­not wait to get to the next ses­sion with Oda—always. It’s some­thing I look for­ward to. It’s just won­der­ful!” adds Prof. Dr. Stewart. 
Prof. Dr. Joy Stew­art, Pro­fes­sor of Bio­log­i­cal Sci­ences (Broward Col­lege, Unit­ed States)
One aspect of Glob­al Tal­ent Men­tor­ing that the dyad has enjoyed is the oppor­tu­ni­ty to work with some­one from a dif­fer­ent coun­try and cul­ture. For Oda and Prof. Dr. Stew­art, it has been edu­ca­tion­al to learn how sci­ence is being taught in their respec­tive coun­tries and what the learn­ing expe­ri­ence there is like. For exam­ple, Prof. Dr. Stew­art helps Oda under­stand research prac­tices and appli­ca­tions that are not only taught at her uni­ver­si­ty, but that are also uni­ver­sal to the inter­na­tion­al sci­ence community. 
Through their exchanges, Prof. Dr. Stew­art and Oda are not only dis­cov­er­ing what dif­fer­ences exist between their cul­tures, but also how much they have in com­mon and how the pur­suit of excel­lence in sci­ence brings them togeth­er. “Sci­ence has no bor­ders,” under­lines Oda. “STEMM is an inter­na­tion­al top­ic, and the more we can dis­cuss, exchange opin­ions, and learn from each oth­er, the bet­ter it is for all of us. I think inter­act­ing with my men­tor in the Unit­ed States is very inter­est­ing, because the U.S. is a lead­ing coun­try in sci­ence world­wide, and advance­ments evolve very quick­ly there. The com­par­i­son of dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tions in Europe and Amer­i­ca is quite insight­ful for me. It shows me a lot about dif­fer­ent approach­es to sci­en­tif­ic tasks. I’m also amazed by how much we have in com­mon. In our com­mon goal of sci­en­tif­ic progress, we are all broth­ers and sisters—no mat­ter where we live, study, or come from.” 
I feel hon­ored to be a part of Glob­al Tal­ent Men­tor­ing, and my mentee adds so much to the process. –Prof. Dr. Joy Stewart
Cul­tur­al dif­fer­ences are not the only ones this dyad has encoun­tered. A six-hour time dif­fer­ence also has the poten­tial to cre­ate chal­lenges. But the dyad’s open out­look and eager­ness to work togeth­er is an effec­tive rem­e­dy. Prof. Dr. Stewart’s and Oda’s ded­i­ca­tion to each oth­er makes it easy for the dyad to over­come chal­lenges that arise, for exam­ple, by find­ing time slots that work for both of them. “It’s all about plan­ning,” Prof. Dr. Stew­art points out. “Oda tells me when she is avail­able, and I plan to be avail­able at those times. Oda is far from me, but every time we com­mu­ni­cate, we say, ‘We’re only an email away!’ If Oda ever has a prob­lem, I get back to her as fast as possible.” 
Oda is an enthu­si­as­tic, com­mit­ted mem­ber of the Glob­al Tal­ent Men­tor­ing com­mu­ni­ty and is excit­ed about what lies ahead with Prof. Dr. Stew­art. “I real­ly look for­ward to every video chat with my men­tor and the chance to deep­en and improve my sci­en­tif­ic think­ing,” says Oda. Like­wise, Prof. Dr. Stew­art looks for­ward to con­tin­u­ing her long-term men­tor­ing work with Oda. “I feel hon­ored to be a part of Glob­al Tal­ent Men­tor­ing, and my mentee adds so much to the process. I would def­i­nite­ly encour­age any pro­fes­sion­al who would like to do this to please do it. It’s a very reward­ing and fulling expe­ri­ence. I’m thank­ful I have this oppor­tu­ni­ty to men­tor and would rec­om­mend Glob­al Tal­ent Men­tor­ing to any­one who wants to do this,” high­lights Prof. Dr. Stewart. 

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