Dr. Julio Soto earned his PhD in molecular and cell biology from the University of California at Berkeley, and has over 13 years of mentoring work with students and faculty at San Jose State. His mentoring is characterized by a key lesson that drives his efforts and experiences: effective mentoring approaches are needed throughout one’s academic training and professional life. Dr. Soto’s guide to mentoring entails (1) tailoring the mentor activity to each group of students’ academic and career aspirations and (2) maximizing the impact of mentoring by:
• Mentoring students who aspire to be K-12 public school teachers;
• Providing research and mentoring opportunities to students;
• Creating new academic programs and curriculum to expose students to research;
• Mentoring tenure-track professors to earn tenure and become great mentors; and
• Actively participating in national leadership positions.
Beginning in his early years as a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley and up to the present, Dr. Soto has personally mentored 61 individuals from groups underrepresented in STEM (35 females and 26 males). He has also developed nationally funded programs that have mentored 96 additional students.
Three of his mentees are now tenured science teachers at the secondary school level. Fifteen of his students have completed, or are nearing completion of their baccalaureate programs. Seven of his mentees have earned or are nearing completion of their master’s degree programs, and nine have received advanced degrees in health-related programs. Eleven individuals under Dr. Soto’s mentorship have completed or are currently pursuing their PhD degrees. At the present time, twelve graduate and undergraduate students at San Jose State are working in, and being mentored in, Dr. Soto’s research laboratory.
Dr. Soto uses different strategies to assist his mentees in understanding and exceeding expectations in order for them to attain their educational or professional goals. For example, for undergraduate students, the strategies include (1) providing academic advice that is tailored to their professional aspirations; (2) finding summer internships that are appropriate to each individual’s strengths, weaknesses, and desired academic or professional paths; (3) writing effective letters of reference, and (4) assisting students with the academic or professional application process.
For future science teachers, Dr. Soto recommends (1) providing feedback for possible science lessons where appropriate inquiry or other teaching strategies are used; (2) performing formative on-site student teaching evaluations; and (3) when possible, providing information and feedback about potential funding sources.
For university colleagues, the strategies include (1) discussing effective strategies to manage time for course development; (2) setting up their research group, mentoring students, and service committee selection; (3) Including students as proposal co-Principal Investigators in order to provide mentoring in the process of grant writing and funding; and (4) reviewing tenure/promotion dossiers and providing timely and effective feedback.
Regardless of their future academic or professional goals, Dr. Soto encourages all of his mentees to experience scientific research first hand. He has personally involved 80% of his mentees in research. Furthermore, he advises students that publishing is an important achievement that increases their opportunities to be admitted into advanced academic degree programs or pursue careers in science-related professions.