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Of mentors and role models

[E. N. Baker]As the next Congress and General Assembly of the IUCr approaches it is worthwhile to think for a moment about the importance of mentors and role models in science. The public perception of scientists is often of cool, analytical minds heading logically towards a goal. In fact, of course, scientific research is an intensely human activity involving emotion, excitement (and sometimes despair), rivalry and cooperation. In this climate, it is essential that there be role models and mentors who can provide support, advice, the appropriate ethical standards, and above all time, for young scientists.

I have been extraordinarily lucky in my own scientific career, with graduate supervisors (Neil Waters and David Hall) who enabled me to learn how to approach research and steered me in the right directions, and postdoctoral mentors, David Phillips and Dorothy Hodgkin, who provided wisdom, inspiration and friendship. Dorothy it was who inspired me with the courage to return to my own country to build up a programme of macromolecular crystallography from scratch. And all along there have been wonderful friendships made with people whom I admire and respect, from many different countries.

The point of these comments is that young scientists, both men and women, need support and encouragement. The IUCr offers financial help to enable young crystallographers to attend scientific meetings, and I regard this as one of our most important activities. It is only part of what is needed, however. The Glasgow Congress will also be a great opportunity for well established crystallographers to take the time to talk with students, postdocs and other young scientists from round the world, to listen to them and to their aspirations, and to discuss their science. Likewise it is an opportunity for young crystallographers to seek out those whose names they may only know from the literature, to discover that they are real people, and perhaps to begin a lifetime's association and friendship. I look forward to seeing you all in Glasgow.

Edward N. Baker