In my I wrote about why I left academia, and mentioned that I felt the system was broken. My next series of posts will focus on what I believe are some of the major problems, and also some suggestions on how we can begin to reform the existing system. Part one of this series will focus on mentors.

At the recent Curium at UCSF, we had a panel of academics-turned-entrepreneurs discuss the reasons they left academia, what they felt some issues were with the existing system, and what they have learned from starting their own life science companies. Stephen Cary, co-founder and CEO of , brought up an interesting and what I believe to be extremely valid point about the way the current system is structured, and I would like to expand upon it here.

In general, professors are deemed successful and rewarded for publishing papers and bringing in grant funding. The more money they bring in, the more PhD students and postdocs they can hire, which further enables them to publish more papers and apply for more grants. With the current funding situation in science, smaller labs tend to struggle, while larger labs have more "shots on goal" and ultimately a greater chance to be successful. All of this creates a dead-end situation for trainees . More people in the lab means less time with your mentor, and your purpose begins to shift from creating a name for yourself, to creating a name for your PI.

Not all labs are like this. My advisers during my PhD were phenomenal, but they also had small labs, and we didn't publish as much as the larger labs on campus. I also know PIs around the Bay area who are fantastic mentors to their students and postdocs. With that being said, most people I speak with are not in those situations. Some want to remain in academia, but need a more hands-on adviser. Others want to leave academia, but are lost and have nobody to turn to for real-world advice.

So how do we change this? I believe the first step is to change the formula for what makes a successful professor. Much more focus needs to be put on their mentorship abilities and skills. We may even need to offer training on how to better manage the time they spend on research versus time with their trainees. Ultimately, there needs to be a consequence for professors who fail to mentor their students, and a reward for those who are excellent mentors .

Mentors and professional networks have an enormous impact on a student's future success. Because of this, it is important to surround yourself with a diverse set of mentors who are good listeners: speak with people who are not only in your particular career area of interest, but also in other fields you may not be familiar with. They will help to provide perspective and insight you may have never heard before. Ninety percent of the reason why I am where I am today in my career is because of my past and present mentors who have guided me along the way .

There are some initiatives that are working hard to address this need in academia, and I will mention a few here. One is the Motivating INformed Decisions ( MIND ) program at UCSF. This NIH-funded, experimental career exploration program is working to bring together PhD students and postdocs with professional partners who have applied their PhD to fields outside of traditional tenure-track research. They are doing excellent and very important work, and I encourage you to check them out.

Another is the organization myself and some close friends founded, called Curium . Our vision is a next generation of PhD- and postdoctoral-level scientists trained to become top life science executives and entrepreneurial leaders . Our mission is to give PhD students and postdocs real-world business experience, offer exposure to non-traditional careers, and ultimately help scientists utilize the full value of their degrees. We do this by connecting students with relevant mentors, providing hands-on leadership and management experience, and helping to build professional networks. If you are interested in learning more, you can sign up for our mailing list here .

As always, I'd love to hear your feedback below, and stay tuned for my next post in this series.