I have a post up over on the Canadian Science Publishing blog about academic family trees. They’re a way of situating yourself within a research community based on your connections to your fellow grad students, your connections with your supervisor and his/her fellow grad students, etc. And if you really don’t enjoy networking, they can help get you started by connecting you to people with whom you already have something in common.
“These connections form the beginnings of a scientific family tree (or academic genealogy, as it’s more accurately termed), based on mentoring relationships rather than traditional family roles. Picture it: your supervisor as the ‘parent’, and your cohort as your ‘siblings.’ Your supervisor’s cohort as your ‘aunts’ and ‘uncles,’ and your supervisor’s supervisor as a ‘grandparent.’ And so on.
It’s not as odd an idea as you may think, and conceptualizing your academic genealogy this way can actually offer some advantages when it comes to your scientific career. For one, keeping in touch with your ‘family’ can be a relatively straightforward way to network. But perhaps more importantly, being aware of your scientific heritage gives you a broader perspective on your own research project and a potential sense of direction if you start your own research group.
Canada has several research ‘families’ that originate from key initial scientists. Permafrost researchers from J. Ross Mckay’s lab at the University of British Columbia, for example, or hydrologists from D.M. Gray’s lab at the University of Saskatchewan. For better or for worse, it’s these ‘families’ that knit research communities together. It’s not unusual to go to a Canadian science conference and find four to five ‘generations’ of researchers who can trace their lineage back to one of these—or several other—original Canadian scientists.”