Mentoring in Action: Hope Peterson

Hope Peterson (’17, MS ’18)headshot photo of Hope Peterson

Master of Science in Neuroscience
Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with minors in Neuroscience, Biology, and Theatre

Mentor: Dr. Terry Blumenthal, Professor of Psychology at Wake Forest University


How did you get involved in a mentoring relationship with Dr. Blumenthal?

I am currently enrolled in a dual-degree master’s program where I have had the opportunity to complete the first two years of my master’s degree as I complete the final two years of my bachelor’s degree. I began volunteering in Dr. Blumenthal’s lab in the spring of my sophomore year after hearing about his work while he was lecturing in a neuroscience class. When I was accepted in the master’s program, I asked Dr. Blumenthal if he would take me on to complete my master’s thesis work through his lab, and he seemed excited to have more students again.

Give an example of a significant conversation you’ve had with your mentor. What did you learn?

Dr. B will have conversations with you where he will throw your questions back at you and make you answer them yourself. When I first started in his lab, it was extremely intimidating and I often responded simply with, “I don’t know.” But the longer I spend working with him, the more I find I am, in fact, capable of answering many of my own questions. He is pushing me to think deeply and creatively to problem solve on my own. It makes me a better thinker, a better scientist, and more confident in my own knowledge. This isn’t to say he won’t answer questions I don’t have an answer to, but he stretches the way I think so that I am able to answer my own questions when the knowledge is there and available to me.

How have you benefited personally from being in a mentoring relationship?

I am more confident in my knowledge and my work having been a student in Dr. Blumenthal’s lab. Both from my one-on-one interactions with Dr. B, when he has pushed me to explore the knowledge I have to find or come up with answers or solutions to my own questions or problems, and from the opportunities that have arisen outside of the lab from the work that we do. I have had the opportunity to present or prepare my work for multiple conferences and presentations, and I subsequently feel more well-versed in my own work, my study design, and my ability to discuss my research and research in general in an intelligent and scholarly way.

What impact has this mentoring relationship (or with other mentors) had on your Wake Forest student experience?

I don’t want to leave Wake. I will be completing my master’s here and applying to complete my PhD here because of professors, like Dr. B, who make it so worth while to stick around. Not only does campus feel like home, but I am afforded such phenomenal opportunities in the work that I do here, and I know that is specific to Wake Forest, and to my lab in general.

Why is mentoring important to you?

Working with a mentor allows you a scaffold off of which to grow your knowledge and interest. Coming into to Dr. B’s lab, I had an understanding of how a scientific study was conducted, and I knew I wanted to continue my research career after college, but working in the lab has grown me beyond that foundation into a real, prepared scientist. Working in a mentored relationship there is freedom to develop and evolve your own intelligence and interests, with the safety of knowing those above you have stood where you stood and will steer you away from the irreparable mistakes. It creates a safe space for learning and growing where you’re much less likely to fail.