James Sherley on Working as a Mentor
  James Sherley     Biography    
Recorded: 06 Sep 2001

You know, that’s not as simple as it seems to do cause people are diverse, even within groups they are diverse. So there’s racism and there’s internalized racism. There’s a part of your experience that you start to make your own and you believe it. I think that a lot—we all suffer—everyone in a discriminated group will suffer from some of that. To the extent that it is very, very entrenched it can be very difficult to advise black students, even when you’re black. Basically what I do—I do somewhat struggle with this because I like to treat all my students the same with the understanding that they are different people and so they require different things from me as a mentor. So I just put race as one more thing on the list of things. I try not to make the assumption as a black man that just because I see someone who has the same skin complexion that they have all of the same issues that I do, because the community is much more diverse than that and I meet students who don’t have any of these issues and of course I meet lots of students who do. So I just try to be as accessible as I can to my students as I can no matter what their racial cultural background is and my whole thing about training students it to be supportive. Often times what people need is to not be alone and not be alone and not be alone. That’s what they need and knowing that there’s someone there who wants to support them and to keep them from being alone, you can get through all different types of problems and issues that come up. I mean humans by their very nature will isolate themselves when things are hurtful and harmful and frightening. They isolate themselves. It’s not the thing to do. And so what I’ve been trying to do is de-isolate myself.

James Sherley is a scientist on the forefront of adult stem-cell research. He earned his B.A. from Harvard University and his M.D./Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular and cellular biology (BCMB Program) from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

He was a Principal Investigator in the Division of Medical Science at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and is currently a Principal Investigator at the Division of Bioengineering and Environmental Health at MIT. His present research is in integrated studies in somatic stem cell kinetics.

Sherley was honored as a Pew Scholar in Biomedical Science in 1993, and in 2001 became a Pew Science and Society Institute Fellow.