Summary from the 1st IAHR coffee chat for young professional women: How to develop sustainable mentor relationships

The 1st IAHR coffee chat for young professional women: How to develop sustainable mentor relationships took place on 10 September 2020. The event was organized by the IAHR task force on Strengthening Gender Equity and Dr. Isabella Schalko from the Nepf Environmental Fluid Mechanics Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). 

The general idea of the coffee chat was to bring together women young professionals with senior researchers in an informal setting and to discuss various career-related topics. The focus of the first coffee chat was on how to develop sustainable mentor relationships. Prof. Heidi Nepf from the Nepf Laboratory at MIT and Dr. Ellis Penning from Deltares (the Netherlands) shared their experiences as mentors with eight young professionals. The participants were a diverse group of doctoral students, postdocs, and engineers in industry working in eight different countries.

First IAHR Young Professional Women’s Coffee ChatThe event started with a short introduction by Prof. Heidi Nepf and Dr. Ellis Penning and was followed by an interactive discussion moderated by Dr. Isabella Schalko. The discussion ranged from “How to initiate a mentorship?”, “What are the responsibilities of a mentor and a mentee?” to “What makes a good mentee-mentor relationship?”. Both senior researchers have had various mentors throughout their career. However, they would rather describe it as having a “mentor of a moment”. In addition to having a typical senior mentor, having a support group of colleagues is also extremely helpful and important. And what makes it interesting for someone to be a mentor? They responded that now as a mentor they enjoy giving back the advice they received as a young professional and that it gives them a good feeling to make a mark on a mentee.

Based on the positive responses from the participants, additional coffee chats are planned in the future with topics such as “Range of Career Paths”, “Promotion and Tenure in Academia”, or “Work-Life Balance”.

If you have ideas for discussion topics, speakers, or other comments, please feel free to reach out to us.

Dr. Isabella Schalko, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

For any comments os suggestions please contact IAHR Madrid Office Manager Elsa Incio at

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