New research has indicated that the generation gap is for real, and it matters.
A new Northwestern University study of mentor-protégé relationships has found that generation gap not only affects communication but also who mentors young mathematicians successfully and who does not.
Northwestern researchers analyzed 60 years of a "family tree" of mathematicians and the doctoral students they advised. They found very successful academics do a good job mentoring students during the first third of their careers but do a bad job during the last third of their careers.
The findings have implications stretching well beyond academia to business, governmental organizations, sports and art.
Details will be published in a paper, titled "The Role of Mentorship on Protege Performance," in the June 3 issue of the journal Nature.
"The results are striking in reminding us of the limits of human effort," said co-author Luís Amaral, professor of chemical and biological engineering. "Mathematicians later in their careers should not be training graduate students-it appears to be counterproductive. Older and overstretched mentors may be too far removed from their young protégés' experience to train them effectively. There is a disconnect."