Dear Science Student,
Things have changed since some of us were in your shoes. Science has become more global, complex, cooperative, and competitive. This means that, today more than ever, you need oversight and guidance in your career. Yet, many faculty members—especially those trained in previous decades—don’t fully appreciate how to teach you to be competitive today. They came of age (scientifically) in a completely different era and may not understand what students today expect of them. It's important that you realize this.
Some faculty were trained at a time when an adviser’s input was limited to suggesting a project and writing a letter of recommendation when the thesis was completed. They just don’t understand this mentoring business: What do you students need and expect? The concept of mentoring is less alien to younger faculty, but many still lack insight into your expectations of them.
In fact, it isn't easy. After all, your expectations can vary widely and over time, depending on your unique experiences and personality. It isn't common, but some students thrive on adviser neglect, gaining self-confidence in a hands-off environment where you can test hypotheses or run with your own idea. Most of you, though, would flounder in such an environment. You don't yet have the knowledge or the scientific instincts to go it alone—or maybe you just suffer from self-doubt due to lack of experience.