shadow_tr

FOR GRADUATE STUDENTS - MENTORING AN UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCHER

Students in class.

Finding Students
Some students are very forthright about seeking research opportunities. Others may be unsure of the research skills and abilities. Successful techniques that have been used by graduate students to find undergraduate researchers include: making announcements in classes that you or your colleagues teach, speaking to a student association, contacting the Advising Center, contacting CELT-RE, or posting an opportunity on the CELT-RE website.

The Role of Mentor
The primary role of the graduate student mentor is to serve as the senior partner in a research collaboration with the student. For most students it will be the first research experience. It is important that the mentor offer the student intellectual responsibility for his/her own project or portion of a larger project. The mentor is a teacher, a couch and a partner.

Tips for Mentoring Students
The following suggestions are adapted from Stanford University and University of Minnesota websites:

  • Initiate a conversation early in your working relationship in which you and your student agree upon expectations and working agreements:

    How frequently will you meet face to face? Who, in addition to you, will directly work with the undergraduate student, for example, a graduate student or postdoctoral fellow. What blocks of time, hours of the day, or hours per week, consecutive weeks or semesters do you expect the student to work? How will the student be trained? Is the student expected to attend lab or research group meetings, and, if so, will she or he need to prepare something for them? Will the student work in the lab or research area, or is there work she or he may take home to complete? What kind of final product do you expect the student to produce?

  • You should inform the student that she or he needs to take an active, responsible role in initiating and organizing one-on-one communications with you, setting meeting agendas, prioritizing issues the student wants to discuss and taking a lead in discussions.
  • You should work with your student to set short- and long-term goals and deadlines for the different stages of her or his project.
  • You should explicitly inform your student of your communication habits: when does e-mail suffice, when must you meet face-to-face, and when—if ever—may she or he call you at home?
  • Consider asking your student to compile written summaries of meetings (agreements, assignments, work outlines).
  • If you assign your student readings in books or articles, you should request comments or responses when the student has finished major portions or the complete assignment.
  • Share your excitement regarding your research. Encourage your student to communicate her or his questions and ideas. Be open to new perspectives and insights that your student may have.

As the project's Principal Investigator (PI), you are ultimately responsible for the health and safety of everyone in your laboratory, including employees and undergraduate researchers . It is expected that students will be supervised at all times while in the laboratory or other potentially hazardous environments. You should arrange for the appropriate safety training of  students.

Web Resources on Mentoring
The University Washington has some excellent information on their website:

Non-Web Resources on Mentoring

  • Adviser, Teacher, Role Model, Friend: On Being a Mentor to Students in Science and Engineering. 1997. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C. ISBN# 0-309-06363-9
    Note that this book can be ordered and viewed online at http://books.nap.edu/catalog/5789.html.
  • Mentoring Means Future Scientists. 1993. The Association of Women in Science, Washington, D.C. ISBN# 0-9634590-3-1
  • Reshaping the Graduate Education of Scientists and Engineers. 1995. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C. ISBN# 0-309-05285-8
    Note that this book can be ordered and viewed online at http://books.nap.edu/catalog/4935.html
  • Emily Toth. Ms. Mentor's Impeccable Advice for Women in Academia. 1997. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. ISBN# 0-8122-1566-4
  • Larry Ambrose. A Mentor's Companion. 1998. Perrone-Ambrose, Chicago, Illinois. ISBN# 0-9670083-0-1
    Handelsman, Pfund, Lauffer and Pribbenow, Entering Mentoring: A Seminar to Train a New Generation of Scientists. 2005. The Wisconsin Program for Scintific Teaching.

Center for Engaged Learning and Teaching, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-314-7698 celt@tulane.edu