Undergraduate Mentors – Things to Consider

  • Why do you want to mentor an undergraduate researcher?
  • What are your career goals? How can this research experience and the mentor– trainee relationship help you achieve them?
  • What would success in this research experience look like to you?
  • How many hours per week and at what times/days do you expect your trainee to work on your research?
  • Assuming a good fit, how long would you like your trainee to remain with the group?
  • What, if any, specific technical or communication skills do you expect your trainee to learn as part of the research experience?
  • What level of independence do you expect your trainee to achieve, once basic techniques are learned? How will you let your trainee know when he/she has reached this level?
  • What is your mentoring approach? Once your trainee has learned the techniques and procedures used in your lab do you prefer to watch your trainee closely, walking him/her through all the steps or do you prefer a more hands off approach?
  • How will your trainee document research results? Is there a specific protocol for keeping a laboratory notebook in your research group?
  • To whom should your trainee go if they have questions about your research project? Do you expect them to come to you solely (or first), or should they feel free to ask others in the research group? If others, who would be good resource people for your project?
  • What are your expectations for your trainee’s level of comfort with the methodology used in the lab. For example does your research involve working with animals, lengthy field trips, or working in isolation with other researchers, and is your trainee comfortable with this?
  • Is the research that your trainee will be involved in confidential? Are they allowed to discuss your project with other individuals outside of your laboratory? What are your expectations?
  • What role will you play in the development of your trainee’s skills as a writer? Are you willing to help them with research-related writing along the way or do you only want to read it after it is in its final version? Is there someone else in the lab/research team that is available to help your trainee with their writing?
  • Discuss the institutional training that is required for your trainee to work on your research project and establish a deadline by which they should complete it.
  • If a student has previous research experience, is there anything that you need to share about this research group that is unique and that the student should be aware of?

Adapted by E. Frazier, C. Pfund, and A. R. Butz from Branchaw, Pfund & Rediske (2010). Entering Research: A Facilitator's Manual. New York: WH Freeman & Company, and from Pfund, Wassarman & Skarlupka (2014). Establishing your Mentoring Relationships for CMB, Biophysics and Nutritional Sciences. Branchaw, J. L., Butz, A. R., & Smith A. (2018). Entering Research (2nd ed.). New York: Macmillan.

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