We recognize that mentoring undergraduate students is often different from mentoring graduate students and may be new territory for you, as faculty. Below are a few helpful resources that provide tips on how to negotiate the mentoring relationship with an undergraduate student. This information will help you to ensure that the relationship is mutually enjoyable, beneficial and productive. Please check back often for new information.
Tips for Mentoring Undergraduate Researchers*
Undergraduate Projects Should:
- Be reasonable in scope
- Be feasible considering time/skill
- Be multi-faceted and challenging
- Allow the student to generate their own data or findings
- Be either a new project or part of a larger effort
Finding a Student:
Things to Keep in Mind:
- Detailed project descriptions are more attractive than vague statements
- Undergraduates have busy/inflexible course schedules
- Be sensitive to mid-term and final exam stress periods
- Undergrads need extra training on the use of equipment and resources
- Undergrads are easily discouraged by disappointing results
- They often also lack awareness of research “culture” and social interactions in research groups
Working with Undergraduates
- Establish expectations and devise a work plan
- Set aside regular time for discussion
- Encourage students to ask questions and share ideas
- Discuss intellectual property issues
- Orient students to resources and processes
- Emphasize documentation of research
- Keep communications open and regular—lack of communication can lead to problems
Useful Articles and Resources
- RF Policies and Procedures Available on Public Website
- Enhancing Undergraduate Research in the Arts and Humanities
- Research Mentor Training
- Mentoring (or Managing) your Undergraduate Intern or REU- Resources developed by Michigan State University's W.K. Kellogg Biological Station
- Russell, Susan H. & Hancock, Mary P. and McCullough, James. (2007) Benefits of Undergraduate Research Experiences (PDF). Science. Vol. 316: pg. 548-549
- Lee, Adrian & Dennis, Carina and Campbell, Phillip. (2007) Nature's Guide for Mentors, Nature. Vol. 447: pg. 791-797,
- Gant, Gary D., & Dillon, Michael J. and Malott, Richard W. (1980) A Behavioral System for Supervising Undergraduate Research (PDF). Teaching of Psychology Vol 7, No. 2: 89-92.
- Handlesman, Jo et al. (2005) Entering Mentoring: A Seminar to Train a New Generation of Scientists. The Wisconsin Program for Scientific Teaching.
- Especially useful is Chapter 3 (PDF): Adviser, Teacher, Role Model, Friend: On Being a Mentor to Students in Science and Engineering
- Gonzalez, Cristina et al. (2001) Undergraduate Research, Graduate Mentoring and the University’s Mission (PDF). Science Vol. 293: pg. 1624-1626.
- “How to Mentor Undergraduate Researchers” Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) Carolyn Ash Merkel, California Institute of Technology and Shenda M. Baker, Harvey Mudd College: “How to Mentor Undergraduate Researchers is written for faculty members and other researchers who mentor undergraduates. It provides a concise description of the mentoring process, including the opportunities and rewards that a mentoring experience provides to both students and mentors. Expectations of mentors are contrasted with those of students. While written primarily with summer research experiences in mind, the booklet contrasts those intensive experiences with day-to-day mentoring of undergraduate research during the academic year including senior theses. Advice is valid for both on- and off-campus research experiences and most academic disciplines. How to Mentor Undergraduate Researchers may be ordered for $12.00 plus handling and postage ($4.00). It may be ordered by mail, fax, or on the CUR website.”
- When Students Become the Teachers (PDF): UB Faculty Testimonial on the rewards of undergraduate research
- PURM: Perspectives on Undergraduate Research and Mentoring: PURM is a multidisciplinary, peer-reviewed, online journal, unique in that it focuses on scholarship about undergraduate research and the mentoring of such research. Through this resource, you can read other faculty’s experiences, contribute to an online discussion, or publish your own perspectives.
Additional citations are linked in the “Librarian’s Corner” of each issue of the CURCA News.
The following book list has been compiled using recommendations from the CUR 2014 National Conference Planning Committee and professors from around the country who mentor undergraduates in research. Entice your students to think about research in broader contexts with these works. Great items for summer reading lists!
- David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants (Malcolm Gladwell)
- The Butler, a Witness to History (Will Haygood)
- The Eighth Day of Creation (Horace Freeland Judson)
- The Smithsonian's History of America in 101 Objects (Richard Kurin)
- Exploding the Phone (Phil Lapsley)
- Napolean's Buttons: How 17 Molecules Changed History (LeCouteur & Burreson)
- Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction (Annalee Newitz)
- Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (Rebecca Skoot)
- Annotated and Illustrated Double Helix (James Watson)