We recognize that mentoring undergraduate students is often different from mentoring graduate students and may be new territory for you. 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 his or her 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 midterm and final exam stress periods.
- Undergraduates usually need extra training on the use of equipment and resources.
- Undergraduates can be easily discouraged by disappointing results.
- Undergraduates often lack keen 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. Llack of communication can lead to problems.
Useful Articles and Resources
- 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.
- Gonzalez, Cristina et al. (2001) Undergraduate Research, Graduate Mentoring and the University’s Mission (PDF). Science Vol. 293: pg. 1624-1626.
- 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
- Lee, Adrian & Dennis, Carina and Campbell, Phillip. (2007) Nature's Guide for Mentors, Nature. Vol. 447: pg. 791-797,
- 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.
- Russell, Susan H. & Hancock, Mary P. and McCullough, James. (2007) Benefits of Undergraduate Research Experiences (PDF). Science. Vol. 316: pg. 548-549
- The Biggest Blown Opportunity in Higher Ed History -- Brandon Busteed (2014)
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)
- Napoleon'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)