Mentoring an undergraduate is very different from working with a graduate student, so gathered here is some information and advice on how to work with undergraduate researchers in a way beneficial to both the student and the faculty mentor. This information has been gathered from other universities’ undergraduate research offices as well as personal input from FSU faculty and students. This page speaks to mentoring undergraduates in general; for advice and requirements related to specific FSU undergraduate research programs, please see those programs’ pages.
Once you have listed your own project for research assistance or decided to mentor an undergraduate in his or her own research or creative project, it is important to consider how you will select a student with whom to work. While the supervision of Honors Theses or DIS projects will likely emerge from a preexisting relationship with a student, this is not always the case with undergraduate research assistants. Faculty members seeking undergraduate research assistants in the past have often requested interviews, resumes, and writing samples from applicants. The Center for Undergraduate Research and Academic Engagement recommends an interview in all cases; the undergraduate researcher-faculty mentor relationship is an important one that can be tremendously beneficial to both parties, and an interview is one of the most effective tools for finding a good match.
Some possible tools for screening and selecting undergraduate researchers to mentor:
- Asking after students’ expressed career interests or grad school aspirations
- Giving a proofreading/copyediting test or testing students in a particular citation style
- Asking students to read and abstract an article
- Requiring a writing sample
- Asking about extracurricular or leadership roles
- Discussing what they know about your field or your personal research
- Looking outside your discipline or department for students with skills applicable to your research
- Ascertaining a student’s level of intellectual independence; you could discuss things like their intellectual curiosities, independent projects they’ve done in the past, what kind of contributions they see themselves making to your research, or asking them directly to self-evaluate
- Evaluating a student’s time availability and time management skills
- Soliciting colleague referrals: ask around your department or perhaps ask students for the names of professors with whom they’ve taken classes.
Working with Students
Your role as mentor will differ greatly depending on the capacity in which you are working with an undergraduate researcher. UROP Research Sponsors will be working with first- and second-year students and thus much of the mentoring role will include teaching as you bring students up to speed on how research is carried out in your discipline. Faculty working with assistants through the Spring Humanities Assistantship program will work with students of various experience, but most will likely be juniors and seniors and thus may begin their assistantships with more independence and perhaps advance more quickly. Faculty supervising students in Honors in the Major or working on their own projects through DIS will take on yet another set of mentoring roles as they guide students through their own research projects, and these mentor-mentee relationships will vary widely depending on faculty and students’ personal styles.
Some general tips for coordinating undergraduate research assistants:
- Meet with the selected student to determine the number of credits a student can earn (if any), draw up a work and meeting schedule, and benchmark anticipated accomplishments.
- Provide an orientation to introduce the student to other research group members and go over expected work habits.
- Establish from the outset what work habits are important to you and the project, which might include showing up when expected, documenting and following through on project work, and maintaining a neat work area.
- Identify any specific training the student will need, and how she or he will go about getting the training. Are there independent study materials, or will you or your designee do the training one-on-one? How quickly do you expect the student to master required skills, and how should she or he practice those skills?
- For UROP students, identify library workshops or other university resources partnered with UROP that your student(s) should take advantage of to be a more effective contributor to your project. Contact your student’s UROP Leader to see if skill building workshops are already scheduled or if they can schedule one for you.
- Students often feel very frustrated in a research setting, so be sure to recognize their accomplishments, large and small, as their work progresses. You may need to help them understand that in many cases frustration is an integral part of moving forward.
- Students should keep notes of what they do and record results regularly for their own records and in some cases so that another student or researcher may continue the project after the student leaves.
- Be sure the student is conducting research in an ethical manner.
- It may be helpful to sign a compact with the mentee and/or develop an individual development plan (Individual Development Plan Worksheet for Mentees). Compact examples from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Student Development Resources
Students who participate in undergraduate research often continue to do so and are also more likely to go to graduate or professional school. Helping guide your students to professional development opportunities within and outside the university not only makes them more high-impact contributors to your work but helps them develop academically, professionally, and personally, often leading them to continue to succeed in ways that gain recognition for themselves and their faculty mentors. Here are some resources available to undergraduate students that you may want to encourage your students to pursue:
- IDEA Grant: up to $4,000 for individuals and $6,000 for groups to complete a summer research project that the student designs and carries out
- Florida-Georgia Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (FGLSAMP): $1,000 to support students' efforts broadly in college with a focus on undergraduate research and graduate school applications for minority students in the STEM disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics)
- Bess H. Ward Honors Thesis Grant: up to $750 to support research for an Honors in the Major Thesis
- Various post-graduation or gap year scholarships (such as the Rhodes, Marshall, Truman, Fulbright, or Boren) for research, international study, and language study through the Office of National Fellowships.
- The annual Undergraduate Research Symposium
- The annual ACC Meeting of the Minds conference: FSU offers an all-expenses-paid travel grant for the small group of students each year selected to present their research at the ACC school hosting the conference that year
- The annual Florida Undergraduate Research Conference (FURC)
- Various conferences that welcome undergraduate presenters listed at the Council for Undergraduate Research
- Submission to FSU’s undergraduate research journal, the Owl
- Publication of Honors Theses in Diginole
- Various publications accepting submissions from undergraduates, listed at the Council for Undergraduate Research
- UROP Leaders: lead a one credit-hour colloquium introducing lower division students to research in your disciplinary area
- FIG Leaders: lead a one credit-hour colloquium for first-semester freshmen, introducing them to the university, undergraduate studies, and topics like research and campus involvement
- SCURC: serve as an undergraduate research ambassador or an editor for the Owl
Here we have compiled a list of resources pertaining to undergraduate mentorship. Please browse these lists for information and literature that may help you in your undergraduate mentoring experience.
- Limeri, L. B., Asif, M. Z., Bridges, B. H., Esparza, D., Tuma, T. T., Sanders, D., Morrison, A. J., Rao, P., Harsh, J. A., Maltese, A. V., & Dolan, E. L. (2019). “Where’s my mentor?!” characterizing negative mentoring experiences in undergraduate life science research. CBE—Life Sciences Education, 18(4). https://doi.org/10.1187/cbe.19-02-0036
Mentoring Philosophy Resources
A mentoring philosophy is a statement that explains and justifies the way you approach personal and professional relationships with mentees as you guide their increasing development.
Common Themes of Mentoring Philosophies
Identifying mentees’ goals * Evaluating mentees’ understanding *Evaluating mentees’ talents and building on them * Developing a relationship founded on mutual respect * Giving mentees’ ownership of their work and promoting accountability * Sharing your own experience * Creating an interactive environment for learning * Identifying what motivates each mentee * Balancing belief with action and experience * Creating a safe environment in which mentees feel that is acceptable to fail and learn from their mistakes * Encouraging growth through challenges * Promoting learning through inquiry
- Mentoring Philosophy Resources: