Mentoring students in research

Connecting with Students for Research

Students may engage in faculty-mentored research in a variety of different ways, including:

  • Through UGAR programs or other campus research programs
  • As research assistants paid hourly wages (e.g. funded by faculty mentors from their grants)
  • For independent study credit (arranged through academic departments or programs)

Notes about UGAR programs:

  • UGAR does not match students with faculty mentors (see below)
  • UGAR programs are competitive and funding is limited. Faculty selection of a student does not guarantee acceptance into the program
  • It is the student's responsibility to check UGAR program guidelines to ensure that they are eligible to apply, follow instructions and adhere to deadlines

Ways of connecting with students for research:

  • Students may contact faculty directly about research opportunities
  • Faculty may contact students directly (e.g. students in their classes or emails to majors)
  • Faculty may submit project descriptions to the UGAR online project database, a tool many students use to find faculty research mentors
  • Faculty who have their own funding to pay student researchers may choose to list a position in JobNet

Interviewing Potential Student Researchers

The interview is the appropriate time to clearly state for students the basic requirements that you feel are important (e.g., needing a 4-hour block of time to set up and complete a procedure, or attending a weekly research group meeting at a set time).

It is beneficial to have students think and talk realistically about how a research experience fits in with their academic and extra-curricular commitments and to express where their priorities lie. For example, students often underestimate study time, x-hours, office hours, and athletic commitments. You may opt to request an unofficial transcript, resume or statement of research interest.

If relevant, you also may want to suggest that students contact other students who have worked with you in UGAR programs to hear what the experience was like from a peer.

Getting Started

At the start of the research term (and preferably before the term begins), students and their faculty mentors should meet to discuss:

  • Work schedule: days/hours the student is expected to engage in the research
    • Students are expected to devote the equivalent time/effort to what they would for an academic class. That is estimated to be an average of 10 hours a week during a 10 week term (approximate total of 100 hours during the academic term).
  • Expectations: what the student is expected to accomplish during the term
  • Preparation: required trainings or certifications that the student may need to complete before starting the research
  • Meetings: schedule for the student and faculty mentor and/or other research supervisor to meet
    • This should be at least once a week and all or most of these meetings should be in person
  • Tracking: establish a document or system to track student time spent on the research and the tasks accomplished
    • The tracking document is important in confirming whether students have met the requirements of the program as students do not submit timesheets (students are not paid hourly wages).
    • This is particularly important for international students as these hours may be considered work by the U.S. government
  • Completion: You must complete the requirements of the term of research by the end of the academic term.
    • In most cases, this would be the last day of classes but can be extended to the last day of exams with permission from your faculty mentor and UGAR. No extensions will be granted beyond that.
    • If you have not completed the requirements at that point, you will be marked as withdrawn from the term.
    • Depending on your enrollment and D-plan, that may have implications for your ability to complete the program. You will be withdrawn from the program if you cannot complete both terms of the research assistantship during R terms of your junior year. 
  • Troubleshooting: what to do if the student has questions or difficulty with any of the research tasks or in identifying next steps in the project.
    • For students: it is your responsibility to let your faculty mentor and/or other research supervisor know when you have questions or need help with the research.
    • For faculty: it is your responsibility to provide adequate training and guidance as well as clear feedback about any problems or issues. 

Mentoring Student Researchers

Undergraduates often require more supervision and mentoring in research than they think they need. Many students become quite independent over the course of a research project, but most will require close supervision at the outset. Faculty are encouraged to consider their other commitments for the term in deciding whether they have adequate time to mentor undergraduate researchers.

Students report much more positive experiences when they have regular contact with their research mentors, and setting up a regular schedule of meetings is an effective way of ensuring regular contact. It is difficult for faculty to provide this level of oversight if they are off campus during the term(s) of the research (for example, on a leave or sabbatical, or running an off-campus program). It is therefore expected that the student researcher and the faculty mentor both be on campus during the term(s) of research assistantship programs. For leave term and honors thesis grants, there may be more flexibility. More information is on the faculty eligibility webpage.

Resources and articles about mentoring:

Resolving Difficulties

If a student working with you through a UGAR program is not meeting your expectations for quality or quantity of work, you should first discuss this directly with the student. In many cases, difficulties result from a mismatch in expectations, a misunderstanding about the level of competency a student has in a particular area, or simply miscommunication.

Often, the student and faculty mentor are able to resolve any difficulties by meeting to discuss the issues and to brainstorm solutions.

If this approach is not effective, please contact UGAR.