New to Mentoring?
We advise reading an article called “Ten Time—Saving Tips for Undergraduate Research Mentors” (Coker, J. S. and E. Davies, 2006, J. Natural Resources Life Sci Education 35: 110-112; download). Their advice is very appropriate for BRR advisors:
- Design a simple project with clear goals.
- Provide hands-on supervision.
- Ensure good communication and explanations.
- Involve students early.
- Sign a student-mentor contract.
- Maintain well-written protocols for all standard lab equipment/techniques.
- Establish student research “communities” (refers to training multiple students at once—this could include grad students and postdocs).
- Capitalize on inexperience (refers to enthusiasm, willingness to think outside the box, and computer literacy of incoming students).
- Create a template computer file for student posters (BRR data presentation class, taken by students in their final year, can help with this; also, many such templates are available online).
- Increase retention (the longer a student stays in your lab, the more productive the student will be and the better the experience will be for everyone--that's one reason why BRR students complete 14 credits of research).
• Undergraduate research works best when the student interacts closely with at least one other person in the research project: the primary or secondary mentor, or someone with whom the student works, such as a graduate student, research assistant or postdoc. The research project will be the most successful for everyone involved if opportunities for these interactions are available.
• Your student needs you to explain and demonstrate how you expect members of your research group to keep records, including the laboratory notebook and data organization and storage.
• Make sure the student receives the appropriate training in how to follow the expectations of the lab, such as safety requirements, standard operating procedures, attending lab meetings, and the like.