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Individual Research Projects - Student and Mentor Responsibilities, Suggested Mentoring Practices

Mentor Responsibilities
  • Provide a research experience within your field.
  • Discuss and evaluate progress on the student’s research project and provide insights regarding your discipline of study.
  • Suggest relevant literature in the field to broaden the student’s knowledge base, a particularly important aspect of the student experience.
  • Guide student creation of a professional poster and oral presentation. (All students will be expected to give an oral and poster presentation at the STEM Symposium on the final Monday night of summer program.)
  • Proof and approve the final written research report!  We publish the papers in A Journal of Explorations, our in-house publication; students will cite your name as the mentor.  Make sure the content information is correct and that students have made acceptable conclusions within the scope of the field.
  • Assure your student that success of the project is not equivalent to the hypothesis being supported.  A lot of good science is really the result of “failed” experiments.
  • Offer insight about the college environment: cultures, values, norms, etc., and prepare students for potential challenges and pitfalls.
  • Assist the student in identifying impediments that can hinder successful completion of college.
  • Tell your story. Share the highs and lows of your educational and career path.  Discuss the specific challenges you have faced.
  • Complete an evaluation, assessing the student’s strengths and weaknesses in the project context, evaluating mentoring experience with the student and making suggestions for academic improvement.
  • Establish a project schedule with the student, breaking the larger project into small, accomplishable steps for each project day.
  • Outline (write it down) and discuss the student’s responsibilities and your expectations.
  • Monitor your student’s progress, particularly the writing of their paper. (The student will spend approximately 40 structured hours on his/her research project, with some of that time spent writing the paper.)
  • Provide laboratory safety training specific to your lab space and establish ground rules for laboratory safety. (Students all receive basic safety training through SEM during orientation.)
  • Help the student take ownership of “their” project. Respect students’ views, ideas and voice.
  • Listen carefully… especially for what is NOT said.
  • Be specific and be patient!
Suggested Mentoring Practices

There is no single formula for good mentoring. Mentoring styles and interactions are as varied as any human relationship. Effective mentoring need not always require large amounts of time. To make the relationship meaningful and beneficial to both parties, the following practices are suggested for the mentor to initiate in order to maintain an effective mentoring relationship.

  • Welcome students into your classroom/lab/work site.
  • Recognize positive effort; tell the student when he/she is doing well.
  • Work with the student to develop specific goals
  • Encourage your student to be accountable.
  • Praise the student for success. Students also need to understand that all projects will not necessarily go as planned and that they may obtain unexpected results.
  • Help your students build networks/locate meaningful contacts.
  • Hold high expectations.
  • Challenge students to develop critical thinking skills, self-discipline, and good study habits.
  • Be sensitive to different cultural backgrounds. Examine yourself for cultural biases or stereotypical thinking.
  • Offer to write the student a letter of college recommendation.

These relationships:

• Promote academic success and build student confidence

• Build transferable knowledge and discipline-based skills

• Inform students about careers fields/disciplinary areas

• Offer students an arena to receive advice and counsel about college, such as

positive aspects, how to succeed, potential pitfalls and misconceptions

• Encourage students to pursue undergraduate and graduate study 

Student Responsibilities

To facilitate a mutually beneficial relationship, students also have responsibilities. Scholars should:

  • Focus on the tasks assigned by the mentor.
  • Ask questions.
  • Take the initiative to get questions answered, issues clarified, etc.
  • Acknowledge when he/she does not understand an assignment or does not know something [no one has all the answers!].
  • Get to know the people working around them.
  • Look, listen and learn.
  • Be positive.
  • Commit to being a serious research intern and student.
  • Be open to the mentor’s advice and counsel.
  • Prepare a final written report and oral presentation at the STEM Symposium on the final Monday night of the program.


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