Undergraduate Research is one of the "High Impact Practices" strongly encouraged by education experts and provides an experience that makes an enormous difference in students' career paths and lives.
Faculty mentors are integral to the planning, development, and implementation of students’ research, scholarship, or creative projects. Students benefit from mentor input in all stages of their research. Faculty mentors assist students in making the transition from classroom learning to real world applications. They also contribute to students’ development and confidence to pursue a successful career.
But what about you? Why should you become a faculty mentor to an undergraduate researcher? Besides the pleasure of introducing a student to the joys of doing research, there are many advantages to be gained by becoming a faculty advisor.
Unlike graduate students who may need to produce scholarly products to move on in their careers, the goal for undergraduate research is to expose students to the way knowledge is discovered or created, and the critical thinking that goes into this process. This means that an undergraduate research project can be extremely exploratory. For example, faculty have had undergraduate researchers:
- Test new assays or techniques and compare them to established ones.
- Try completely new directions the faculty member is thinking of moving in.
- Develop associated information that can enrich or inform a current project.
- Produce preliminary data for an idea or to determine project feasibility.
- Start studies that are collaborations between faculty in different areas or fields.
Alternatively, an undergraduate researcher can be an invaluable part of an already established project by:
- Helping to collect and analyze additional data sets.
- Managing sample collections or research materials.
- Developing reagents or tools necessary for a project.
- Carrying out meta-analyses on existing data.
- Becoming expert in specific techniques or tools.
Mentoring undergraduate researchers can also aid in professional development in the classroom:
- It can help faculty gain insight into the learning needs of undergraduates.
- It can improve faculty teaching by illuminating the types of preparatory skills and/or courses that a student needs before doing research.
- It can provide real-world examples of research principles that students can more easily relate to in the classroom.
Overall, faculty benefit in terms of both personal and professional satisfaction. As students are more productive, faculty in turn attract better students, extend their professional network of future colleagues, and amplify their own success.
Faculty mentoring is a required part of applications for Undergraduate Research and Travel Fellowships through the Office of Undergraduate Research.
Faculty seeking funds to support their own research endeavors should investigate University-sponsored awards through the Office of Graduate Studies and Research.