What can you expect from getting involved in research with a professor? Faculty Mentoring explains how working with faculty on a research project can be beneficial to you. Faculty Expectations outlines what you need to bring to a successful mentor-mentee relationship.
When a faculty supervisor agrees to mentor a student researcher, he or she is taking on the responsibility of teaching the student the skills, knowledge base, and culture of that area of research.
In many cases a mentor continues to contribute to a mentee’s development even after the completion of the research project: Mentors can offer advice or recommendations for graduate school or other career options, or can help students network with other scholars in their field.
One of the best ways to develop a good mentor-mentee relationship is through communication. Clear, timely progress reports that are considerate and appreciative of the faculty member’s guidance as well as acknowledging the time you’ve spent on completing tasks and milestones are an ideal way of fostering a good working relationship and advancing a project.
For the best possible experience with your mentor, study these tips for mentees and general mentoring resources provided by the Center for Undergraduate Research & Creative Activities and the Wisconsin Center for Education Research.
Faculty expectations will vary according to discipline and individual preferences, so be sure to speak with your faculty supervisor about his or her specific expectations for you. Generally, faculty supervisors share the following expectations for undergraduate researchers.
Commitment to Learning
Successful undergraduate researchers demonstrate a genuine desire to expand their own knowledge. Your intellectual curiosity may be your most important asset.
Successful undergraduate researchers demonstrate the ability to work independently. Your supervisor should not have to prompt you to show up for work or finish a project.
Good Communication Skills
It is your responsibility to report progress and seek guidance when you need it. If you encounter a problem or make a mistake, discuss it with your faculty supervisor right away.
Some professors may require that you work regular hours each week or that you commit to multiple semesters of work. Be sure to discuss expectations about time and procedures for recording the hours you work.
If your project uses human subjects, animal subjects, or dangerous materials, or if you will use data collected from or about people, you may need approval from the Institutional Review Board (IRB) or similar agency before beginning your research. Learn more about research ethics and training for undergraduates, or contact the Office of Research Support at 512-471-8871 for more information.
Some professors may prefer to work with students who have completed a specific course or courses. Be sure to discuss coursework requirements with the professor you would like to work with.
Some professors may prefer that you pursue course credit for your research experience. If you register for independent study or research hours, you should inform yourself about the requirements in your department. The Office of Undergraduate Research also offers an elective, 3-credit course number for undergraduate research. Learn more about UGS 310 and UGS 320.
Adapted from: Monte, Aaron. “Mentor Expectations and Student Responsibilities in Undergraduate Research.” Council on Undergraduate Research Quarterly. December 2001.