Research Mentor Resources
Research Mentor Role
Undergraduate research and first-year experiences are both considered high-impact practices for undergraduate education. Faculty mentors play a vital role in the undergraduate research experience, providing guidance and inspiration while nurturing researchers’ critical thinking skills and increased self-confidence.
Faculty members advising Undergraduate Creative Activities & Research Experiences (UCARE) researchers are asked to:
- Maintain presence on campus or in the field while UCARE researchers are working on their research.
- Provide timely feedback to UCARE and the undergraduate researchers concerning their progress.
- Help UCARE researchers complete the benchmarks from the Undergraduate Research Agreement.
- Encourage the undergraduate researchers to participate in UCARE-sponsored events.
- Assist the UCARE researchers with developing and printing posters for the UNL Spring Research Fair or Nebraska Summer Research Symposium.
Additional information for UCARE faculty mentors is available on our UCARE Faculty and Staff Information page.
First Year Research Experience (FYRE) faculty mentors are committed to student success and are interested in designing and guiding research or creative projects specifically for new freshmen. In addition to supporting student learning about Nebraska’s culture of research innovation, FYRE mentors support student belongingness in the research environment and all of the university’s Colleges.
Learn more about FYRE’s mentoring mission and practice on our FYRE page.
Tips for Effective Research Mentoring
Set Clear Expectations for Student Researchers:
“Call attention (written and oral) to what makes good lab practice: completing work to be done, procedures, equipment, clean up, maintenance, safety, conservation of supplies, full use of lab time.” (University of Nebraska-Lincoln Office of Graduate Studies “First Three Weeks” tutorial)
“Review the learning objectives with your students. Be sure students know what they are expected to learn, do, know, etc.” (University of Nebraska-Lincoln Office of Graduate Studies “Twenty Tips on Motivating Students” tutorial)
“Have students write out their expectations… and their own goals for learning.” (University of Nebraska-Lincoln Office of Graduate Studies “First Three Weeks” tutorial)
Questions to Consider:
- How might you set students up for success by providing clear expectations at the start? Would outlining a research learning contract together be a beneficial first step?
- Would it be helpful to discuss a complex assignment verbally, and follow up in writing for reinforcement?
- What do you know about your student’s values? In what ways can you offer them meaningful rewards, to incentivize the behavior that you want to see more often?
- What do my students learn from the Office of Undergraduate Research & Fellowships about research mentor-mentee relationships?
Use Project Management & Team Management Strategies:
Many projects benefit by planning their development as an iterative process, making space for both mentors and mentees to ask questions and encourage learning alongside the growth of the mentoring relationship.
In a team project environment, mentors and mentees typically find it helpful to set up a consistent meeting schedule for progress updates. Having periodic check-ins also provides opportunities for group reflection, peer-to-peer encouragement, and celebration of achievements.
Questions to Consider:
- Are there ways to implement project management tactics into your mentoring practice?
- Would it be possible to create a timeline with milestone checkpoints for frequent feedback and coaching in an iterative process, rather than one big project with all feedback given at the end?
- If you are leading a team, how can you encourage team members to develop mutually supportive relationships?
Support Mentee Growth with Meaningful, Timely, and Effective Feedback:
Our Huskerwork professional development programming for First Year Research Experience (FYRE) students encourages the adoption of a growth mindset. Even if your student researcher is not participating in FYRE, they can benefit from learning about a growth mindset. You might take some time to discuss our “Embracing a Growth Mindset” video resource together.
“Pay attention to the strengths and limitations of each of your students. Reward their strengths and strengthen their weaknesses.” (University of Nebraska-Lincoln Office of Graduate Studies “Twenty Tips on Motivating Students” tutorial)
Seek balance in offering positive and negative feedback, such as offering 1 point of praise for every 2-3 constructive criticisms and suggestions for improvement.
Avoid giving students the answer and allow time for their reflection and critical thought.
Ask well-considered, open-ended questions to aid students in further developing their skills or written work.
Questions to Consider:
- How can I use questions as tools to advance student learning?
- What type of praise seems to resonate with my mentees?
Build Trust and Rapport with Mentees:
“Use a light touch: smile, tell a good joke, break test anxiety with a sympathetic comment.” (University of Nebraska-Lincoln Office of Graduate Studies “First Three Weeks” tutorial)
Create conversational space to normalize common challenges in the research environment and listen to team member concerns without rushing to judgement. Familiarize yourself with campus services and resources for students, so that if students disclose academic or personal concerns, you can make referrals and warm hand-offs to staff who support students.
Questions to Consider:
- Would it be helpful to openly discuss performance anxiety, perfectionism, self-doubt, imposter syndrome, stress, time management, work-life balance? Are there other common concerns that students have expressed to you?
- The Office of Undergraduate Research & Fellowships team is one source of support for you as well as the student. Are there additional staff advocates or colleagues who can support you, as you support your student?
- To de-stigmatize sharing concerns, would you be comfortable sharing about similar challenges in your own life and the strategies you have embraced to over them and advance your own success?
Connect Student Researchers to Further Experiential Learning Opportunities:
Encourage students to discuss their ambitions and goals with you, including next summer, academic year, and the long-term.
As your students meet project milestones, discuss the context for their achievements in the research environment, how they have demonstrated translatable skills for their overall professional development, and how to add achievements to a resume or CV.
If your student is intending to continue in your academic field, connect them to student professional development resources and conference opportunities offered through your academic department and your professional organizations and society memberships.
If your student is planning to present their research or creative work, review our resources for Presenting Your Research. As appropriate, you might also discuss additional resources related to this goal, such as our videos on “Getting Comfortable with Presenting and Networking,” or “Poster Presentations: Visual Design Tips”.
If your student would like to conduct further research, discuss and encourage their plans to apply for additional UNL undergraduate research programs or off-campus experiences. This might include encouraging them to apply for internships or global learning experiences, as appropriate to the student’s field of study and professional development goals.
If you are working with a high-achieving student, consider whether you might refer them for prestigious fellowships for research, graduate study, or public service. We are particularly seeking students who have demonstrated strong potential and achievement in research or original, creative work. Referral guidance is located under Fellowships: Faculty Outreach and Resources.
Questions to Consider:
- How can I best position myself to support my student’s goals and ambitions?
- If I want to grow in this area, how can I leverage training and colleague-to-colleague mentorship opportunities for faculty through the Center for Transformative Teaching, or my professional organization?
- Am I building relationships with people in my college or at UNL who focus on student success, such as Office of Undergraduate Research & Fellowships staff and Career Coaches in my College?
In-Depth Mentoring Resources:
University of Nebraska-Lincoln Career Services: “Internship Supervision and Mentorship Tips and Tricks” and “Gaining & Articulating Career Competencies”
University of Nebraska-Lincoln Center for Transformative Teaching: “Fostering Relationships and Academic Belonging” and “How to Help Your First-Generation Students Succeed”
University of Southern California Pullias Center for Higher Education: Promoting At-Promise Student Success (PASS): Practice (series of briefs)
Council on Undergraduate Research: Scholarship and Practice of Undergraduate Research (journal), CUR Newsletters and White Papers, Webinar Archive, and Events and Conferences
University of Saskatchewan: “From Student to Researcher (in one term)” (series of posts)
SACNAS (Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science) Webinars
University of Michigan Sweetland Center for Writing: “Giving Feedback on Student Writing”