Finding a Research Mentor
The benefits of having a research mentor are extensive and can be critical for the professional development of a mentee. Research mentors can refine the mentee’s skills and focus by serving as an essential resource and a source of encouragement to help support professional growth through positive feedback and guidance.
How do you find a research mentor? The best way is to talk to your professors before or after class or during office hours. Below are some additional suggestions to help you find a research mentor.
1. Define a research area:
- Determine what your interests are and the area of research you would like to engage in.
- Keep in mind that the more an area interests you, the more engaged you will be.
2. Identifying a potential research mentor:
- Find faculty that work in your area of interest.
- You can do a search of the faculty directory to identify faculty that work in your area of interest and read the faculty descriptions.
- Do a pubmed search of faculty to see what they have published.
- Inquire with upper-level students.
- Once you identify potential research mentors, make a list, and rank them accordingly.
3. Make contact with potential mentors:
- Email is an excellent way of contacting potential research mentors. An email gives the potential mentor time to think about your inquiry.
- Send a short (1-2 paragraph) email that describes your research interests and experiences and how these align with their area of research.
- Be clear that you are looking for a research experience and express your goals.
- Do indicate in the email that if the individual is not looking for any mentees if they would be willing to recommend a colleague.
- Attach a copy of your resume or CV.
4. Request for a date and time to meet:
- Faculty are very busy, so please give the potential research mentor at least a week to respond.
- If your email goes unanswered, after a week, follow up with another email, but be polite.
5. Before the meeting:
- The meeting is going to function as an interview so prepare beforehand.
- Think through your goals so that during the meeting (interview), you can articulate those goals appropriately.
- Know why it is that you want to do research and your research interests.
- Read some of the most recent papers published by the faculty member.
6. The meeting:
- Be ready to discuss your research goals and interests and why you want to do research.
- If there is a particular project you would like to work on, inquire about it during the meeting.
- Ask about the expectations, time commitments, and their approach to mentoring students.
- Gauge whether their personality, approach, and expectations align with yours.
7. After the meeting:
- Send a “Thank You” email.
- If this is a person you would like to work with, indicate your desire to work with them.
8. Selecting a research mentor:
- Selecting a mentor on their scientific abilities or the type of research they are doing is not sufficient.
- Select someone that you can work with.
- Select someone that you feel is a good mentor based on their approach to mentoring.
- Inquire upper-level students on who they recommend.
If you have any questions about finding a research mentor, please reach out to Dr. Ontiveros at firstname.lastname@example.org.