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