What is effective undergraduate research mentorship?

Effective mentorship is equitable mentorship: it means you provide everything a student needs to thrive. That includes:

  • A mentor who takes an interest in the student’s welfare and provides frequent feedback about the student’s progress.
  • A research project that is interesting, challenging, and valued by the mentor’s research team.
  • Immersion in a research-based environment that includes interactions with graduate students.
  • A sense of belonging, respect, safety, and opportunity.

These aren’t that different than what graduate students need; what’s different is that undergraduates have even less power, status, and knowledge, and so they’re at even greater risk of exploitation and/or neglect.

It’s also important to remember that not all students have the same resources for participating in research. Some might have family or friends in research, providing them a community of external support. Some might have wealth, freeing them to focus substantial attention on research. In contrast, others might be working part time jobs, have family caregiving responsibilities, and might be the only person in their entire family or community who has engaged in research. Effective, equitable mentorship means being aware of these differences, and offering extra support to those who don’t otherwise have it.

There are many resources to learn more about mentoring undergraduates, and students in general: