Tips for Effective Mentorship

From the initial contact with your mentee, right up to project presentation – here are some helpful guidelines* and an outline of your responsibilities for providing crucial scientific support and resources.

  • Once your student gets in touch, offer an appropriate time at your convenience for an initial meeting with the student to discuss their proposal.
  • Listen to the students’ presentation on their proposal that has been conditionally approved by the Evaluation Committee. (A note to that effect would be forwarded to your attention).
  • Evaluate the proposed research project, and also the student in terms of their experience, preparedness, desire and commitment to perform research work under your supervision.
  • Provide comments, criticism, advice and guidance to the student on their proposed project.
  • Provide help to the student to modify and improve the proposed project, if deemed necessary, as long as the changes fall within the main theme of the proposal as approved.
  • Assist the student in planning their research work so that it can be completed within a defined period of time.
  • Work with the student to set up a clear timeline for completion of research work. Set high but realistic goals.
  • Define and clarify with the student the data collection, analysis and interpretation process in a research project.
  • Offer the opportunity to the student to carry out defined experimental work in your laboratory under the supervision of qualified personnel who have been assigned and authorized by you to take on these responsibilities. (Qualified personnel in your laboratory include graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, technicians and other scientists).
  • Define the responsibilities of the person(s) you have assigned to supervise the student in terms of training of general and specific techniques, lab safety, and routine lab management.
  • Define the responsibilities of the person(s) you have assigned to supervise the student in terms of the extent of assistance provided. The student should carry out the experimental work by themselves, except procedures that they are not qualified to do in a safe and professional manner.
  • Define your own responsibilities, including lab meetings, advice, regular feedback and evaluation of progress.
  • Define the student’s responsibilities, including punctuality, lab cleanliness and safety, the type and amount of research work they have to carry out, and the communications required among the person(s) involved in their project.
  • Remind the student to make connections between research work and the literature.
  • Provide explanation, reasoning and critical analyses on the experimental results, whether positive or negative, as generated by the work of the student.
  • Provide guidance, comments, and assistance to the student to prepare progress report as required, and to prepare and present their work on the proposed project at the final competition.
  • Sign the students’ lab journal to indicate that it has been maintained in a professional manner.

*Developed with consultation on a published document for mentoring undergraduate and graduate students, “Advisor, Teacher, Role Model, Friend,” National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 1997.