In the months leading up to the competition, you’ll conduct research and collaborate with a mentor in real-life laboratory settings. You may have already started this work for other science fairs. If not, that’s okay too. Having a mentor is a key part of the SBC experience, and helps you explore your project in ways that the classroom environment could never provide.
Already have a mentor? That’s wonderful news! But if you’re still looking for expert support, SBC organizers have an extensive professional network that can help you take your project to the next level. We’ll put you in contact with the right professionals, ensuring that you have access to the resources you need.
How do I find a mentor?
While SBC will help place you with a mentor if you don’t already have one, you can also line up a mentor on your own before your register. Finding the right SBC mentor can go one of two ways:
I’ve already got a project idea
Approach a potential mentor with your specific project idea, and the mentor can then accept, deny or modify the project before accepting you into their lab.
- If this option is chosen, the student should submit their SBC application with their proposal BEFORE reaching out to potential mentors. Click here to apply.
- SBC will provide you with a list of potential mentors according to your project proposal. You will receive a follow-up email upon registration with a list of potential mentors to reach out to.
I’m still looking for inspiration
Contact a potential mentor with your general research interests FIRST, and once you are accepted into their lab, they will work with you to develop a project.
- If this option is chosen, you should only submit your SBC registration AFTER you have developed a proposal with your mentor.
- Ensure you have good background knowledge and are familiar with your potential mentor’s research before reaching out to them.
- Have an idea surrounding the kind of experiment you would like to do and how you will fit into that mentor’s lab.
- If you’ve selected a mentor on your own, SBC will NOT attempt to place you with a new mentor.
The Mentor Search
If you’re looking for inspiration and haven’t already submitted your SBC registration, you can choose to line up a mentor on your end. Remember! making sure the match between student and mentor is a good one is crucial. Here are some handy tips:
Refine Your Search
- Determine your research interests
- Search for relevant mentors in your area:
- Find all research institutions in your area;
- Go to each institution’s research page online (you may have to go through each specific faculty to find a research page) and search keywords relating to your desired research area, include any faculty members that come up during your search in your list of potential mentors;
- Alternatively you can search the research institution’s entire website using the search bar on the home page however the results will not be as focused
- Compile a list of potential mentors in your area:
- Your list should include mentors who are doing research you are interested in and have labs close enough to you;
- If a wet lab is not needed for the experiment, or the mentor does not have to have a lab near you, virtual mentorships are possible;
- Remember that if your proposal or interests are very specific, the number of potential mentors is reduced significantly.
Start Reaching Out
- Start reaching out to people on your list as soon as possible, send an email and follow up with a telephone call:
- In your email, be sure to include, your name, grade, school, goals and info about SBC;
- Express why you are interested in working with them and ensure you have good background knowledge about their research;
- Attach your completed proposal or research ideas and explain why you will fit well into their lab.
- Ask your potential mentors if they would be willing to meet with you to review and provide their expert opinion on your proposal and consider acting as your mentor:
- Ensure that you make the potential mentor aware that you are able to adjust / change / revise the project in a manner that fits with the work of the lab.
- If your potential mentor is unable to supervise you, ask if they have a graduate student or know of someone else who might willing and available.
- *REMEMBER – GRADUATE STUDENTS CAN ACT AS SBC MENTORS – UNDER THE GUIDANCE OF THEIR UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR/PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR*
- Don’t get discouraged. Many potential mentors have a very busy schedule. If you do not hear back after a few days – follow up with an additional email and/or phone call.
- If a potential mentor is unable to assist you, ask if they may have graduate students who could mentor you or if they can provide suggestions of other researchers for you to contact.
- When you do get accepted into a lab, remember to login to your profile to update the mentor information in the registration system.
“Don’t be afraid to talk with researchers and professors! Do some research first and find your passion in science whether it’s agriculture, life sciences, medicine, engineering and everything in between! Try and find like-minded professors and possible mentors at your local university or college. Establish a dialogue with them and show them how much you care and what a difference you can make to the general scientific community and beyond! Ask yourself what kind of contribution you want to make and how you can help others whether it’s feeding the world and providing better access to nutritious food or finding a cure for cancer.”
Dr. Mark Belmonte, Past Mentor, Associate Professor at University of Manitoba