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.

Before Research Begins

  1. Offer an appropriate time at your convenience for an initial meeting with the student to discuss their proposal and listen to their presentation on their proposal.
  2. Evaluate the student in terms of their experience, preparedness, desire and commitment to perform research work under your supervision
  3. Provide comments, criticism, advice and guidance to the student on their proposed project.
  4. Provide help to the student to modify and improve the proposed project if necessary.
  5. Assist the student in planning and scheduling their research work so that it can be completed within a defined period of time, set high but realistic goals.
  6. Define and clarify with the student the data collection, analysis and interpretation process in a research project.
  7. Define the responsibilities of the person(s) you have assigned to supervise the student in terns of both:
    • Training of general and specific techniques, lab safety, and routine lab management.
    • The extent of assistance provided. The student should carry out the experimental work by him or herself, except procedures that they are not qualified to do in a safe and professional manner.

During Research Term

  1. 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.
  2. Remind the student to make connections between research work and the literature.
  3. Provide explanation, reasoning and critical analyses on the experimental results, whether positive or negative, as generated by the work of the student.
  4. 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.
  5. Sign the students’ lab journal to indicate that it has been maintained in a professional manner.
  6. Provide your student with a letter of reference. (This can also be provided by the person(s) you have assigned to supervise the student).

*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.