Who May Serve as a Co-Mentor?
Mentors often assign another member of the research group to provide day-to-day supervision of a summer student. Co-mentors may be senior graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, technical staff, or other colleagues.
The Role of a Co-Mentor
While mentors have the overall research, safety, and financial responsibility for summer students, they may assign a co-mentor to provide the day-to-day oversight of the student and project. The role of the co-mentor will vary from group to group, and co-mentors should consult with the mentor to determine the degree of responsibility they will have for a student. Some co-mentors will be given full responsibility and authority for supervising a student; others will provide limited oversight or guidance.
Our hope is that through their participation in an undergraduate research project, students will be able to:
- develop a research question, problem, or design;
- apply basic principles and knowledge found in the literature related to the research question;
- develop a research proposal to address or resolve a specific research question or problem;
- apply and evaluate methodology throughout project;
- collect, interpret, and critique data in order to resolve a research question or evaluate a design;
- communicate research findings; and
- appreciate what the process of scientific research entails.
It is important that the student be offered—and eventually accept—intellectual responsibility for his/her own project, so it is critical that a co-mentor be a teacher, a coach, and a research partner.
Expectations for Co-Mentors
In addition to providing day-to-day support, co-mentors play an important role in supporting the academic and professional growth of undergraduate researchers. Expectations include:
- encourage and guide students toward intellectual ownership of project;
- include student as a colleague in all aspects of research. You might consider requiring students to attend group meetings; including students in research discussions; and inviting students to participate in lab/group social activities;
- help initiate interaction with mentors. The face-to-face time students get with mentors differs from group to group. This interaction is important in helping students develop academically and professionally. Consider setting up a series of joint meetings where you and the student can discuss the project with the mentor;
- provide advice, encouragement, guidance, and wisdom. If you notice that a student is struggling with research, academic, or personal issues, please contact the SFP office immediately;
- practice clear communication around expectations, project outcomes, and lab/group culture;
- encourage students to take some time and reflect on the project and research;
- provide guidance to help students complete program requirements (i.e. interim reports; abstract, final paper, and final presentation);
- lead student to develop new ways to approach problems;
- discuss academic and professional paths.