For the SURF, SURF@JPL, and Amgen Scholars programs, it is the responsibility of the student to identify a suitable research mentor. The mentor must be a member of the Caltech faculty or, for SURF, JPL technical staff. For Caltech students seeking a SURF project, a mentor could also be a faculty member at another school or research institution in the U.S. or abroad.
There are several ways to identify a potential mentor:
- Review the Announcements of Opportunity pages for each of the programs above to see projects being "advertised" by mentors. Please note that not all campus opportunities are listed here, but it is a good place to start. However, this is the best way to learn about JPL opportunities.
- Browse the Caltech faculty websites and contact those of interest.
- Use your academic network. Talk to your advisor and professors to see if they have ideas and contacts for you.
- Review the most recent SURF Abstract Book to get ideas about possible research areas and mentors.
- Caltech students should consider attending seminar (pizza) classes and option seminars where faculty present their work. Also, talk with upper-class housemates, classmates, and RAs.
- Attend SFP Information Sessions and the Discover JPL series.
- Start early! If possible, start looking for a mentor toward the end of fall term. This is when most opportunities are still available.
- Contact multiple possible mentors at once; but don't spread mass emails. Pursue only research groups that you are truly interested in. If applying to JPL, please refer to this resume template.
- Don't rely on email! Show initiative by setting up an appointment, calling, or going directly to a professor's office.
- Contact the professor's administrative assistant for help in setting up an in-person or phone meeting.
- Contact a graduate student or postdoc in the group and ask for a tour/meeting to learn more and get an introduction to the potential mentor.
- Be sure to look outside your academic option. Research at Caltech and JPL is very interdisciplinary and opportunities exist in all divisions and options.
- Use who you know! Using your network of friends, classmates, and professors is a great way to find a mentor.
- Be assertive and professional, but not entitled!
Finally, for Caltech students, contact the Student-Faculty Programs office to discuss possible mentors—but come early, don't wait until the last minute!