Working with a Mentor

Although you have had numerous mentors (e.g. teachers, coaches, or even older siblings), most relationships with these individuals were not developed on a professional basis.  As you begin to work on a research project, you will need to create a professional relationship with your faculty mentor.  But first, let's talk about what you should expect from a mentor.Work together to put the pieces together

What is a mentor?

Mentors have different responsibilities and personal styles.  For example, your graduate student mentor may have a more relaxed relationship with you than your faculty advisor. You may also hear the term "Principal Investigator" or PI. This typically refers to the official lead researcher for a funded project, and is usually the professor in charge of the research group (i.e. your faculty advisor).

There are a few common roles that any mentor will assume:

  • A guide: They should help set up short and long term goals for the research project.
  • An advisor: They will be available to answer your questions on the project, and direct you to proper resources. Such resources could include people who have had similar experiences or have done similar experiments to those that you will encounter this summer.
  • A person who offers support and guidance: Mentors should offer critical feedback on your abilities and performance, while encouraging you when things begin to feel overwhelming.

Mentors should always maintain a professional relationship.  However, you may find that you will develop a closer relationship, and even a friendship, with your mentor.

Every good mentor will fulfill several functions.  He/she will:

  • Address your questions on the research.
  • Offer guidance, both on your research project as well as in your career choices.
  • Support your work on the project and provide recognition for your efforts.
  • Make themselves available, not necessarily on an immediate basis, but throughout the course of the project.

Getting the most out of this relationship will depend on you!

Click here to view a useful video on mentor/mentee roles and how to successfully work with your mentor.

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