Securing a Research Mentor

An ideal research project will provide you with an introduction to scientific methodology and should require both laboratory manipulations and intellectual aspects of question-driven research. Once you have an idea of what your interests are potential research topics, it is time to select a research mentor. 

In order to identify professors who match your interests, you will need to do some research.  Some helpful links:

Once you have an idea of which laboratories interest you, begin contacting prospective mentors. E-mail is generally the standard method, but you could also call to arrange an appointment or visit the professor during his or her office hours. In an e-mail, you should express your interest in joining the professor's lab and briefly explain why their lab is of particular interest to you. You may wish to complete and attach a Student Profile form (MS Word) as well.

Once you hear back from a professor who is interested, arrange a time to meet in person. This meeting is for you and the professor to confirm that your interests match, and to discuss the research experience you will be undertaking in his or her lab. This is an opportunity for you and your potential mentor to ensure that you will be a good fit with the lab. Make sure your research experience will involve more than serving as a pair of hands for another lab member.

Specific criteria for the research experience, such as the following examples, should be determined by your research mentor:

  • lab techniques to be learned
  • attendance at lab meetings 
  • maintenance of a lab notebook
  • conference presentations
  • writing a summary of the research