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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.