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Who May Serve as a Mentor?

All Caltech faculty including research, teaching, and visiting faculty, the professional staff, faculty associates, and members of the JPL technical staff may serve as mentors. Caltech students may also arrange a project with a faculty member at another college or university or other research institution. A Caltech faculty member must serve as Associate Mentor for Caltech students doing research outside of Caltech/JPL.

The Role of a Mentor

The primary role of the mentor is to serve as the senior partner in collaboration with the student. 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 mentor be a teacher, a coach, and a research partner. Including students in all aspects of research life is important. You might consider requiring students to attend group meetings; including students in research discussions; and inviting students to participate in lab/group social activities.

Mentor Responsibilities

The primary responsibilities of the mentor are to prepare for the student’s arrival and to help the student meet all of the requirements of the program in which the student is participating; however, there are a number of specific responsibilities that each mentor will have in preparing for the project and in guiding the student in the summer

  • oversee supervision of the applicant in the proposed research and consult with the student at regular and appropriate intervals throughout the project period.
  • ensure that student receives all necessary lab and safety training.
  • follow campus policies and procedures pertaining to working with minors, if applicable.
  • arrange for payment of all research expenses.
  • not provide student with export controlled information or items.
  • be in residence for at least six of the ten weeks during the project period.
  • collaborate with students on the preparation of two progress reports, an abstract, and a final technical report and to approve and sign off on these requirements.
  • help the student prepare for the final oral or poster presentation.
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