Advice for Finding a Mentor

Find a Research Mentor

As a student in WCHP, you may learn about research and scholarship activities in your own department or program through coursework that is offered as part of the curriculum. However, you may also wish to get involved in research experiences before you enroll in those research classes. As an undergraduate, you may wish to experience research in a particular field early in your academic program in case the experience changes your academic interests. You may also wish to take part in interprofessional research projects of your own design and you will need to find mentors for your work.  

Here are some steps you can take to identify a faculty mentor. Faculty work with students within their departments as well as students from other programs, so don't hesitate to contact a faculty member who studies something in which you are interested. Faculty love hearing from anyone interested in their work.

Identify Your Research Interest and Possible Faculty Mentors

Finding a research mentor (also referred to as a research advisor) requires a fair amount of leg work. You should start by identifying the general topic that interests you (e.g., Chemistry, Exercise Science, Public Health, Movement Analysis, Interprofessional Education) and then look for faculty who study in that area. Sources of information include:

  • Faculty Profiles and Faculty Research Websites
  • Department Websites
  • Websites for UNE Centers of Excellence
  • Office of Sponsored Programs - Faculty and Staff Research Directory
  • Talk to faculty in the Department that interests you
  • Talk to former Research Fellows
  • Look on the WCHP Researcher Website (this list will be incomplete so be sure to look in other locations too)

Contact the Faculty Member

Once you find someone who does the kind of work that interests you, send an email asking if they are accepting new undergraduate researchers into their group. Faculty want to hear from you, so don't feel awkward if you have never met that faculty member. Don't be discouraged if they don't have room for you when you first contact them. Situations can change quickly, so if you call again a month later, they may have an opening. Keep trying.

Visit the Faculty Member and the Lab/Location of the Research

Talk to other students working in the lab. If possible, volunteer in the lab a few times if you can to see if you like the work. You will also want to meet one or more professors and to visit their laboratories or the location of their research. Study the project descriptions listed by faculty in the Faculty and Staff Research Directory. Visit faculty whose projects interest you and discuss with them what their projects are about, who is working on them, and what you as an undergraduate researcher would be able to contribute and learn.

Selecting a Project  

In thinking about potential projects and advisors, don't limit yourself to subject areas about which you already feel knowledgeable. You are not expected to know about the topic ahead of time. What you will discover—whatever project you eventually select—is that you are not “qualified” to be working on it in the same sense that you will be qualified for a job at graduation. In fact, this is what “apprenticeship” means: highly promising, but not yet “qualified” persons learn by helping to do what they are trying to learn. So don't shy away from an exciting research area because you think you don’t know enough about it; instead, view the undergraduate research experience as providing you with an opportunity to explore a subject you would like to know more about. Follow this piece of advice from a faculty member: “Don’t look at a project and say, ‘What am I qualified for?’  Look at a project and say, ‘What can I get out of this?’”