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Undergraduate Research

Working With a Mentor

One of the benefits to research is building a strong relationship with your mentor. Clear expectations, open communication, and a passion for the research project are all ingredients of a solid working relationship.

Need a Mentor?

We can help! Find out more from us about how to get started in research and find a faculty mentor.

Start strong with open communication and clear expectations.
Here are some things that can help:

Review the Student Guide to Mentoring Plan to help facilitate conversations with your mentor and project supervisors.

It's important to communicate with your mentor and set the tone for that communication early on.

How to build rapport

  • Ask your mentor about their journey.
    How did they get where they are today? Ask them for lessons they've learned and advice they would give. 
  • Keep your mentor informed. 
    Tell them about your academic progress and any difficulties you encounter.
  • Talk to your mentor about career options.
    Be open about your goals and responsibilities, and even if you are questioning your career path. There may be options you are not aware of. 
  • Set a schedule or expectations for regular meetings.
  • Allow sufficient time to ask questions and discuss issues.
  • Arrive on time to all appointments, and don't cancel meetings.
  • Send a confirmation email to your mentor the week of your meeting.
  • Make a list of your questions for your meetings, so you don't forget.
  • Have a specific, written agenda for each meeting with your mentor.
  • Bring a notebook, laptop, or device, to take notes.
  • Record the progress you've made and share with your mentor, so they can determine where you are in the process.
  • Determine personal goals at the end of each meeting to accomplish before the next meeting. 

Having someone watching, discussing and analyzing your work can be unnerving. Push your self-doubt aside, and concentrate on how much you'll learn from the experience. 

Try to understand different points of view.
Acknowledge and explore your differences. 

Ask for help when you need it.
Let your mentor know if you don't understand a concept. It's better to ask for clarification than to make assumptions that could lead to a mistake. 

Consider drawing up a research contract — a document you create with your mentor that describes the project, tasks for project completion, expectations, deadlines, etc. It can help you establish open communication with your mentor from the beginning. 

Contract Template

You can use our Contract Template or modify it to fit your needs. You can write the first draft to review with your mentor.

When to make the contract
Do this early, even in the first week or so. It will help reduce misunderstandings and get you started on the right foot. 

Be flexible
Think about how much detail you need. Milestones change, and research doesn't always accommodate schedules. 

Review your contract often
Make sure you know what needs to be done. Edit the document and ask questions as needed. 

  • If you're not sure how your mentor can help, ask!
  • Voice your concerns. If something about the mentoring process troubles you, talk about it.
  • Mentors want to help, so let them know how they can.
  • Give mentors time to respond to your emails. They're on a different schedule than students.
  • Meet with an adviser in our office if a problem persists. We can help you discuss the situation.
  • Changing mentors is possible but should be the last resort. 


Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.