Wayne State University

Finding a faculty mentor

We are excited to announce the launch of our searchable database, UROPConnect. This new system launched in Winter 2014 semester and was developed to be a central site to foster and promote undergraduate research opportunities at WSU. Undergraduate students can browse UROPConnect and search for projects and faculty who have their same research interests and can contact faculty members directly from their profile or any project page.

The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) understands that students may be interested in doing research but might not know where to begin. The first step in creating a research proposal is finding a faculty mentor to oversee your project. While this may seem a little intimidating, remember that professors consider your academic and professional development critical to your undergraduate experience. You will find that most professors are easy to approach and are often excited to see you take an active interest in your field of study.

Former grant recipient Mary Jacob was mentored by Assistant Professor Mary Pflum in chemistry. Now a student at the WSU School of Medicine, Jacob explored research opportunities at the end of her freshman year.

After working in Pflum’s lab for free for two years, Jacob received a research grant, which she credits with helping her decide to apply to the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR), her first conference. She developed a strong camaraderie with other researchers, and the guidance she received from Pflum and faculty who provided her with letters of recommendation was invaluable in preparing for medical school.

“Undergraduate research was an enlightening opportunity because it lets undergraduate students feel like real researchers, writing grant proposals for funding,” she says. “That really put research in a real life perspective and gave me a small taste of doing research for a living.”

There are several different avenues you can take to finding a faculty mentor:

Find a professor who fits your proposed research:  Browse the searchable database, UROPConnect

Work with a professor you like: If you don’t have specific ideas for a research proposal but know you want to do research, approach a professor with whom you’ve had a positive experience. Perhaps you’ve had the professor for a class or worked with him or her on a project. Students and professors typically find a common interest and develop a proposal or create a project that is an extension of research they have done in class.

Work within your lab: Students who have a lab position usually work on projects with the lead faculty member in of the lab. These projects often coincide with the laboratory’s overall research, with students receiving a specific assignment that involves a much greater level of sophistication than normal lab duties. Undergraduate research grants are not to be used as supplemental pay for a student’s regular lab responsibilities.