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Mentor FAQs

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Information Sessions for Mentors

We hold information sessions for prospective mentors learn more about mentoring in the undergraduate research programs in December. 

  • Thursday Dec 1, at 3-4 pm in Green 365 
  • Wednesday Dec 7, at 4-5 pm in Mitchell B04 or zoom

Please contact Jenny if you have questions. The first round of Project Descriptions were are December 1. Keep sending in more projects and we will post them at the bottom of the list.

Faculty requirements for mentoring an undergraduate

Undergraduate research requires strong mentoring. Students build a great relationship with their graduate student and postdoc mentors. Yet, many students do not get to know or meet with the faculty advisor.  Based on the requirements in similar campus programs, we are now instituting a minimum requirement for faculty to meet with their undergraduate researchers. We require that faculty meet at least 3 times with the student during the summer, with a *target* of alternate weeks when in town. 

Who is eligible to submit a proposed project description?

Graduate students, postdocs, faculty, and researchers in the departments and programs of the School of Sustainability can submit a project description.  However, at least one of the listed project advisors must be a faculty member from a  department in the School of Sustainability.  If you have questions about exceptions to this rule, please ask. Faculty members must be a part of mentoring undergraduate students. If you are working on a project that does not involve your  faculty advisor, the project is probably not eligible.

Submit your proposed project description here.

What should be included in the proposed project description?

Please review these guidelines on crafting an enticing and well-written research synopsis.  This is your advertisement to prospective students.

What is the difference between SESUR and SURGE?

SESUR is our research program for Stanford undergraduates and SURGE brings diverse students from other universities to Stanford for the summer. Both programs are targeted at students seeking their first research experience. SURGE students are typically juniors or seniors, whereas SESUR students are more often freshmen and sophomores.

What sorts of projects are appropriate?

While the nature of the summer research conducted by students is varied, the best projects are those that give the student a degree of independence and allow them to feel a sense of intellectual ownership within the larger framework of your own research. When designing a project, think about how the student will be able to guide the work and make their own decisions about directions and methods. The best projects anticipate “student ownership” of a clear scientific outcome or analysis that can be presented as a poster at the end of the summer during the Symposium (SURGE) or at Homecoming Weekend (SESUR).  Feel free to consult the archives to get a sense of previous projects.

All projects must have a contingency plan for remote work if the university reverses in the recovery from the pandemic.

Fieldwork and travel may be allowed in SESUR. All travel and any fieldwork off-campus must comply with the University’s Travel Policy and Research Policy.

If your work involves interviews or other research involving people, undergrads may also need to be approved to work with Human Subjects.

What sort of students can I expect to hear from?

SESUR is open to all undergraduates, regardless of major, and is targeted specifically at freshmen and sophomores. While upper-level students are welcome to apply, students who have been already been working on a proposed project for a year or more may find that the UAR Major Grant is a better fit.

SURGE is open to non-Stanford undergraduates from all STEM majors, and especially welcomes applications from traditionally underrepresented groups in geosciences and engineering, including African Americans, Hispanic/Latinx Americans, Native Americans, Pacific Islander Americans, and first-generation college students, with limited research experience.

As a mentor, you should be prepared to put in the time necessary to help your mentee get up to speed with any special skills or knowledge they will need to be successful. Be sure to include any required background in your proposal, but realize that demanding a high level of prerequisite expertise will narrow the pool of interested students.

What should I do if multiple students want to work on my project?

It is up to you to select one student whom you will aid in writing their research proposal for your project. If you would like to work with multiple students, you will need to have multiple distinct projects for which they would write proposals. If you are proposing multiple projects, depending on funding availability, it may be the case that you are asked to assist with supporting (or locating support for) additional students.

I need advice on mentoring and interviewing potential students.

Here are tips from mentors on creating a productive working relationship.  Interview questions, guidance on mentoring and more!

Do students receive any training prior to the summer?

All students accepted to SESUR are required to complete a 1-unit research preparation course in the Spring Quarter prior to their research experience. The goal for this class is to introduce students to the process of scientific research and communication, to familiarize them with their topic, and to start the communication process with their mentor. This is an ideal time for you to begin working with the student on skills they will need to be successful during the summer (e.g. learning a piece of software or training needed to work in a laboratory).

For SURGE, it depends on each student. We encourage mentors to connect with their mentees in advance to provide an overview of the project and figure out if the student might need some brush-up on certain skills previous to the summer. During the summer, students will get additional support on scientific communications. We encourage interested mentors to contact Lupe Carrillo for further information.

How do I help with the proposal for SESUR?

We ask that you work with the students to develop a reasonable project for them.

  • Even if the project is mostly structured around data collection (as are many successful projects), data collection should account for no more than ~50-75% of the time. Students need time to learn techniques and must have time for data analysis as part of the project.
  • After the proposal is submitted, faculty will be asked for one paragraph on whether, and if so, how the proposed research integrates with their own projects and if so what will be the separate intellectual property of the SESUR student.

What is expected of me as a SESUR mentor?

There are a number of expectations for graduate student and postdoctoral mentors as well as faculty mentors. All mentors are required to do the following:

  • Faculty must meet the undergraduate researcher at least 3 times during the summer with a suggested frequency of every other week.
  • Attend your mentee’s presentation in SUSTAIN 100 during spring quarter (SESUR mentors only).
  • Participate in the Mentoring in Research Workshop during Spring Quarter. Mentors are required to participate in one workshop session. (Mentors who have participated in a previous mentoring workshop are excused from this requirement.)
  • Attend your mentee’s final research presentation at the School's Undergraduate Research Symposium, ASURPS, the SES Research Review, or at a professional meeting such as the AGU fall meeting. (SURGE mentors only: Attend your mentee’s final research presentation at the SURGE Symposium in August).

Are there additional funds to support undergraduate research for travel or supplies?

For SESUR mentees, if a faculty member can not support the expenses and if this will limit a faculty member's ability to host a SESUR student, please contact Jennifer Saltzman.  We have limited funds set aside.

For SURGE mentees, we have some funding to support students' conference expenses.

Additional Questions?

Jenny Saltzman

For questions about the Sustainability and Earth Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SESUR), please contact Jenny Saltzman.

Additional Questions about SURGE?

DEI icon

For questions about Summer Undergraduate Research in Geoscience and Engineering Program (SURGE), please contact Lupe Carrillo