print header

In Their Own Words

Faculty and Staff Quotes about Mentoring


In your opinion, what is the best method of recruiting students?

After trying several different approaches over the years, I have discovered that both the student researchers and I are happiest and most productive when I hand-pick them. I do not have a nice, tidy set of selection criteria that I can articulate cogently. They are almost always students that I first meet in my classes. I gravitate toward the ones who are curious, engaged, creative thinkers. Lots of intelligence is a plus, but I've had some outstanding research apprentices that were academically average in comparison to their peers - but they excelled with the intensive mentoring in the lab. I also look for students whose personalities mesh well with my own, and with other members of the team, because we spend a lot of time together and I want it to be fun, both for them and for me. Nothing kills productivity like drama, so I try to select students who are friendly, straightforward, collaborative, and not competitive at the expense of their peers.

- Mickey Crothers


What are the first steps you take with a new project/student?

First of all, I meet with the students to interview them to see if they are truly committed to the project. I try to find out what their goals and interests are. Are they only interested in doing the F/S research for their resume and not really committed to the work? Or, do they have a true interest in learning research and are they committed to seeing the project all the way through, even if it means 1-2 years. I also give them an introduction to research, to my project, and we decide on a timeline and a regular meeting time. I answer all of the questions they may have.

- Lisa Quinn-Lee


What are the most important things you can do to support students as they start on the project?

In the initial stages, I think it is most important to let students know that research can be a frustrating undertaking and that we may change directions many times before we figure out what we don't know. I think meeting often to guide their literature review and taking that process in steps is very important.

- Martha Fay


What do you do to help students gain confidence and develop independence?

I like to put them into situations where they must make decisions and to help them realize the nature of research often is about making decisions along the way. I put them in charge of maintaining the equipment and organizing samples and supplies. I also have them document their methods and enter their data as they collect it, stressing the importance of this organization. I think these actions help them feel ownership for their portion of the project.

- Tali Lee


How do you define successful closure of a project?

Were we able to complete the project? If not, did we learn something from it - for example, last summer I had SREU money for a project in which we would be going to Eau Claire County Jail to interview inmates. The jail was very supportive of the research and was very willing to accommodate us. The inmates did not want to talk with us. So, it was a good lesson in formal access and informal access - sure, we had the formal access from the institution, but could not get informal access from the inmates. Plus, it helped show that we could not put pressure on the institution to coerce the inmates to participate, so that reinforced the notion of ethics and the importance of protections for various populations of potential research subjects.

- Jason Spraitz