a

Info for Mentors

Before students arrive

Objective
This is an NSF-funded program whose aim is to improve student retention in the STEM fields by providing research experience for undergraduate students. The focus of this program is to broaden diversity in the sciences, particularly by increasing the number of women, underrepresented minorities, and persons with disabilities in research.

Availability
The REU program is full-time (40 hrs/week) for 10 weeks from mid-June to mid-August. During this time the students are expected to be present the majority of the time. By agreeing to be a mentor, you promise to ensure that the students have appropriate supervision for the full period they are here.

Mentor Registration
To register as a potential mentor, please create an account on the CBGREU website (www.cbgreu.org). Once you have registered an account, we will confirm your registration online. If you have been a mentor in previous years, you do not need to re-register, but you should check with us to see if your account is still active. If not, we will reinstate you.

Project Registration
If you are interested in having a student this academic year, you will need to submit a short (1 paragraph) project description, with pictures, to the CBGREU website. The deadline for this is early December.

MS Students
We strongly encourage first-year MS students to mentor REU students during their first summer. We realize that many will still be developing their thesis projects at this time, so it is perfectly fine for descriptions to be quite general, although we will expect that they become more specific as plans develop for summer work.

Graduate Students
We ask that all graduate students discuss their REU project application with their advisor, and expect that advisors will be involved with at least some oversight aspects of the project during the summer.

Project selection
All undergraduate students will select their top 3 projects when they submit their application. The ten projects that receive REU students is based on: 1) the number of applicants that select that project and 2) the average ranking of the project. Special consideration will be also given to projects 3) directly mentored by graduate students, and 4) positive previous mentoring experiences with our program. Preference will also be given to mentors who demonstrate a willingness to help us work towards the program’s objective of selecting and mentoring students from underrepresented groups.

Student selection
If your project is selected to receive an REU student, you will then receive further instructions on interviewing the applicants using our online application page. The student REU Coordinator will have scored each applicant on a scale of 1-9 (they will be given a +1 (i.e. a max 10) if the students is identified as meeting the objectives of the program). This ranking system is in place to help you prioritize your applicant pool and identify those students we consider top priority. You will be encouraged to consider all priority students for the position. We will recommend conducting interviews as soon as possible, as the best candidates will have applied to numerous REU programs and will be hired quickly.

Student Hiring
Once interviews are over, you are responsible for offering the position to your top student. We recommend providing a few days for them to let you know whether they will take the position, and this will allow you to offer the position to someone else if they decline.

Once a student has accepted you will be responsible for notifying all other students that you interviewed that they have not been selected for your project. You should remind these students that if they have been interviewed by another mentor they might still be considered for that position.
When all 10 students are hired and all projects are filled, the student REU Coordinator will be in charge of notifying all any applicants that were not interviewed

Hired Students
Once a student is hired, most logistical questions regarding housing, transportation, etc., will be handled by the student REU Student Coordinator, and questions relating to those topics can be directed to him/her. However, we recommend that you maintain communication with your student prior to their arrival to answer questions about the project and provide relevant background papers to the student in preparation for their involvement in the project.

Mentor Training
Mentors will be given the opportunity (graduate students will be required) to attend a mentor workshop (likely at Northwestern University) to learn important mentoring skills and strategies prior to the beginning of the program.

 

During the program

Schedule
REU student interns are expected to work approximately 40 hours a week (~8AM-4PM daily); however, their time can be allocated as you see fit and can vary depending on the task for any particular day (i.e., lab work, field work, etc.). We expect that you will discuss schedules with your student regularly and be present when they need you.

Education of Scientific Process
Given that mentors are directly responsible for the REU projects, you will be expected to work closely with your student during all stages of the research project, including developing questions/hypotheses, collecting data, analyzing that data, and publicizing the results in the form of a final scientific poster or presentation.

College First Program
As mentoring is in and of itself a valuable learning experience, we are expecting that you and your REU student mentor a high school student from the Garden’s College First (CF) Program. The CF students will be at the Garden twice a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays from about 9AM to 3PM) for eight weeks. These high school students come from various Chicago Public High Schools, and the goal of this program is to develop college preparation and provide career mentorship, as well as to foster interest in plant biology and conservation. CF students will develop their own mini-projects within the scope of your project, and they will give their own presentations on their aspect of the project shortly after the end of the REU program. The REU student will serve as the primary mentor to the CF student; however, you are expected to be involved in their project and help the REU student develop their own mentoring skills. Ultimately, we will expect that all mentors are checking to ensure that both the CF and REU students are progressing on their projects appropriately.

Working towards Publishable units
An important component of the scientific process is publishing results, hence we also expect that mentors consider projects for their students which can lead to a potentially publishable unit (with co-authorship for the REU student). Many students in the past that have co-authored papers, and this is a great way to end the program and further their professional development! It also improves our likelihood of success for future NSF REU funding.

 

A few considerations based on previous years

Expectations for students
Both REU and CF students are asked to sign a document that outlines expectations and causes for dismissal prior to beginning the program. This document will be available on the CBGREU website. In the event of a situation which any disciplinary action may be required, mentors are encouraged to first discuss possible solutions with their student directly. However, in cases where this is not possible or productive, the REU & CF Program Coordinators are available to mediate any issues.
Selecting students for the educational experience: The level of experience with scientific inquiry and methods among REU applicants will vary substantially. Because our program is judged on how effectively we provide new research experiences for students that would otherwise not have access to them, we expect you to select students that have a demonstrated interest in the field, but not necessarily the kind of experience that will allow them to conduct their research relatively independently. Therefore, it is likely that your student will require a fairly hands-on approach from you during the summer, at least initially. We hope that you will view this as an opportunity to pass on very useful skills to that student.

Time commitment
The time commitment associated with this program is somewhat substantial, especially given the nature of the program (an entire research project completed in 10 weeks). However, based on past accounts, this experience is very rewarding and can help mentors develop very important mentoring and collaboration skills.

 

SUMMARY OF REU MENTOR EXPECTATIONS:

Communicate early and often.

Before the internship: Correspond with your REU student at least once after you have hired them and prior to their arrival to provide background reading and answer any questions they may have (logistical questions can be directed to the REU student coordinator).
During the internship: Expose your students to all aspects of the research process and try your best to answer any questions they have about it. Students also benefit from hearing about your education and career trajectory, and your thoughts on career opportunities.
During the internship: Bring any concerns that can’t be resolved by talking with your student to the REU program coordinators.
After the internship: Hopefully, you and your student will have had a great 10 weeks working together, and will stay in touch about future presentations, senior theses, and publications.

Be prepared. When your student arrives, introduce them to the bigger project and questions that they are contributing to on the first day you work together, and then take the time to work with them to develop their specific project, hypotheses, and timeline.
Be present and available. We expect all REU students to be at the Garden 8 hours a day for 5 days a week unless you have made other arrangements, and we expect you to check in with and be available for your student for at least a portion of every day that they are here. If for some reason you cannot be available on a given day, we expect you to make arrangements with them so they can contact you off-site or, if needed, with another mentor that can answer any questions that may come up while you are away. If your absence is unexpected, we expect you to communicate with them so they know where you are and when to expect you back.
Be a good role model. We expect students to behave in a professional manor, which means maintaining a positive attitude, communicating with their mentors and fellow interns respectfully, and exercising time management (i.e., meet deadlines, work efficiently, etc). It goes without saying that mentors should do the same.
Help them be strong mentors. Your student will be expected to mentor a high school student thorough the Garden’s College First program. For many of them this will be their first science mentoring experience, and they will need guidance and support from you. Work with them to help set expectations and manage challenges, giving them increasing independence as the summer progresses if all is going well.
Engage them in the full scientific process. If you mentor an NSF-funded REU student and produce a paper that uses data they helped collect, we expect you to include them in the paper-writing process as much as possible, and to include them as co-authors on that publication (and also make sure you include our NSF REU Site grant # in the acknowledgements). Not only is it good for the students to be exposed to and involved in the publication process, but it also looks good on your CV, demonstrating your ability to engage undergraduate students in the publication process. Please also keep this in mind as you make plans for future REU research projects.