UNH has a long and successful history of undergraduate research owing to the many faculty members who have encouraged, supervised and collaborated with their students as they have pursued an incredibly diverse array of projects. Since 1987 UNH has offered a university-wide undergraduate research program that has funded research, scholarly and creative projects in all disciplines. These efforts have been increasingly complemented by generous donors who are eager to support students and to hear about the research in which students and faculty are engaged.
We ask you to review the programs offered by the Hamel Center and the funding available. As a faculty mentor, you can help your students design a project, define their research objectives, understand disciplinary methodologies and professional ethics, and gain the experience of sharing their results with both professional and general audiences.
While the primary aim of Hamel Center programs and funding is to support the undergraduate research experience, we intend and hope that they will also advance the research agendas of faculty and the research mission of the University. I encourage you to consider the ways in which you and your students can take advantage of what the Center has to offer.
Paul Tsang, Director
The Role of the Mentor
If you are willing to undertake the responsibilities of a mentor, please announce in your classes that you are available to mentor undergraduate researchers in your field, consult the Hamel Center website for specific requirements of the grant program in which you will be mentor, and ask the Hamel Center staff about any questions or concerns.
As a faculty mentor, you are responsible for helping your student with the following:
- preparing an effective grant proposal;
- preparing to conduct the research;
- conducting the research; and
- evaluating the research and the research process.
You should guide the student’s writing of the proposal and review the proposal before it is submitted, particularly the budget section. You will also write a detailed letter of recommendation for your student, affirming the student’s capability and preparation plan as well as your willingness to mentor the student through the end of the research project.
Depending on the grant program, you may also need to help the student connect with a research partner or opportunity abroad, and assist with the student’s cultural preparation and on-site accommodations, in conjunction with the foreign mentor. See descriptions of various Hamel Center grants for specific details.
Many faculty members new to mentoring have questions about how their participation as a mentor will be acknowledged by their department. Does mentoring “count” as research? Teaching? Service? Will the Hamel Center contribute to being tenured and/or promoted?
Acknowledgement of and rewards for mentoring vary among departments and colleges; faculty should consult with their department chairs to learn promotion and tenure expectations. The Hamel Center considers mentoring to be teaching (and in some cases, research) rather than service. The Hamel Center Director and the International Research Coordinator are pleased to write letters solicited for promotion and tenure to detail mentoring duties and accomplishments.
Engaging in undergraduate research helps give students the confidence to apply to graduate school and ultimately can change the direction of their careers. [As a mentor] witnessing students acquire confidence in their abilities makes all of the time and effort worthwhile. Students raise excellent questions that provide me opportunity to think beyond the regular courses that I teach. Furthermore their research helps extend my work in slightly different directions.
—Lou Ann Griswold, Associate Professor of Occupational Therapy
I believe that teaching undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral students together in the laboratory as a community of interacting teaching and research scholars and colleagues is vital to developing modern research biologists…Professionally, many of these undergrads have taken first steps towards new parts of my research or have made significant discoveries that we have published together. Personally, being a mentor is just fun, it makes you want to come to work each day.
—Charles Walker, Professor of Zoology
Mentoring a student in the REAP program has worked very well to advance my scholarship and my student’s research skills and knowledge.
—Cathy Frierson, Professor of History
It was exciting to work with someone so talented and realize that she might even be able to get her work published, and that this might be the start of something important in her career.
—Andrew Boysen, Professor of Music
[As a mentor] I gained the satisfaction of witnessing the personal and professional growth of a student engaged in real scientific research.
—Thomas Davis, Professor of Plant Biology
I’ve had the privilege of mentoring and training many excellent students. It is satisfying to see them prosper and grow based on the experience they gain here at UNH.
—James Ryan, Professor of Physics
It is really a very cyclical process in that most mentors have been mentored in the past and mentees often go on to become mentors themselves. It is a legacy, a kind of inheritance that goes on as an exchange of wisdom and “lessons learned” to support the intellectual and professional growth of young people. And while most of our exchange was me teaching her, the greatest moment was when, towards the end of her project, she expanded her thinking and exceeded my own realm of thought. “I hadn’t thought of that.” Those are rewarding words to say to a 15-year-old girl.
—Elizabeth Gagnon (former UNH student)
Every year there are students who make it all worthwhile. These are the special students who are inquisitive, put in the time, take responsibility, and care about the outcome. They are engaged and invested and they inspire me to work just as hard.
— Win Watson, Professor of Zoology