This National Science Foundation Research Traineeship (NRT) award in the Innovations in Graduate Education (IGE) Track to the University of California-Berkeley will test improvements to the way undergraduates are introduced to science in research universities through training graduate students to serve as mentors for undergraduate researchers. Undergraduates are often included in research projects as beginning steps to becoming scientists. Research on their experiences points to the formation of good mentoring relationships as a key to positive experiences in these critical first stages in the practice of science. Graduate students, who are often present and actively engaged in supervising undergraduate research projects, have an especially good opportunity to ensure that undergraduates thrive in their research, leading to more undergraduates choosing to continue in science fields. Learning to be good mentors also enhances the career skills of graduate researchers, who go on to be lead scientists in universities and industries. This project will provide new insights into the potential positive effects that providing training for graduate mentors has on undergraduates, on graduate students themselves, and on the national science community.
Building on a successful test-program at UC-Berkeley, this project will pilot and assesses the approach's efficacy in training student mentors from a range of STEM fields and research settings. Participant training will include a semester-long professional development course prior to practicing their new skills while mentoring undergraduate researchers. Formative evaluation results will be used to refine the training elements and course curricula during two additional iterations of the program. Data on the effectiveness of the training for graduate students from different disciplines will be used to refine and adapt the training materials for students from different STEM fields and backgrounds. By expanding the test population to include graduate student mentors who do not take the formal mentoring course prior to working with undergraduates, but who use the training materials, the project will assess how the newly developed materials will work for students who are self-guided mentors. This project will produce one of the first systematic investigations of the effects of providing formal training in research mentoring to graduate students, including examining variations among discipline clusters on the effectiveness of different techniques. The project will produce a resource tool-kit for graduate student mentoring of undergraduate researchers that will be made shared on a national level.
The NSF Research Traineeship (NRT) Program is designed to encourage the development and implementation of bold, new, potentially transformative, and scalable models for STEM graduate education training. The Innovations in Graduate Education Track is dedicated solely to piloting, testing, and evaluating novel, innovative, and potentially transformative approaches to graduate education.