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Mentor Resources

Supporting First Year Students

As a UROP mentor, you may also play a role in supporting first-year students, since over 60% of first years will engage in UROP.

Understanding the first year experience

Familiarize yourself with:
  • The grading system for first year students
  • Academic calendar and deadlines if you haven’t already done so — first yearsmay be less likely to know these
  • Relevant introductory or exploratory courses that are geared towards first yearsin your field
  • Some MIT first year students are very advanced and some may have even done research before in high school, but some are not and that is okay. Keep your expectations open.

Goals of the UROP for First Years

Learning/exploratory
  • If they have no experience, this will be more of an educational experience
  • Good to identify potential tasks or avenues of exploration
  • Documentation, self study, literature review, learning a tool or software
Contributing directly to a part of the research pipeline
  • Where in the pipeline can someone with some experience or some tangible skills contribute while still developing as a researcher?
  • Scripting, perfecting a process, prototyping, evaluating a new protocol or tool, conducting literature review, helping conduct studies
Preparation for success
  • A student’s first term in the UROP may need to be focused on preparing them tomake more significant contributions in future terms.
  • The first term, depending on the field and amount of time, may consist more ofsafety training, literature/documentation review, and learning new tools, techniques, or software.
Goals of mentorship
  • Exposing the first year to the field and to research
  • Developing skills and knowledge they may not be getting in their current classes. Or,putting into practice the knowledge they are learning in classes.
  • Being open to and planning towards the possibility that this is not the major/field/interestfor them
    • At the end of the day, they may be trying research for the first time, and/orexploring your field for the first time. They might find that they do not like the fieldor research. And that is okay!
    • So, have a Plan B and think about how to frame a UROP experience for astudent who realizes that this field isn’t for them — think about times that you tried a field or a new line of research/inquiry that didn’t work out. In the end, be prepared for the UROP student to decide they may not wish to continue.
Setting expectations and communications
  • First year students aren’t as familiar working in labs or with mentors, so set norms including:
    • Check-ins
    • Documentation
    • Milestone dates
    • Contact and communication expectations
    • Group meetings
    • Working hours and timelines
  • Setting the expectations for things going wrong in research and how to handle it
  • Also setting the expectation for them to get busy and how you want them to communicate that to you, i.e taking their busy weeks at the beginning of the term and thinking about exams, big projects, etc.
Next steps/future plans
  • alking to them about their summer plans.
  • Stressing that it is ok to take a summer off, especially after their first year.
  • Discussing things like readings and projects they can do in the summer.
  • Thinking about programs or resources that you took advantage of in your undergraduate years.
  • Thinking about valuable skills to learn in your field of study that MIT mighthave access to (e.g. software), coding languages, or if there are particulartopics or authors in your field that are valuable for them to explore.
  • See if they want to continue UROPing with you this summer or explore another UROP.
  • Perhaps there is a colleague that you can introduce them to.
Major decisions
  • Talking with your student about their major declaration decision can be super helpful — think about your UG experience and how that shaped your grad school and research experiences.
  • Overall, if they are interested in your department or a related department — you are a great resource for them.
Helping them prepare for the next UROP
  • Overall the goal is that, even if their next UROP isn’t with you, they have explored research to make an informed decision about their next UROP and feel confident going into it
  • If they are continuing with you, think about how you can structure their next UROP term to continue their growth