Transformative pre-research mentorship design: Jump-starting undergraduate research experience in molecular biology

Y. Ellen France

Abstract


Performing research greatly enhances undergraduate educational experiences and science based career trajectories, yet there are many obstacles in implementing research training both for students and faculty.  In particular, undergraduates must gain theoretical knowledge and practical skills prior to attempting molecular and cellular biology laboratory research.  Individual research training is extremely time consuming for both students and faculty, and by the time students gain enough knowledge and experience through their majors curriculum, it is often too late for them to pursue more rigorous research opportunities and put their skills to use. In this article, I describe a streamlined design of a semester-long research mentorship that focuses on training first year undergraduate students in a small group setting.  As an experienced molecular research mentor, I narrowed down essential skill sets and theoretical knowledge to jump-start their research that transformed their undergraduate research experiences.  The pre-research mentorship gears toward transforming student’s pre-conception of what entails authentic research experience enlightening them with existing opportunities for original research early in their academic career.  Especially, the close and focused mentoring from weekly mentorship meetings helps students to align their academic interests and future career paths with specific research areas. The success of the mentorship was reflected by the fact that a majority of the students who completed the mentorship were able to engage in rigorous laboratory research opportunities and either pursued or planned to pursue postsecondary education in science and medicine.  Although the model of mentorship was developed for molecular research, the key features of the mentorship can be applied to other disciplines to enhance undergraduate research experience. 


Keywords


pre-research mentorship, molecular biology, transformative

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