Find a Mentor

Establishing a good working relationship with a faculty member is a key element in a successful research project. Your goal is to find a faculty member whose research is a match with your interests and abilities. This can take time but is well worth the effort.  Keep a positive attitude and be persistent. While finding a faculty mentor can be challenging, here are some suggestions that can help you with this process:

Where to look

  • Departmental website for a list of faculty members, their research interests, and their recent publications.
  • The “Experts” database for your topic.
  • Ask your faculty advisor, one of your professors, or a teaching assistant for suggestions
  • Talk to the Director of Undergraduate Studies in the department or the UROP Coordinator for your college where you would like to do your research  
  • Talk to the UROP staff. The UROP Office maintains a database with a list of all the faculty members who have ever sponsored UROP projects.

How to approach a faculty member

E-mail is often a good way to contact a faculty member to set up a time to talk in person. Be prepared before you approach the faculty member.  You should have some idea what kind of research the faculty member does, and some idea of the kind of research that you are interested in yourself. You will need to show that you are motivated and capable of working independently. Introduce yourself and let the faculty member know your interests, relevant classes you have taken, any prior research experiences you have had, and your plans in terms of your current degree or future goals.

If you don’t get a response from e-mail, you can try to visit during office hours. If the faculty member you approach is unable to help you, don’t take it personally.  Most faculty members have busy schedules with class, research and other duties.  Don’t be discouraged.  If you are turned down, be sure to ask the faculty member for ideas on who to approach next.  Again, be persistent.

Sample Email

Below is a sample email to use as a template when contacting prospective mentors.

From: (use your account and not any other email address as yahoo, gmail, etc.)

Subject: Undergraduate Research Opportunities

Dear Professor/ Dr. LastNameOfTheMentor (advice: in an academic environment professional titles as Dr. and Professor are preferred to formal titles Mr. , Mrs,. Ms., etc.)

My name is (__________) and I am (first/second/etc.) year student at the University of Minnesota.  I am interested in (mention your general career interests or specific discipline interests.). I hope to complete (UROP/URS/IUROP/Directed Research/volunteer) research opportunity. I would like to set up a meeting to discuss your research interests and possible opportunities for mentorship.

You can continue in this paragraph with any background experience you might have that might be relevant to this research and might attract Mentor’s attention.) I am interested in
because (state main reason(s) that attracted you to this scholar. Be concise.)
I would like to meet with you at your earliest convenience for a half hour conversation. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

[Your Full Name]