A Look into the Mentorship Aspect of Science Research

It is that time of year again – the time where sophomores in science research must start the stressful and challenging search for a mentor. Read on to learn about this highly rewarding process and experience!

By Arianna Tabankin

As the third quarter comes to an end, a new task to conquer is thrust upon the Science Research Sophomores: mentors. In the Byram Hills Authentic Science Research Program, students study the topic of their choosing for three years, and in the middle of the first year, Sophomores are required to find a mentor to further assist them throughout the program. 

To begin, it is important to understand what being a mentor actually entails. These professionals must be in the students’ field of study, and mentorship consists of constant communication between the scientist and the student. Throughout Sophomore year, the mentor typically recommends articles to read to further the student’s understanding of their topic, and Junior year, mentors help students to design their own experiment, of which the work will most likely aid the scientist in his/her own research. To continue, in the summer of Junior year, the student will perform the experiment with the scientist, ending in Senior year where the mentor helps the student in composing a paper of their study that will be competed with at various competitions.

This intense mentor search begins after Sophomores complete their review guide – an accumulation and explanation of five articles pertaining to the student’s topic. The actual process of finding a mentor consists of researching people studying your field of research, although the search can be narrowed as they are typically stationed at a college or university. It can also be helpful to find someone by looking at the authors of the journal articles students have been reading. Students then compose emails to the people they find explaining the process of mentorship. Hopefully these scientists will respond, whether yes or no, and eventually students will find a professional who agrees to be their mentor! Mentorship is officially confirmed with a phone call involving the potential-mentor, student, and their teacher. 

As a member of Science Research myself, I am currently in the midst of the mentor search. It can be tough to have sent out emails to a number of people and receive no responses while your peers’ mentors are trickling in. As older students in the program and teachers have said, most people have had to contact over 10 people before finding their mentor. But this difficult and timely process is completely worthwhile, and Julia Lucchino describes receiving a mentor as “really exciting and a big relief and it felt like a huge weight had been lifted off of [her] shoulders.” 

This whole process is an exhilarating and highly rewarding experience. It is amazing to actually be communicating with the people who have authored articles you have read. Also, students learn a wide array of social skills, such as email composition, making professional phone calls, and interacting with others. Upon actually acquiring a mentor, it is an incredible feeling to be putting your scientific interests into action, for all students will be completing a tangible research project. Overall, mentorship makes science research evermore professional and gratifying. While it can be slightly stressful to search for scientists, as well as receive rejections, it is definitely a learning experience from which anyone can benefit. It allows us, as students, to grow and to develop, and it gives us valuable life skills no other program ever will.