Tips for Research Mentors

Thanks so much for agreeing to be a mentor!

The goal of the joint Columbia/Barnard Thesis Research Seminar is to provide a framework for the students to conduct guided, independent, in-depth research culminating in the senior essay. We meet weekly to biweekly  to review work in progress and share results through oral and written reports. All senior majors are required  to write a senior thesis and participate in the Environmental Science Senior Resreach Seminar. The senior seminar can be taken in the fall/spring sequence of the senior year, or in the sequence spring (junior year)/fall (senior year). The goal of the first semester is to write a thesis proposal, that of the second to complete the thesis. We strongly encourage students to consider a summer internship between junior and senior semester.

More information about the senior seminar can be found on the course web site.
    Your role as research mentor is to advise the student on the science project he/she is conducting with you. Please give instructions in writing. This will make it much easier for the student and will save you a lot of time in the long run. If it is not possible to make up written instructions beforehand,  ask the student to type up the instructions  and email them back to you.

    If the student will be working with hazardous materials, make sure that she/he is properly attired and instructed. If your department offers a lab safety course, please sign her/him up for it at the beginning of her/his time with you.

    Make sure that the student leaves information with you on how to contact her/him by email and by phone. You should also let the student know your contact information, email, phone, etc. If you are planning to be away, please leave written instructions for the student. If there is someone else that the student can consult when you are away, please let him/her know.

    Make sure that the student understands the overall goal of her/his part of the research.

    All students will be taking the senior seminar for 3 credits in the fall and spring. This translates into a time commitment of 9 hours a week in the fall and spring semester.

    The student will be writing a ~20 page proposal in their first semester in the spring and a ~45 page paper in their second semester in the fall. The spring semester proposal is expected to contain the rationale for the project, background material, an analysis of data collected up to that point, and a statement of scientific problems that are still remaining. The fall semester paper is expected to be written like a standard scientific paper with the following sections: abstract, introduction, methods, research results, discussion of research results, conclusions, figures, figure captions, and references cited. We would like you to read these papers and comment on them. In the first semester, an outline of the thesis proposal will be due to you and their seminar advisor, two drafts of the proposal will be due in the middle of the semester, and the final draft is due the end of the semester (see schedule).  They adhere to a similar schedule in their second semester. Your comments on each document should be sent to  the student who will discuss them with her/his seminar advisor. At the end of the semester, you will also be consulted about a grade (see expectations).

    Some students may be interested in working with you on a publication. Students are also encouaged to present their work at scientific meetings, travel fund can be applied for through the Earth Institute, for example.

    If you encounter difficulties that cannot be resolved in one-on-one meetings, feel free to contact the student's seminar advisor.