Mentored Research Full Size.jpgBack to School: How to Get Involved in Mentored Research

Danielle C. Leavitt

Let’s consider the effect of a mentor for a moment.

First, mentoring helps prepare students for prestigious graduate programs and top career opportunities. Think about it: how many professors or CEOs do you know that got there on their own? Even Aristotle had a mentor. Students who participate in mentored research stand out from other students and have greater opportunities to publish, present and excel in their fields. Professional opportunities and internships become more readily available when you’re connected with faculty. Behind all that, there are few academic relationships that will prove to be more meaningful than a professor-student mentoring relationship. Mentored learning may involve a myriad of experiences: study abroad, service projects, internships or studies—anything where environments are clearly learning-centered and engage BYU faculty. The point is that greatness has to begin somewhere.

That’s why BYU sponsors a handful of structured programs that will help you pave a pathway in the research world. One of the greatest ways to find a mentor is to get involved in research. Perhaps you have a class that requires that you complete a research project. Perhaps a faculty member has selected you to assist with their research. Maybe you even have a particular idea of your own you are interested in researching. Specific mentored research programs available in the College of Family, Home, and Social Science are the Mary Lou Fulton Poster Conference and ORCA Grants.

The Mary Lou Fulton Poster Conference invites undergraduate and graduate students to participate in its annual conference sponsored by the Mary Lou Fulton Endowed Chair. The conference, a full day event, is designed to showcase mentored student learning. It is an opportunity for students to present and explain their research to the public. Students from all departments in the college are encouraged to participate by preparing a poster illustrating the hypothesis, process and results of their research.

In 2011, the conference had 430 student participants, 94 faculty mentors and 213 different posters—filling the entire Wilkinson Center Ballroom. “Most universities wouldn’t believe what is happening here,” said Samuelson in response to the 2010 poster conference. “[Mentoring] is some of the most effective and wonderful teaching there is.”

Research can be completed in one-on-one or small group mentoring with faculty. If you’re on your own but want to get involved, search for a faculty member that shares your interest and see if they are willing to guide your project. The deadline for poster submission is Monday, March 26, 2012 at 12:00 noon. For more information go to ORCA grants are cash allotment grants offered to help undergraduate students work with faculty in a one-on-one mentoring setting. Students can use their ORCA grant to reimburse time, supplies and/or other expenses involved with conducting an academic project, and they may either design their own project or work on a professor's ongoing research. In order to apply, you must find a faculty mentor and fill out the online application, which includes a two-page proposal articulating the project and plan.

In order to receive funding through an ORCA grant, proposals are reviewed by two professors from the mentor's college. Applicants are ranked within their college and are not compared to students in other fields. Ranking is based on how well developed and articulated the proposal is, whether the stated hypothesis or creative focus has merit and will be a meaningful contribution to the student's area of study, whether the methodology is appropriate to the hypothesis and/or creative focus, how great the applicant's potential for accomplishing the proposed project is, and how strong the mentoring relationship appears to be. For strong proposals, ORCA recommends two things: First, find the right mentor. Look for a mentor now, and talk to professors about their research and seek those who share your academic interests. Don't try to find a mentor at the last minute. Second, write a strong proposal. Start your proposal early. Write and edit several drafts and have your mentor review it multiple times.

For more information on ORCA grants and how to apply, visit or call 801-422-3841.