For Mentors

This program is funded in-part by the National Science Foundation, and we aim to improve student retention in the STEM fields by providing high-quality research experiences for undergraduate students. The focus of this program is to broaden diversity in the sciences, particularly by increasing the number of women, underrepresented minorities, and persons with disabilities in research. The summer internship program entails students completing an entire research project, working full-time (40 hrs/week) for 10 weeks from mid-June to mid-August. If your project is selected for funding and you become a mentor, you will have a budget for field and lab supplies to use. The time commitment associated with this program is somewhat substantial, especially given the nature of the program. However, based on past accounts, this experience is very rewarding and can help mentors develop very important mentoring and collaboration skills.

Summary of Mentor Expectations

  • Mentoring can be an incredibly rewarding experience that will help you build your skills as a scientist, educator, and communicator. However, being an effective mentor requires substantial thought and time investment before, during, and after the program. Because of this, we require ALL graduate students to discuss and have approval from their advisors before applying to mentor an REU intern. 
  • If you are selected to mentor an REU intern, you will be responsible for interviewing and selecting your student in February. However, you must select a student supports the goals of our program.
    • To ensure the goals of our program are clear, and to answer any questions, we require all selected mentors to attend a short training session in early February, prior to interviewing their intern.
  • You are expected to work closely with your student every day during the program and at all stages of the research project, including:
    • Understanding the literature related to the hypotheses
    • Developing hypotheses and designing the experiment
    • Collecting and analyzing data
    • Producing a final poster and short presentation
  • Your REU student will mentor a College First student for 6 weeks in July and August, and you will also be expected to help your REU student navigate this process. This includes attending a training session provided by the College First program with your REU student.
  • We hope that you will continue to engage with your intern after they return to their home university. This includes (but is not limited to):
    • Engaging them in the process of writing a peer-reviewed manuscript 
    • Helping them present their poster at a conference (ideally one you attend with them)
    • Helping them build on their research as part of a senior honors thesis or independent study
       

NSF-REU Funded Summer Undergraduate Intern Selection Process

  1. All undergraduate students will select their top 3 projects when they submit their application. The ten projects that receive REU students is based on:
    • Preference is given to mentors who demonstrate a willingness to help us work towards the program’s objective of selecting and mentoring students from underrepresented groups
    • Number of applicants that select each project in their top 3
    • Average ranking of the project
    • Preference is given to projects directly mentored by graduate students
    • Positive previous mentoring experiences with our program
       
  2. If your project is selected to receive an NSF-funded summer REU intern, you will receive further instructions on interviewing the applicants using our online application page. You will be encouraged to consider all priority students for the position. We recommend conducting interviews as soon as possible (in February), as the best candidates will have applied to numerous NSF-REU programs and will be hired quickly. 
  3. Once interviews are over, you are responsible for offering the position to your top student. We recommend providing a few days for them to let you know whether they will take the position, and this will allow you to offer the position to someone else if they decline.
  4. Once a student has accepted you will be responsible for notifying all other students that you interviewed that they have not been selected for your project. You should remind these students that if they were interviewed by another mentor they might still be considered for that position. Details of how to do this will be given at the appropriate time.
  5. When all 10 students are hired and all projects are filled, all other applicants will be notified.
  6. Once a student is hired, most logistical questions regarding housing, transportation, etc., will be handled by the Coordinator of Undergraduate Programs, and questions relating to those topics can be directed to them. However, we recommend that you maintain communication with your student prior to their arrival to answer questions about the project and provide relevant background papers to the student in preparation for their involvement in the project.
  7. If this is your first time mentoring an undergraduate student, you will be required to take a one-day mentoring workshop at Northwestern in the spring.

BEFORE STUDENTS ARRIVE

Requesting an intern

If you are interested in having a student this academic year, you will need to submit a short (1 paragraph) project description, with pictures, to the PBC Internships website. The deadline for this is early December.

We ask that all graduate students discuss their summer project application with their advisor, and expect that advisors will be involved with at least some oversight aspects of the project during the summer.

First-year MS students are highly encouraged to mentor undergraduate interns during their first summer. We realize that many will still be developing their thesis projects at this time, so it is perfectly fine for descriptions to be quite general, although we will expect that they become more specific as plans develop for summer work.

  • To register as a potential mentor:
    • Please create an account on the website: https://app.chicagobotanicinternships.org/
    • New mentors must select "Mentor submitting intern request"
    • Once you have created an account, we will confirm your registration online
  • If you have been a mentor in previous years: 
    • You do not need to re-register
    • You can login with your previous username and password, Facebook, Google, or Twitter account
    • You should check with us to see if your account is still active 
      • If not, we will reinstate you

Selecting an Intern

The level of experience with scientific inquiry and methods among REU applicants will vary substantially. Because our program is judged on how effectively we provide NEW research experiences for students that would otherwise not have access to them, we expect you to select students that have a demonstrated interest in the field, but not necessarily the kind of experience that will allow them to conduct their research relatively independently. Therefore, it is likely that your student will require a fairly hands-on approach from you during the summer, at least initially.

We hope that you will view this as an opportunity to pass on very useful skills to that student. 

DURING THE PROGRAM

Time Commitment

REU student interns are expected to work approximately 40 hours a week (~8AM-4PM daily)

Their time can be allocated as you see fit and can vary depending on the task for any particular day: lab work, field work, etc.

We expect that you will discuss schedules with your student regularly and be present when they need you

  • Mentors are directly responsible for the projects
  • You will be expected to work closely with your student during all stages of the research project
  •  Developing questions/hypotheses,
    • Collecting data 
    • Analyzing that data
    • Publicizing the results in the form of a final scientific poster or presentation

Mentorship

We are expecting that you and your undergraduate intern mentor a high school student from the Garden’s College First (CF) Program.

The CF students will be at the Garden twice a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays from about 9AM to 3PM) for eight weeks. These high school students come from various Chicago Public High Schools, the goal of this program is to develop college preparation and provide career mentorship, as well as to foster interest in plant biology and conservation.

The summer intern will serve as the primary mentor to the CF student; however, you are expected to be involved in their project and help the summer intern develop their own mentoring skills.Ultimately, we will expect that mentors are checking to ensure that both the CF and summer interns are progressing on their projects appropriately

  • CF students will develop their own mini-projects within the scope of your project
  • They will give their own presentations on their aspect of the project shortly after the end of the program

Conduct Expectations

Both REU and CF students are asked to sign a document that outlines expectations and causes for dismissal prior to beginning the program.  In the event of a situation which any disciplinary action may be required, mentors are encouraged to first discuss possible solutions with their student directly. However, in cases where this is not possible or productive, the REU & CF Program Coordinators are available to mediate any issues. 

After the Program

We hope that you will continue to engage with your intern after they return to their home university.

  • Mentor projects should lead to a potentially publishable unit with co-authorship for the intern. Involve the student in the process of writing a peer-reviewed manuscript. An important component of the scientific process is publishing results, many students in the past have co-authored papers, and this is a great way to end the program and further their professional development! It also improves our likelihood of success for future NSF REU funding.
  • Some students may also choose to attend a conference to present their poster (ideally a conference that you are also able to attend and help them navigate)
  • Build on their research with you as part of a senior honors thesis or independent study