NASA’s Undergraduate Student Research Program (NASA-USRP) offers students from colleges and universities nationwide the opportunity to do hands-on theoretical and applied research with technical staff members at NASA Centers. Mentors play a critical role in the success of the program by making the students’ undergraduate research experiences rich and rewarding, coaching participants as they apply their classroom knowledge to new problems, and teaching the students skills, methods, and techniques. Serving as a mentor to a young scientist is an important role.
The NASA-USRP aims to provide a high quality research and educational experience for participants as well as a high quality research outcome. Students should become intellectual partners in the projects on which they work, and they should take ownership of a portion of the ongoing work in the mentor’s laboratory. The mentor’s role is to ensure that these goals are met.
Mentors must be concerned with the integrity of the work as well as the development of the student. They invite students into the community of researchers and scholars as colleagues, passing on the nature and culture of science or engineering to the next generation.
The purpose of this handbook is to provide encouragement and advice from experienced mentors to those who may be mentoring students for the first time through the NASA-USRP. We hope that this publication will reinforce their experiences and provide new insights into the mentoring enterprise, perhaps even for those technical staff members at the NASA centers who have had the opportunity to mentor undergraduate students.