Undergraduates may require more direction and focus than graduate students. They need a clearly stated goal, a timeline of expectations, and a suggested first means to achieve the goal. Some students will be able to take ownership of a project sooner than others, depending upon the level of their laboratory skills and experience. The student should acquire some insight into what a career in research would entail, from the actual hands-on daily use and care of instrumentation and equipment to the planning and discussions required to perform complicated and sometimes interdisciplinary research.
The technical training in the field of research is expected, and will not be addressed in detail here. Skills that should be taught through the course of the project, and that are ultimately more important for the development of the student, are based on establishing the proper mentality and methods for doing science. These skills include learning to
- Plan a day's experiments
- Collect data
- Analyze data
- Interpret data
- Read and interpret the literature
- Write reports or document progress
- Communicate results, thought processes, and plans.
During the last week of the student's program: Be sure to clarify what the student needs to do before his or her final departure.
- Have you received and approved the written report?
- Has the student completed his or her lab books?
- Has the student cleaned up the lab space?
- Has he or she completed required surveys?
- Have you left the student with a means of keeping lines of communication open for future mentoring (email, phone, address)?
- Talk about other ways students can become involved with NASA Centers before or after graduation.