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How do you mentor undergraduates as a graduate student?

The undergraduate students in the lab are usually assigned to a project under the direct supervision of a post-doc for the most part, sometimes a more senior graduate student. Learning how to supervise is just as important long-term for our career as learning to do research independently, write papers, review papers, etc. Fresh students who haven’t the foggiest notion of what we’re doing and ask very interesting questions helped to train in how to communicate science effectively, especially to someone who is outside the area of expertise.
Most of the grad students were also mentoring 1 or 2 undergrads. The undergrads sometimes worked on their own spinoff project for an undergrad thesis, other times it was more of a housekeeping project around the lab (organizing files, building webpages, formatting datasets. Most of the students started when they were sophomores, and there was a constantly line of students at our doors wanting to work with because it’s a happy lab. Many of the undergrads wrote their own first-authored papers with the grad students and advisor as co-authors. The advisor had meetings with undergrads as a group so they can practice their presenting skills or all discuss a new paper for a method trying in the lab that they would be messing with. Grad students met with advisor when needed, and had total group meetings every now and then.
Some of the grad students were not good for mentoring students because their own projects were all over the place, or they were busy taking classes. Others were stressed at the thought of having to train and trust undergrads with their material. They had an awesome lab manager who did most of the up front training, determined who was good at what, and then the students are turned loose to see what happens. Our advisor mostly picked who was going to work with who based on what the students’ interests were and personality.

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How do you mentor undergraduates as a graduate student?

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