Tips for finding a faculty research mentor

The final step in finding a research opportunity is connecting with a faculty member to discuss your opportunity and research of interest further.

Many research experiences—including the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), directed research, and employment in a university lab—require a faculty mentor to supervise your project(s). Here are some resources and tips for finding the right faculty mentor and reaching out to connect. 

Identify a faculty mentor

Be thoughtful about the types of research you are interested in and the professor you decide to contact. You do not have to work with a faculty member in your major or even in your college.

  • Choose a few potential faculty members that you might like to work with. You can start on the department website and scroll through the list of faculty. Learn more on the CSE directories web page.
  • Another great place to look is the Experts@Minnesota website. Search concepts/keywords you want to study and you will get a list of University of Minnesota faculty working on that topic. Make a list of potential faculty members to approach—because not everyone can take on a new student.
  • The U of M Office of Undergraduate Research has resources that can help you identify potential faculty members. Learn more on the Office of Undergraduate Research web page.
  • Ask your professors, TAs, and staff to recommend mentors and labs.
  • If you're interested in working with one of your current professors, simply ask them after class about opportunities to be involved in their lab.

How to reach out to a professor

  • Do your homework: Once you find a few faculty members you're interested in, read a couple of their recent publications, look at their LinkedIn profile, or scan through their research website. You can find this information under "faculty profile" on the Experts@Minnesota website or on the faculty member's department webpage.
  • Email: Introduce yourself, share why you're interested in their research, and ask if you can set up a brief meeting to discuss their potential undergraduate research opportunities. Try to avoid sending your email during busy times such as the beginning or end of the semester. You can use the example email below as your guide.
  • In-person: Approach current or former professors, or their TAs, in your classes. Let them know you are interested in their research and ask the best way to learn more about opportunities in their lab.
  • Departmental specific resources: Some departments advertise specific research opportunities or have interest forms to connect students with research opportunities.

Many faculty will ask you to send a Resume or CV in advance of a meeting. Check out CSE Career Services Resume Guide for tips and samples, and consider meeting with a career counselor for a resume review. 

If there’s no response to your email within two weeks, send a follow up email. If there’s still no response, don’t get disheartened. Faculty are very busy with teaching and research and sometimes don't have the time to get back to every student who inquires about working with them, especially if they are not currently looking for more undergraduate student researchers. Keep trying with other faculty. 

Faculty mentor email template

Subject:  Meeting to discuss undergraduate research opportunities in topic

Dear Dr./Professor Last Name,

I am a year student majoring in major. List how you found out about the professor's research. Express your interest in specific paper or topic. I would appreciate the chance to talk with you about your research in topic of interest and about possible undergraduate opportunities in your lab.

My experience in research experience or class confirms my intention to develop my research skills and goal. I know you are very busy, however I would like to schedule an appointment or drop by your office hours. I’m available on days at times.

I have attached my resume and unofficial transcript. Please let me know if there is any other information I can provide. I look forward to talking to you soon.



Meeting with faculty

Once you schedule your appointment with a professor, here are some things to remember to do during your meeting:

  • Treat this meeting like a job interview (dress appropriately, come with your own questions, etc).
  • Let the professors know why you're interested in their research. Share specific examples if you can!
  • Communicate your availability and time commitment (hours per week and semesters).
  • Ask questions. Demonstrate your knowledge of the material and your interest in the opportunity.