A Friend in STEM


What is A Friend in STEM?

A Friend in STEM​ is a mentorship program that connects undergraduate students with scientist mentors at the University of Minnesota. As scientists, we know from experience that pursuing a career in STEM requires building a network of research and faculty mentors. However, we also realize that forming these connections can be difficult and intimidating. It is our goal through this program to leverage our experiences in graduate school and in labs at UMN to work for students - to help inform decisions about undergraduate research and support students if/when they choose to pursue graduate degrees. We believe that careers in STEM should be accessible to everyone and we hope that connecting with a Minnesota scientist will help students feel welcomed to this research community.

How does it work?

  • Fill out the mentor survey to be added to our list of mentors. You can be a graduate student, postdoc, staff scientist, faculty...if you are doing STEM research at University of Minnesota and you want to help, you can sign up to be a mentor. Please be specific about your experience, current research project goals, methods, and the significance of your work.

  • We will pair students with mentors three times throughout the semester: March 1st, April 1st, and May 1st

  • If you are paired with a student, you will receive a notification email from friendinstem@umn.edu. This email will also include information about your mentee.

  • Please contact your student within 2 weeks of our email to set up a meeting over Zoom.

  • Prior to meeting with your student, we recommend checking in with them about their goals and interests, so that you can prepare materials/resources for your first meeting.

Program Goals

  1. Provide support and mentorship to undergraduate students pursuing careers in STEM/research, especially prioritizing support for underrepresented minorities in STEM (including international/low income/first generation/BIPOC/LGBTQ+ students of all genders)

  2. Provide personalized support, specific to a student’s unique needs and interests in the current moment

  3. Create a structure that is achievable for both researchers and students

Frequently Asked Questions

Will all mentors be paired with students?

We do our best to pair students with mentors that have similar interests and career goals. We cannot guarantee that all mentors will be paired with students. Usually there is a surplus of mentors.

What is the time commitment for Friend in STEM?

Friend in STEM does not have a requirement for number or frequency of meetings for mentors and mentees. We leave it up to you and the student to figure out what works best and what is needed to achieve the student’s goals. It is our hope that this freedom will allow you and the student to decide how much time each of you is willing/able to invest. Some students would just like to meet once as an “informational interview” while others meet periodically with their mentors or even begin working in the lab of their mentor.

What if my student doesn’t respond to my emails?

Please let us know if you cannot get a hold of your student. If that is the case, we will attempt to contact them again. In the case that students do not respond, we will open you up to be a mentor for another student.

What if I get too busy and can’t meet with my student?

We understand that the life of a scientist can be stressful and busy. Please let us know if you would like to withdraw yourself from being a mentor so we can pair that student with another mentor.

Do you provide any mentoring resources for us?

We recognize that many of our mentors have previous experience with mentoring and therefore, we do not have a required mentoring information session.

There is great information about mentoring found at the Center for Translational Medicine if you are interested in learning more about mentoring. There is also a newly launched podcast called The Science of Mentorship from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

Additionally, A Friend in STEM is hosting an informal Q&A session on February 19th, 2021* for those who would like more information about the program and/or mentorship in general. This meeting will feature several individuals who have been mentors with A Friend in STEM in the past, and can speak in more detail about how they were able to support their mentees.

What if I have other questions?

Please feel free to send any additional questions to friendinstem@umn.edu

Mentorship Expectations

  • Contact your student within 1 week after our email.

  • After initial email contact, set up a Zoom meeting with the student.

  • Be prepared to provide whatever guidance the student is seeking. This may include helping them pick a lab, draft an email to faculty, or just encouragement!

  • Future meetings/contact decided based on goals determined by mentor and student.

  • Check in with students 3-5 months after initial contact (or at the end of the semester) to see how they’re doing and if they need any additional guidance!

  • You will be paired with one student/semester (dependent on the number of students requesting mentorship).

    • This doesn’t mean that we intend for mentor:mentee relationships to end/begin within a semester time period - the longevity of these contacts will be up to you and the student!

  • At the end of each semester, we will send out a survey to collect the following information:

    • Are you willing to be paired with an additional student next semester?

    • What worked? What didn’t work?

Mentorship Guidelines

Before your first meeting

During your first meeting

  • Help the student set tangible goals (even if they’re small!) Plan to meet to discuss how things went.

  • Let students tell you what they need - listen first, then give advice!

  • Allow space for the students’ experiences to be different from your own.

    • When in doubt, ask if your advice is helpful or applicable.

    • Encourage them to follow their intuition.

  • If students are interested in pursuing undergraduate research, be honest with them about the realities of this work environment.

    • Discuss what healthy mentor/mentee relationships look like.

    • Discuss what healthy lab environments look like.

    • Discuss how to get paid for undergraduate research (see the Resources list on the Student page of this website).


Resources for intentional, inclusive, and uplifting mentorship:

Resources for your Mentees:

COVID-19 Mentorship Recommendations

  • Meet over Zoom.

  • Encourage students to email professors about future research opportunities, affording the possibility that in person research may not be available to undergraduates this semester (lab dependent) .

    • Encourage students to ask PIs if they can meet over zoom with lab members to learn more about their research and possible dry-lab projects.

  • Invite interested students to other relevant zoom events. (Remember to offer guidance or provide the opportunity for them to ask questions afterwards if students are unfamiliar with these sorts of meetings!)

    • Lab meetings

    • Journal clubs

    • Seminars