Student researchers conducting water research in a stream.

The BESST Program

The Building Emerging STEM Scholars of Tomorrow (BESST) Mentorship program is a 2-year program for STEM students interested in gaining authentic research experience. The program is open to underrepresented STEM students in their third and fourth year and provides research experience and professional development. Students are paid an hourly wage to work as a research assistant with a faculty or staff mentor, complete a monthly professional development activity and attend the monthly professional development workshops.


Application opens: 04/22/24

Priority Deadline: 05/26/24

Notified Acceptance Status: 06/10/24

The BESST Mentorship Program provides research experiences for students with Federal Work Study during their last two years at KU and supports their overall transition into internships, graduate school, and careers. Students are paid $15/hour to work with a research faculty or staff member as a research assistant and participate in monthly professional development activities. 

Students are required to have a $4500 Federal Work Study award (students with lesser awards will be considered). BESST students are studying a STEM discipline such as geology, biology, chemistry, math, engineering, and more. No prior research experience is required, just an interest in research and learning something new!

Incoming BESST Students are expected to:  

Attend the program orientation that will take place during the first week of the fall semester. All participants will sign a BESST Mentorship Program Participation Contract at the program orientation. 

Attend the paid monthly professional development sessions through the Center for Undergraduate Research which are scheduled at the beginning of the month in September, October, November, December, February, March, and April. 

Complete paid monthly activities on Canvas which are due at the end of the month. 

Work at least 8 hours per week, not to exceed 10 hours per week (on average), as a research assistant for a faculty or research staff member for the fall and spring semesters (August through May). All positions are entry level and do not require previous research experience. 

Maintain consistent and professional communications with their research mentor and the BESST Mentorship Program staff. We expect students to respond to emails or phone calls within 48 hours.

To be eligible to apply, you must be a degree-seeking, third-year (Junior or graduating within 18-24 months) student who is or will be enrolled full-time (12 credit hours) at KU for the Fall 2024 semester. 

BESST Students must have accepted a $4,500 Federal Work-Study (FWS) Award (lesser awards will be considered) for the upcoming academic year at KU: If you're not sure whether you've accepted an FWS award you can check your financial aid in Enroll & Pay. If you would like to see if you are eligible and add Federal Work-Study to your financial aid package, please email Zach Puckett at

Once a student has been notified of their acceptance to the program, they will need to apply for their BESST Research Assistant job through KU's Human Resources Employment System. A resume or cover letter are not required.  

It is strongly recommended that incoming BESST Students apply for their job as soon as possible. Online job application submissions will be completed by August 1st. 

Students will use their KU email address for their job application. 

Steps of the job application process: 

  1. Students accepted to the program will be sent the offer to participate in the BESST Mentorship Program. They will need to formally accept or decline the offer to participate in the program. 

  1. The job application information will be provided once a student has formally accepted their offer of participation.  

  1. They will start the job application and complete the background check. 

  1. Next, applicants will complete onboarding paperwork which will consist of the W-4, direct deposit, etc. 

  1. Once they finish the onboarding paperwork, they will meet virtually with the Human Resources Shared Service Center (SSC) representative for the Center to verify I-9 documents. IMPORTANT: Employees must provide documentation to show their identity and authorization to work. Please review the I-9 Acceptable Documents List

  • Please bring the applicable I-9 documents to campus. 

  • Important: If you have never held a position on campus or with the State of Kansas, you will need to bring your social security card for state of Kansas employee verification and to verify how to correctly spell your name for HRPay

For more information about the hiring process, visit the Onboarding FAQs webpage. 

If you have questions about the BESST Mentorship Program, please email Caleb Latas at

In the first year of the program, professional development content focuses on academic and research development and applying for internships. In the second year of the program, the professional development content has two tracks: applying to graduate school and career preparation to enter the workforce. Depending on the students anticipated next step following graduation, students will follow either track. 

Fourth-year BESST students will continue to work as research assistants either with their same mentor or have the opportunity to work with a new research faculty or staff mentor.