Natural History Museum building at sunrise.

Undergraduate Research Mentor Award

The Undergraduate Research Mentor Award recognizes the contribution that research faculty, staff, postdoctoral researchers and graduate student mentors make to a successful undergraduate research experience.

Nominations Due: TBD

Research mentors are nominated through a two-part process: students, faculty, or staff submit recommendations for a mentor to be considered for the award, then the mentor's supervisor submits an application packet.

The award recipient must be a KU Lawrence Campus staff member or graduate student at the time of nomination. This can include research faculty, staff, instructors, postdoctoral researchers, and graduate students.  Anyone who mentors undergraduate researchers on projects outside of the classroom is eligible, regardless of the department.  Past recipients of the award are not eligible. 

Note: tenure-track & tenured faculty members are not eligible for this award, and should instead be nominated for the K. Barbara Schowen Undergraduate Research Mentor Award.

Though they may not meet all of the criteria listed below, these awardees typically:

  • establish expectations clearly
  • actively and effectively guide students' research, creative projects, and development, helping them to move from directed toward independent research and creative work
  • maintain high standards for undergraduate performance
  • encourage students to share the results of their work as appropriate to the discipline (e.g., meetings, conferences, exhibits, performances, publications)
  • actively prepare students for success in applications to future careers and/or graduate and professional schools
  • actively encourage and support the participation of students from underrepresented backgrounds in undergraduate research
  • go above and beyond the average mentoring expectations for people in that department or at that stage in their career

Based on criteria from Binghamton University.

Writing a letter:

If your mentor's supervisor decides to put together a full nomination packet, they will contact you to write a full letter of recommendation for the nomination packet.  These recommendation letters are typically 1-2 pages.  Here are some tips to make your recommendation letter stand out:

Be specific:

Recommendation letters tend to have a lot of broad sentences along the lines of "this mentor cares about their students."  Being specific and providing examples can help your letter stand out.  Show your reader how your mentor excels rather than just stating that they do.  For example, writing something along the lines of "my mentor always asks about my family at our meetings, they texted me to make sure that I was okay when I was out sick for an entire week, and they always stop by to say hello when they see me in the lab" provides a much clearer picture of what your mentor actually does to show that they care about their students. Really strong letters give clear glimpses into how the mentor interacts with their students on a day-to-day level and help the committee "see" the work of mentoring through specific examples.

Address the evaluation criteria: 

The review committee is looking for examples of specific things when they read the nomination packet.  A good starting point for your letter would be to look at the evaluation criteria listed on this website and write down any examples of these criteria from your interactions with your mentor.  When you write the draft of your letter, it can help to use the same or similar language in your letter to make sure the review committee makes a connection between your example and the evaluation criteria.

Supervisors can nominate a mentor for the award by following the guidelines below.  For the purpose of this award, supervisors are defined as anyone who oversees the nominee and can speak to the person's efforts related to the mentoring of undergraduate researchers, such as a faculty PI or an employee's direct supervisor.

Consider who you might nominate. 

The Center for Undergraduate Research has collected student recommendations for mentors to be considered for the award and, as of February 22, 2021, has forwarded these to the mentor’s supervisor.  After this, supervisors can decide who they would like to nominate; if appropriate, supervisors are allowed to nominate more than one person.  Supervisors can nominate anyone, regardless of whether that person was officially recommended through our online form.

Compile an application packet. 

Nomination packets should include:

  • a letter of nomination from the supervisor that addresses how the nominee fulfills the evaluation criteria.  If you are nominating a staff member, please include whether that person works a full-time or part-time position and the degree to which undergraduate research mentoring is an expected part of that role.
  • a list of undergraduates mentored by the nominee, along with a brief (1-3 sentences) description of the research/creative accomplishments of each student (e.g. completion of a thesis, presentations, juried art exhibitions, awards, etc.).  Note: it is normal for many graduate students to only have one student on this list; this is expected for mentors at this phase in their career and will not count against the nomination.
  • at least one letter of support from a current or former undergraduate student.
    • Additionally, supervisors can include letters of support from alumni, graduate students, or faculty members, as well as any other materials that document the mentor's commitment to undergraduate research.
    • The person who is assembling the nomination packet typically contacts the nominee to let them know that they are being nominated and to get relevant information.

Submit your nomination.

Email a single nomination packet in PDF form to by March 23, 2021.

YearNameHome Department
2021Phil DuncanLinguistics
2020Romana JarosovaChemistry
2019Pamela JohnsonBioengineering
2018Andrew MongueEcology & Evolutionary Biology
2017Maria EiflerKU Biodiversity Institute
2016Eric WelchJewish Studies Program
2015Carla HarperEcology & Evolutionary Biology
2014Rachel BowesEcology & Evolutionary Biology