For Potential BESST Mentors

The BESST Mentorship program connects third and fourth-year STEM Federal Work Study, with STEM research faculty and staff who will serve as mentors and supervise them in research projects. The goal of this initiative is to involve low-income and underrepresented students in the research and creative process and help prepare them for careers or graduate school. This exposure to research fosters a valuable academic experience for students. 

Research mentors interested in mentoring a BESST Student must attend one of our day-long mentorship training workshops. These workshops are open to approximately 20 participants per session. Student enrollment determines how many positions are available to participate in the BESST Mentorship Program initially. The BESST Mentorship program will continue through the 2027-28 academic year and each year there will be opportunities for additional BESST Mentors to be trained and partnered with BESST Students. 

In addition to the training BESST Mentors must submit a research description. This does not have to be a formal job description but can describe the type of research and work that a BESST Student would perform. 

Here is how the job placement process works: 

Potential mentors fill out a brief survey in which they will sign up for the training and submit job descriptions for the Fall 2024-Spring 2025 academic year. The mentor application is closed for the 2023-2024 academic year, but make sure to check back for the 2024-2025 academic year.  

The next training is February 22 and 23, 2024. This training is split over two days. You must attend a four-hour training either in the morning or afternoon of the 22nd and then again on the 23rd. A full-day training will be available on April 25th, 2024.

Students applying to the BESST Mentorship Program will rank which positions they are most interested in, and the BESST staff will place students into positions based on student interest over the summer.  

If matched with a student, the mentor will attend an orientation to the BESST Mentorship Program in August to meet the student and make sure it is a good fit. If so, the mentor will then orient and mentor the student in the research project throughout the academic year (Fall 2024-Spring 2025).  

Research mentors should have enough work for a student to work between 8 to 10 hours/week. There is no cost to the mentor or academic department for the student's wage, as that will be covered through either the student's Federal Work Study award or BESST Mentorship Program. 

Mentors should indicate on the job description form if the position will be remote, in-person, or hybrid.

Your project should be designed to be completed by a BESST Student working on the project approximately 8 to 10 hours per week during the academic year (Fall 2023-Spring 2024). Students are not expected to work during scheduled academic breaks (I.e. winter break, spring break, fall break). It can be part of a larger project, a pilot project, or be designed to provide preliminary data for future research or creative projects.  While some tasks performed by BESST Students may be fairly basic, the idea is that the student is included in the intellectual work of research; BESST Student positions should move students towards this level of intellectual engagement over the course of the year. 

To submit a job description, fill out the BESST Mentors form.  Keep in mind that not all BESST Students will have research experience prior to entering the program, so tasks should be at an entry-level and the description should be written in accessible language. However, some students may have been a part of the Emerging Scholars or other student research programs in their first and second years and will have some research experience. Research projects should also be flexible in making sure that they provide further development for students with research experience. 


Based on previous experience, here are some tips for writing a good job description.  The goal is to make these job descriptions accessible and exciting to potential BESST Students, yet at the same time we also want to make sure that the description is specific enough so the student understands the work that would be involved and would be a good fit for your position. 

Use simple language:  

To appeal to the typical student applying for this program, write your job description as you would a TED talk: avoid jargon, keep it simple, and emphasize the broad appeal and value of your project. 

Describe the nature of the work:  

Try to give the student a clear picture of the type of work that they would be doing in this position.  As much as possible, we want the student to understand what they are getting into to make sure this position is a good fit.  Provide specific details about the tasks that the student would do as well as the general dispositions that would make a student well-suited toward a position.   

Clearly state deal-breakers:  

Make sure you clearly state any scheduling requirements or qualifications that would be a deal-breaker for a student to succeed in your position, such as that they need to be available for 3-hour blocks of time during the day; we don't want a student signing up for a position that won't work for them. Projects are not allowed to have required courses but BESST Mentors may include recommended courses to help students identify which research projects would be a good fit for them.   

One example: 

"The ideal student for this project is excited to learn about evolutionary biology and animal behavior.  The student will need to have a set schedule each week, though the exact schedule is flexible. The student must be available during regular working hours for at least four two-hour blocks a week, but fewer, longer blocks are good as well.  The student must have attention to detail, be organized and be willing to ask questions.  The student will need to do some problem solving and troubleshooting because the experiments to be done have never been done before.  The experiments are not technically difficult, but may require some thought, as well as trial and error, to be executed properly.  The student will need to be persistent and not easily discouraged.   This project does not require any field specific knowledge or experience.  All that is needed is a willingness to try. Recommended courses are: BIOL 412, and laboratory or fieldwork Biology course." 

General Tips 

While having students work as research assistants is common in some disciplines, in others it may take some creative thinking to think of ways that an undergraduate might assist you on your own research/creative work. To get ideas about what types of tasks an undergraduate might do as a BESST Student, ask yourself these questions: 

Are there elements of your research that would require relatively few skills to get started, but would benefit from lots of hands? 

Do you have any side-projects to your research that a student could take on?  If the project takes off, it would contribute to your research, but if it doesn’t, it wouldn’t negatively affect your research. 

Are there parts of your research that you could delegate to students? 

What checks could you bring into the process to ensure that the student contributions are of high quality?  

Reading secondary sources: 

  • Starting and maintaining a Zotero/Endnote Library for the project or faculty member 

  • Zotero/Endnote training through the library (contact: Paul Thomas, library specialist, )  

  • Begin Zotero/Endnote library from previously published papers by the faculty member 

  • Conduct literature search and add to Zotero/Endnote 

  • Reading notes 

  • Create and share a reading notes template that includes information that will be helpful for you to have at a quick glance. 

  • Decide on organization system for reading notes (for example, uploading onto shared drive or into Endnote). 

  • Have students start with your articles and pieces foundational to the project 

  • Students can then search for their own articles and add to your database 

  • Have them use Google Scholar to build on the literature you’ve already gathered for a project 

  • Google Scholar training video 

  • Have them work with the “cited by” function to see what recent scholarship you may need to add to your project 

  • Have the student complete reading notes for the articles or books they’ve found 

Exploring a new area of research: 

  • Have student explore an area of research new to you 

  • Explain general topic to student and give any papers or leads that you have to start with 

  • Have student do internet/database research to identify major researchers/papers/themes 

  • Have student meet with faculty from other departments/areas of expertise 

  • Have student write a memo giving a summary of this area of research 

All KU faculty and staff (research scientists, academic staff, etc.) who conduct STEM research are eligible to mentor students through the BESST Mentorship Program. Research staff should get permission from their supervisor/PI before submitting a job description. We would like to have a diverse set of positions available (faculty, research staff, survey staff, ...) across all STEM departments for students, so we encourage all to sign up for training.  Though graduate students may end up working with students, they are not eligible to apply to be the primary mentor of a BESST Student. 

Once you are matched with a student, we ask that you orient the student to the project and provide training. While you may have a graduate student or research assistant working with the BESST Student on a day-to-day basis, the faculty member is expected to assume the primary responsibility for ensuring that the student has a high-quality experience. 

Mentoring a BESST Student includes: 

  • Schedule their time and provide around 8 to 10 hours of work each week 

  • Orient them to the research project, including any training related to safety, technology, and responsible conduct of research 

  • Provide background readings and discuss the development of the current project 

  • Include them in research group meetings, if applicable 

  • Meet with them regularly to discuss their progress and performance on the project 

  • Engage them in conversations about their current academic experiences and their career interests 

  • Communicate any concerns you have about your student with the BESST Mentorship Program staff so we can follow up and get them connected with resources 

  • Assist the BESST Mentorship Program staff in assessing student progress, as needed.