Mentoring Undergraduate Researchers

Mentors are the heart and soul of undergraduate research. Here you can find resources for mentoring students, guidelines for writing letters of recommendation for VPUE student grants, and details about mentor eligibility. 

All projects supported by an Undergraduate Research Student Grant must be conducted under the guidance of a qualifying Stanford faculty mentor. A student's project may draw upon the guidance of more than one mentor; however, at least one mentor must meet all of the following criteria:

  • A qualifying mentor must be Academic Council or Med Center-Line faculty. These faculty usually hold the titles of Professor, Associate Professor, Assistant Professor, Senior Lecturer, or Senior Fellow. Mentors without one of these titles only qualify with prior Undergraduate Research staff approval and only if they meet all other criteria.
  • Mentors must have their own active research or creative agenda in a discipline closely related to the main field of the student's project.
  • Mentors must be available to provide consultation, training, and advice throughout a student's project timeline.

    Students submitting their own proposals for funding through the Undergraduate Research Student Grant program are required to work with a faculty mentor throughout their project.  Part of the application process includes the review of a faculty letter of recommendation.

    Mentorship letters for student research, arts, or senior synthesis projects

    The most helpful mentorship letters include an honest and critical evaluation of the student’s written project proposal, which includes the following:

    • a frank, scholarly evaluation of the proposed project, its feasibility in the time indicated and its potential significance
    • an indication of the student’s level of independence and ownership of this project within the faculty mentor’s broader scholarly agenda
    • suggestions on how the plans could be modified or improved
    • an assessment of the candidate's ability to carry out the project
    • an outline of future interactions between the student and the faculty mentor


    If the project involves human subjects, faculty should comment on the steps taken to insure safety, and the progress of the student acquiring IRB approval for the project. The research procedures should be the least risky that can be performed consistent with sound research design.

    Furthermore, if the project involves fieldwork away from campus, the faculty letter should assess the student's level of preparation for such work. This includes methodological training and a comprehensive awareness of safety and ethical considerations.

    Letters must be uploaded directly via webform, using the information emailed to you when a student submits their proposal.  Undergraduate Research cannot accept hard copies or email attachments.

    Undergraduate Research maintains the confidentiality of letters to the extent provided by law.  Because the proposal review process is intended to be educational for students, we may aggregate faculty recommendations with comments from other of grant reviewers when giving feedback to students. Candid faculty evaluations remain vital to the quality of this feedback process.

    Comments or questions about the Student Grants program are welcome at vpue-research@stanford.edu.

    Additional Resources:

    Preparing for Remote Mentorship
    Exercise for Aligning Expectations