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Students learning from Faculty Mentor in lab

Mentoring Undergraduate Researchers

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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. 

Faculty 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:

  • is Academic Council faculty OR University Medical Line faculty OR is approved by a department or interdepartmental program (IDP) as a qualifying honors advisor.
    • Typically has the Stanford title of Professor, Associate Professor, Assistant Professor, Senior Lecturer or Senior Fellow
  • Has their own active scholarly or creative agenda closely related to the main disciplines and methodologies of the proposed project.
    • Interdisciplinary research projects and creative arts projects are strongly encouraged to draw upon the knowledge and guidance of multiple mentors. 
  • Is available to provide consultation, training, and advice throughout the funded project timeline.

Writing Student Grant Letters of Recommendation

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.

Submitting Letters of Recommendation

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 Mentoring Resources