CNAS Freshman Scholars Program

Research Guidelines

Research Guidelines Logo 1


You will be immersed into one of two prestigious summer research programs: 1) Research in Science and Engineering (RISE), which includes CAMP, HSI-STEM and CNAS Scholars Fellows, or 2) UCR’s well-established MSRIP along with UC LEADS Scholars, students from the California Pre-Doctoral Program.   As much as is possible, you will assimilate the life of a graduate student.  This summer’s experience will assist you in making a more informed decision about your academic career beyond the Bachelor’s.  It is important that you take this responsibility seriously.  While participating in this program, you will develop research skills and receive knowledge you will find useful in preparing for and experiencing graduate school.  With this exposure to the research environment, you will develop mentoring relationships with faculty and/or graduate students, postdocs or staff research associates. 


Students will be assigned to faculty mentors who have ongoing research projects in the area of the students’ interests.  At the beginning of the program, or before the program starts, faculty mentors will discuss the nature of the research with the student.  Together, they will develop a schedule for future contact and research proceedings.  It is then the student’s responsibility to maintain that schedule or to seek guidance when s/he cannot.  Each student’s specific research program will differ according to the faculty mentor and subject matter.  Only in some cases will research undertaken be “original.”  In all cases, however, students should be shown where and how their work fits the overall goal or direction of the mentor’s research.  

Students should expect to meet at least once per week with their faculty mentor, but some mentors may require more frequent meetings.  Students are expected to work full-time on their projects (M-F, 8-5, with exceptions according to the Professional Development workshops required by your coordinator). Every Thursday afternoon from 3:00-5:00p, and as otherwise noted you will attend a scheduled activity (refer to calendar) outside of your research environment.

Students are expected to exert full-time effort on their projects, which may include work on evenings and weekends but will not exceed 40 hours per week.  Research mentors will expect continued and sustained work throughout the eight weeks from the student interns. 


  • Attendance at all workshops, seminars, orientations, events, other course content (i.e. GRE, etc. if applicable) is mandatory unless otherwise stated.  Approximately eight hours per week will be spent in mandatory program events. Otherwise, you will be doing research, for a total of about 40 hours per week.
  • After discussion with their mentors, students will submit a research abstract, due as specified on your schedule.  The abstract will outline the research to be conducted and should be formatted like a conference abstract.
  • At the end of the program, students will prepare oral or poster presentations about their research results and conclusions.  These presentations will take place at the Summer Symposium, according to your schedule 
  • Students will submit a research essay of at least five pages by the end of the program.  The essay should summarize the research done during the tenure of the program.
  • Students will be asked to evaluate the program and their research experience at the end of the summer.

What students can expect

Students can expect advice and guidance about graduate school admissions, graduate work, career opportunities in research and teaching, and the nature of academic life from the program staff and guest speakers.  Students will be provided with the materials necessary for their research and GRE preparation course.

Common Student Challenges

  • Afraid to ask questions: Mentors will be looking for inquisitive minds, so do not be afraid to ask questions.  Also, do not pretend to know something you don’t!  If you have questions, but can never seem to remember them when your mentor is around, write them down and keep the list with you.
  • Lack of motivation and organization: Find an organization system that works for you.  Try writing all assignments, meetings, and events down in the same calendar or keeping a daily to-do list.  Stay motivated by reminding yourself why your research matters!
  • Lack of perseverance: Research is not always easy.  Sometimes you don’t get the results you want, experiments fail, tasks take longer than you think they will.  When things seem to be going wrong, remind yourself that the complications make the eventual success so much more satisfying.
  • Lack of goals: If you have trouble remembering the goals of the research, ask your faculty member to clarify them.  Also, make a list of goals for yourself and think each day about how you are working towards them.
  • Difficulty in completing tasks: If you find that you are often struggling with a task, ask others for help.  More experienced researchers may be able to show you where you are missing a step or making it harder for yourself.
  • Poor execution of tasks: Ask your mentor if you are completing the task satisfactorily and listen to the answer.  If not, ask for advice about how to improve.  If the advisor is satisfied, believe them!  Often young researchers are too hard on themselves.
  • Procrastination: Just don’t do it!  This is a very quick program jam-packed with research and activities.  Make a calendar with blocks of time devoted to completing different tasks and stick to that schedule.
  • Excessive self-pity: It is easy to dwell on difficulties.  Remind yourself why you were attracted to this research project in the first place and talk to people about the things you like about it.  Remember that you are not the only one facing the difficulties of embarking on new research!
  • Too much or too little self-confidence: Remember that you are here to learn.  If you think you already know everything, it will impede this process.  Conversely, don’t be insecure about not knowing enough. 
  • Loneliness: Reach out to people to socialize.  We have provided a list of things to do in and near Riverside.  Invite someone in the program or from your lab to do something fun with you or invite people over to your room to hang out or watch a movie. 
  • Over-dependence on mentor: One of the goals is for you to become an independent researcher.  Once you have your assigned tasks, try to do them on your own.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions, but also don’t be afraid to recognize your own competence!
  • Lack of role models: Think about the people you know from the program, your lab, or your faculty mentor.  Identify what you admire about them and what makes them successful.  Try to implement these things in your own life.  Voila, you have a role model! 


  • If not provided, ask for research project objectives.
  • Ask your mentor(s) what is expected of you.
  • Ask for a definition of your responsibilities.
  • Seek guidance.
  • Learn independence. Be an independent thinker.
  • Be cooperative.
  • Keep an open mind.
  • Be an attentive listener and an assertive questioner.
  • Make the most of the opportunities available to you.
  • Be an active participant in your research environment.
  • Be self-confident, but not overly confident.
  • Be flexible and adaptable in attitudes and actions.
  • Follow-through. Persevere.
  • When unclear about instructions or expectations, etc., ask for clarification.
  • Call upon others to assist with problems you are unable to handle.
  • Do not procrastinate.
  • Do not fall into the ‘poor me’ syndrome.
  • Do not spread yourself too thin.
  • Do not be overly dependent upon your mentor.
  • Be responsive to Program staff.
  • Attend all mandatory workshops, seminars, and meetings.
  • Submit required documents on time.
  • You will develop an abstract.
  • You are required to prepare an oral presentation of your research results.


Mentors are expected to contact the students before the summer program begins in order to outline the nature of the project and, if applicable, provide a preliminary reading list. Mentors are asked to integrate the interns fully into the research team and to supervise students’ research activities.  Students should not be exclusively involved with daily clerical responsibilities.  At the beginning of the program, or before, mentors should work with students to develop work schedules for the research project, outline research goals and methodologies, and establish guidelines for them to follow.  Mentors should supervise students as they prepare their final poster or oral presentations (oral presentations should be no longer than ten minutes long).  These presentations should be practiced with the mentor who can provide feedback for the student before the symposium.  The student should be able to describe the research and its importance to both a specialized audience and to a broad audience.  The program includes students and faculty in the humanities, arts, science, social science, and engineering fields.

The faculty mentor should assist with the preparation of the abstract, and must approve it before it is bound and distributed to attendees of the research symposium.  The first draft of the abstract is due in the fourth week of the program.  The student is responsible for a research paper, which is due on the last day of the program.  Mentors are not responsible for this paper, but you may choose to be involved in this process if you like.  The paper is to be a minimum of five pages, but if you would like to suit it to your field’s standards you may.  For example, many faculty use the opportunity to prepare a writing sample for the students graduate school application. 

Unfortunately, most of the programs do not offer financial support for supplies and equipment for the Faculty mentor. 

Tips for Successful Mentoring

  • Inform the intern of your expectations.  Communicate with them when they are not meeting those expectations.
  • Define the research project objectives early. Define student responsibilities clearly.
  • Prepare a structured research agenda for the student to follow.
  • Communicate about the student’s applicable background.  Try not to assume student is experienced or ignorant.
  • If applicable, provide levels of mentoring for the student (i.e. postdoc, graduate student, experienced undergraduate).
  • Create a positive learning environment.  For many of these students, this will be their first experience with this type of research.  It can be overwhelming!
  • Communicate with the MSRIP office or program coordinator early if students are not meeting your expectations.  We cannot fix a problem if we do not know it exists.

More Information

General Campus Information

University of California, Riverside
900 University Ave.
Riverside, CA 92521
Tel: (951) 827-1012

Career OpportunitiesUCR Libraries
Campus StatusDirections to UCR

Department Information

CNAS Freshman Scholars Program
1223 Pierce Hall

Tel: (951) 827-5326
Fax: (951) 827-2243
E-mail: cnasscholars@ucr.edu