STEP Undergraduate Research Project: The Effects of Mentoring on Student Researchers

My Step Signature Project entailed the completion of a research project during the Summer of 2018. This was an engineering education research project that focused on determining the effects of mentoring on student researchers. Through the analysis of data and qualitative observation, conclusions were drawn to answer the research question.

Something that was transformed while completing my Step Signature Project was my self-esteem. For the longest time, I did not believe that I was capable of completing something, such as a research project, all on my own. Throughout my research project, my PI guided me through the steps of completing my own project. As an undergraduate researcher, I extracted a subset of data from a larger project and formulated my own research question. I further analyzed the data and assessed it in an online coding platform called dedoose. Based on these assumptions I drew various conclusions about what I had found.  Most of the work was done personally, by me,  and I would report back to my professor for feedback. Her positive feedback and crucial criticism made me feel as if i was making progress in my project. After the completion of the STEP project, it showed me that I have the capability to do anything that I set my mind to do. No matter how hard the challenge may be, I have the capability to accomplish many things. I am grateful that I got to complete this project because it taught me a lot of things about myself that I did not know of before.

During the STEP signature project, my research professor was a big factor in the transformation that occurred. Doing a research project, on my own, was a challenging task to take on. Never had I ever done a full research project or overseen the planning, preparation, execution, and conclusion of this type of task. It was hard to know where to even begin. I would personally work on the project week to week and bring all my completed tasks for the week to my professor. My professor would then take the time to oversee all of the things that I have done, and she made an effort to steer me in the right direction. Even if I completed something wrong, or interpreted something in a wrong way, my professor would be there for me to pick up the pieces and help me realize all of the positive things that I was doing during my research project.

My advising professor for the undergraduate research project was very hands on and truly helpful. Without her help on the project, I do not think it could have been completed. She guided me through the basis of creating a project and the steps that I would need to take to complete the research. This helped boost my self-esteem because I knew that someone would always be supporting me and helping me throughout the way. For example, there was a time that I was stuck in my research project, in terms of not knowing what next step to take. I had collected data from interviews, and did not know how to pull together the data to form conclusions. My research professor found  sample papers for me that explained what other individuals would say about their personal experiences with deciphering data. This ultimately steered me in the right direction and made me feel as if the work I was doing was actually headed somewhere.

During my research project, I also had the ability to share my ideas to a team of undergraduate, graduate, and PhD students. This group of individuals helped me immensely. They gave me critical feedback, tips, and support on my research project. Their previous knowledge helped me formulate what I needed to get done for my research to be successful. I would have a meeting with this gorup of individuals every other week. The meeting would be open to questions or any sort of topic related to research,  would be discussed. This help lead me to have the confidence I needed to complete the project.

This transformation is significant or valuable for my life because it is very easy to be hard on yourself and believe that you are not good enough to do what you want to accomplish. With the support of others, you can gain the confidence to pursue your dreams. This confidence will translate to other aspects of my personal and academic life. In the future, I will have the perseverance to go after the things I want and will not hesitate to take on challenging tasks, whether that is personally or educationally.