Setting Expectations

Early REU Intern Training

Ongoing REU Intern Training

Mentor Training (Faculty & Graduate Students)

Working with Mentor Colleagues

REU Project Teams

Structuring Research for REUs

Post REU Research


Setting Expectations:

  • It’s important to set expectations early. Take some time to gather all the students and talk about what these expectations look like.
    • The expectations can revolve around the following:
      • Treat the program as a 9-5 job
      • List and point out who’s here to help according to the different areas (payments, programming, graduate school advice, etc.)
      • Talk about behavior such as professionalism and the rules that are being implemented during the program. These rules can be a combination of both university policies and REU program-specific rules.
    • Similarly, provide and discuss a Student code of conduct specific to the REU program.
    • List out the type of deliverables you’re looking for at the end or during the program. This can include having a written report, a final poster, and presentation or any other supplemental material.



Early REU Intern Training:

  • A crucial part of an REU program is to provide early training on effective strategies and other methods and activities that will benefit the program’s outcome.
  • During the beginning of the program, the schedule can include a heavier load of training workshops for students to settle in and get comfortable with the research program and projects. Examples include:
    • Research methodologies (lit reviews, research questions)
    • Plagiarism
    • Time-management
    • Diversity training
    • Various tools and techniques to support their research
    • Personality and teamwork
    • Project-specific training
  • These activities and skill development can be listed in any tentative agenda for students to read. It’s common to see the students have an agenda filled with these workshops or classes, invited speaker sessions, and tutorials/ how-to.
  • As the students get used to the program, is normal to see more of the workshops set up during the beginning,  having mornings focus on skill development and the afternoons work hands-on and focus on their research projects. As the program continues, workshops would decrease, allowing for more research time.
  • Having research conversations and skill development around their needs can prepare students for building up their research, prepare them for presentations, encouragement, focus research efforts, and boost confidence.
  • It is also important to make sure students are able to develop and participate in team building activities with their project teams, including their faculty mentor if possible. These can be conducted as extracurricular or as part of their normal schedule.
PRO TIP A:  If the research requires a user study, or you think the might be a possibility of having to run a user study, it’s important to have the students do IRB human subjects training during the first week.
PRO TIP B:  Early team building allows understanding how different personalities can complement and work together, develop trust among the group, and set the tone for the rest of the summer.



Ongoing REU Intern Training:

  • Besides early training and workshops, the schedule can also accommodate for different workshops or seminars that will help the students develop the skills that are used as a researcher as an on-going part of the schedule. Examples include:
    • Literature searching, e.g., how to use Google Scholar
    • Craft of research (results and discussion, methods, tables and figures)
    • Technical writing
    • Presentation skills
    • Crafting a research poster
    • GRE preparation
    • Researcher skills
  • Another way to present what a researcher does, or expose students to different interests and topics, you can bring in “experts” from the department or beyond more than once as part of their scheduled workshops and seminars.
  • If possible, search if there are other REU-like groups on campus and join them to do other activities or skill development. This should also be planned and thought through so that it doesn’t take away, but rather add, to your REU program.



Mentor Training (Faculty and Graduate Students):

  • General expectations:
    • If any faculty and or grad student is interested in participating in the REU program, it’s important to set expectations for mentoring the students. Although, faculty might have experience working with undergraduates, summer projects might require a slightly different mentoring approach.
    • Schedule meetings and training sessions as required; these will provide opportunities to also discuss program expectations and outcomes as a whole and what roles different individuals will be providing for the students.
    • Use case studies to engage and communicate when training and setting expectations. These can be examples of past REUs from a different program, or shared stories from fellow colleagues.


  • If you’re considering Graduate student mentors:
    • Graduate students are a salient element of the program, and should involved if possible as both mentors and organizers.
    • Consider what type of experience they’ve had mentoring, and what type of training they’ll require before the program (i.e., seminar/workshop on “How to mentor”).
    • Let them know how many hours they’ll be working, and their role duties (i.e. help students develop a proposal, help in research paper writing, organize activities, etc.).


  • For all types of mentors involved:
    • Provide resources to use as a guide for the program. 
    • Mentors and REU students should work in an environment that emphasizes and motives research, teamwork, and synergistic learning.
    • Have them provide confidence to the students that they can do research, and that the result and outcome of their projects by the end of the program is valuable.
    • Project mentors should provide guidance, meet at least once or twice a week with their students for the duration of the program. However, mentors and PIs should meet at least once or twice a week and provide updates.


Working with Mentor Colleagues:

  • Untenured PIs might ask an evaluator on campus or a colleague with experience with REU sites to give feedback and guidance. Take this as an opportunity to grow, learn, and plan for a successful REU program!
  • If setting up meetings is difficult, or even during a week or two where circumstances rise where you cannot set a meeting, allow for hallway check-ins during the program with mentors. This helps keep track of how things are going while providing flexibility in everyone’s schedule.
  • During meetings or share outs, do share student and or site outcomes with them as a way to measure progress and success of the program. This also allows to motivate everyone involved and encourage other colleagues to join the program in the following summer. Sharing also allows to help generate ideas and revisit any missed opportunities.



REU Project Teams:

  • Research groups can be based of tiered mentoring (faculty mentor, and 1 or 2 graduate mentors helping around the students).
  • Whoever decides to get involved and mentor the students, all parties should agree on a schedule, meetings, and roles so that students know who to contact or talk to according to their needs.
  • REU students can also be put in teams of 2-3, this could benefit the growth of team work, diversity, and multi/interdisciplinary collaboration.
  • If students are set in teams, consider having a team dynamics training/workshop, where students can learn how to work effectively and develop a bond of trust and communication early in the program.



Structuring Research for REUs:

  • During the REU program, it’s important to have schedules planned out. Besides giving the students a program agenda that includes workshops and research time, mentors should also develop a daily plan for the first week (at least) so that students can have a direction of what to do with their research project.
  • Research plans can also be developed throughout the entire summer to help guide students’ progress.
  • Give students guidance on how to figure things out. This means providing resources, setting up meetings, and even doing small workshops that focus on their research.
  • REU students should report progress frequently. This can be done through meetings, share-outs, blogs, reports, or other mediums. The important element is for students to understand that they are on the right path and progressing through their research.
PRO TIP:  Students who frequently meet with mentors and discuss progress throughout the summer have shown to have the best outcomes of the program.



Post REU Research:

  • During the program’s wrap-up time, encourage students to continue their research with you from their home institution.  However, with the upcoming semester also be practical; even if students show interest in continuing, the probability of them getting busy and not wanting to continue are high.
    • Keep contact and openness but keep in mind there can be a decline in interest as the semester progresses.
  • If students decide to continue, consider this as an opportunity to collaborate with faculty at the home institution.
  • Additionally, continuing their research could open up the possibility of making it a course credit at home institution. This allows students to focus on the research during the semester as part of their class schedule rather than an addition to.
  • Do use and promote tools to encourage communication with research team such as chatting apps, google drive, Dropbox, etc.
  • Consider traveling to conferences with your REU students to promote the research and expose them to more opportunities.