Faculty Mentor FAQs

Dr. Bissell (far left) and Dr. Shreves (far right) with Emerging Scholars at NCUR 2015

Dr. Bissell (far left) and Dr. Shreves (far right) with Emerging Scholars at NCUR 2015


How does the Emerging Scholars Program work?

As of Spring 2016, the Emerging Scholars Program accepts University of Alabama students ranging, from incoming Freshman to upcoming Juniors interested in research and creative activities. This an application based program- application deadlines vary from year to year. Those who are selected may choose whether they will start Semester 1 of the program during the Fall or the Spring.

During Semester 1, Emerging Scholars will take UA 155, a newly-redesigned Research Methods course that teaches students how to read research articles and think critically and creatively about research issues.  The class teaches students how to develop their own research project. They will also seek out a potential faculty mentor to work with for their research semester.

During Semester 2, Emerging Scholars will work with their faculty mentor on at least one research project.  They earn research hours by enrolling in UA 156.

Scholars are required to present their research at the Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Conference within one Academic Year of starting Semester 2 of the program.  The program offers free workshops and online resources to help students prepare their poster or oral presentations for this conference.

At the end of Semester 2, Scholars are encouraged to stay with their faculty mentors until graduation.

For a more detailed description of the program, please visit the Program Timeline page.

What are my obligations as a faculty mentor?

Faculty mentors are expected to be reasonably available to their Scholars through e-mail, office hours or scheduled meetings. Faculty mentors are required to supervise a Scholar’s research in some capacity. Depending on the field of research and the nature of the project, this may be done in different ways.

For faculty who work independently or with colleagues, but do not work in a lab environment, there should be a reasonable amount of contact between the Scholar and faculty mentor. This may be through regularly scheduled meetings, e-mails, phone calls, or whatever arrangement works well for you and the Scholar.

For faculty that have labs with graduate students and other undergraduates, the Scholar may work directly with senior students or graduate students more often than the faculty member.  As long as these students are capable of providing the necessary guidance and the faculty mentor is providing some level of supervision over the lab, this arrangement is fine.

What research areas are Scholars interested in?

Emerging Scholars represent a wide range of research interests.  Although a large percentage of Scholars are majoring in Engineering or the Natural Sciences, many are also interested in Social Science and the Humanities.

Scholars are also encouraged to seek out research that interests them even if it is not in their major area of study. These interdisciplinary Scholar-faculty mentor partnerships have resulted in very interesting and creative research projects.

By submitting your research project proposal through our website, you can find students who are interested in what you do and ready to be a part of your research.

Can creative activities be “research”?


In order to be considered “research” for the Emerging Scholars Program, a student should be expected to play a major role in or take the lead on a significant creative project.  Their contribution should require them to do some in-depth background research in order to execute the project.

For example, performing in a play would not qualify as a research-type creative activity.  However, studying a time period in order to design sets or costumes accurate to that period would qualify.

We are always looking for more opportunities for our Scholars.  If you aren’t sure whether your upcoming project would be considered research, contact Kim Bissell at kbissell@ua.edu

Do Scholars create their own research projects?

It is up to you and your Scholar to decide whether they will create their own project or if they will be working as a Research Assistant on research you have already planned.  Most Scholars work as undergraduate RAs on faculty research for at least the first year or two working with a faculty mentor. Over time they may develop their own research questions and demonstrate their ability to lead a project of their own.

The decision is often dependent on the research discipline or even specific field.  In the Natural Sciences and Engineering, for example, most students serve as undergraduate RAs on research their faculty mentor is already conducting.  In the Humanities and some branches of Social Sciences they may be encouraged to come up with their own research questions to explore independently under the guidance of their mentor.

As a part of UA 155, all students have to submit a research project proposal. You can work off that specific project idea or have your Scholar develop a new one. Scholars are competent in searching for background literature and other information to help guide their study design.  You should serve as an expert on methodology and sound research procedures, but they should dedicate their time to learning more about their chosen topic and developing a project on their own.

How many hours per week should Scholars be expected to work on research?

During their research semester, Emerging Scholars are required to sign up for UA 156, which is awarded 2 credits. While it is up to the discretion of the faculty mentor and the scholar, we recommend 6 – 10 hours of research each week.

Depending on the nature of your research, your work schedule may require Scholars to work extra hours one week and no hours another.  Scholars should be reasonably flexible about this type of work schedule, but please keep in mind that they have other coursework and academic obligations as well.  This is something best discussed during an initial meeting before an agreement is made.

How do Scholars get course credit for research?

Scholars can receive course credit during their semester of research through either UA 156.

As of Spring 2017, departmental research courses will no longer be substituted for a Scholars research semester.  Once the student has completed their research semester, they are encouraged to take departmental research courses or independent studies, but they must complete UA 156 first.

UA 156 is a program specific course for Emerging Scholars. As an elective credit, students from all backgrounds can register for the class and receive 2 hours of course work. It also provides more freedom for both students and faculty to perform research than the typical departmental research course. The director of ESP will be the instructor of record on UA 156 hours, this allows him/her to monitor the status of Scholars through their research semester. However, at the the end of the semester you, as a mentor, will be asked to recommend a grade for the student, which will then be issued.

Can I choose not to work with a Scholar if they contact me about my research?

Yes.  The goal of ESP is to pair faculty and students with similar interests so that the partnership can last beyond a single semester of research.  Emerging Scholars are told to treat initial meetings as job interviews and to be understanding if they cannot work with the faculty member they contacted.

If you have specific requirements for Scholars, please be sure to list them in your research project proposal submission. out at  The ESP director will help identify students who meet those requirements and may have an interest in your research.

If you are contacted by an Emerging Scholar, we encourage you to schedule a meeting with the Scholar to ensure that they will be a good match for your research.  If you feel they are not, you are not obligated to mentor the Scholar, and you are not restricted from continuing to seek out other Scholars.


My Scholar is asking about a Research Contract/Letter of Intent. What is that?

Starting in Spring 2017, all Emerging Scholars are required to complete a Letter of Intent during their time in UA 155, which is a brief outline of the mentor, the project, and the students responsibilities during their research semester. Furthermore, Emerging Scholars, along with their mentor will be expected to fill out and sign a Research Contract.  Both documents are in place to ensure that the faculty mentor’s expectations for the Scholar are clearly outlined, and that any important deadlines are documented.

A Research Contract is required from every Scholar by the time they begin their research.  They are required to discuss the project goals with their faculty mentor, outline those goals on the form, and then get the faculty mentor’s signature to ensure that both the mentor and Scholar agree what the work expectations will be. This form is only required for the Scholar’s first semester of research with you, but you are welcome to use it for future semesters or for students outside of the program who are working with you.


Do I receive a stipend every semester I work with an Emerging Scholar?

Yes. You will receive a $400 stipend for each Scholar you mentor during their first semester of research. After their first semester of research they are encouraged to continue working for you, but there will be no additional stipends for mentoring that student.