Going into its third summer, the Student Mentoring and Research Teams (SMART) program engages doctoral students in creating mentored research opportunities for undergraduate students at Berkeley.

Piloted in select disciplines during 2012 and 2013, it was made available to the Departments of History and Physics the first year, and the following year expanded to the Departments of Chemistry and Sociology, and the School of Public Health.

Due to its outstanding success and popularity, the program will now become open to students campus-wide, said co-director Sabrina Soracco. “The unique aspect of the SMART program is that it is now open to all departments including those that don’t traditionally have undergraduates involved in research — especially in the humanities,” said co-director Linda von Hoene.

Andrew Szeri, Vice Provost for Graduate Studies and Dean of the Graduate Division, announced the expansion of the SMART program last fall. The program was the brainchild of Szeri, who said he learned early on the great value of the mentor-mentee relationship while running his own research laboratory. “For the undergraduates, it helps them get started in research; for graduate students, it allows them to develop the skills to mentor another person,” he noted.

SMART offers 20 student teams a total of $10,000 per project for stipends and research costs. A mandatory one-unit class that prepares successful graduate applicants for their mentorship roles precedes the research project, which takes place for 10 weeks during the summer. Soracco and von Hoene co-teach the mentoring course, titled “Mentoring in Higher Education” (GSPDP 301).

In addition to enabling undergraduate students to branch out from typically limited exposure to research, SMART offers opportunities for graduate students to deepen their graduate school experience and prepare for the mentoring that many will do as future faculty.

By design, the mentor-mentee relationship helps graduate students stay on track with their own research by having to delegate tasks and being clear about their goals. “Having a set of fresh eyes on a project helps graduate students to see their research questions from a new perspective,” said Soracco.

Jessica Smith, a graduate student in Chemistry, had taken on the role of mentor before in her research but never received any training in mentorship methods prior to her acceptance into the SMART program in 2013. “The class made me look at prior mentorship relationships I have had either as a mentor or a mentee and helped me try to be intentional in creating a research plan but also in creating a relationship that was productive for both people,” said Smith.

For Sarah Macdonald, a graduate student in Sociology who also participated in the program last summer, becoming a mentor taught her something about herself as well. “I learned that I really enjoy mentoring undergraduates and, as a result, I hope this will become an integral part of my future career,” she said.

More information about SMART and application instructions are available here.