Biomedical Engineering Doctoral Student Rebecca Vincelette
Most engineering graduate students assume a program like Intellectual Entrepreneurship means they need to engage an undergraduate deep into their research and assign him/her taskings for the mentor's graduate research. In fact, that was the number one reason fellow graduate students warned me not to do this program. While intense research can be part of the program, I believe there are more elements to the program than just giving an undergraduate assignments. I taught my mentee about my research and some basic lab techniques to help him get a feel for the mental obstacles in research, but for complicated reasons, I could not give him actual research assignments. I met with my mentee about once a week for an hour or two. He had another research job for another department, but was seeking the advisement from someone who works in biomedical engineering about how he can transition from electrical to biomedical in his future.
On meetings where we didn't discuss science, we discussed topics including how to transition to the professional world, the importance of finding good leaders and learning how to become one (even in an academic environment), and the Ph.D. process. I gave him a tour of a non-academic research lab in San Antonio and the opportunity to speak with fellow electrical engineers who had recently graduated and found themselves working in a biomedical research lab.
This is a mentorship program where I saw an opportunity to function as a mentor like the kind I had at my small undergraduate university; one where the mentor fosters a relationship with an undergrad to demystify the world of graduate school answering any and all questions about the graduate process and offering pointers for how to open new doors in the beginnings of his/her research career. I wish more undergraduates and graduate students would interact in this manner at UT, but in such a large school, I find it's easy for undergraduate and graduate students to remain isolated from one another.
From my years of working for the government and even more years as a student, I have learned these types of relationships can truly mean the difference between a student settling for a career or a student pursuing the career they want out of life. This is the type of mentorship program many agencies strive to achieve.