Key Information for STAR Research Mentors

By sharing your skills and experience with a STEM Teacher candidate you are the foundation of a transformative experience that will affect your Fellow's career, and the hundreds of students they will teach. Thank you for making a difference in how the next generation encounters science, technology, math, and engineering concepts, practices, and information.

Step 1: Placing a STAR Fellow

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STAR Placement Process

Each Lab Site Partner has a Lab Site Coordinator who is staff at your site. Coordinators and mentors are welcome to contact the STAR Program at any time for assistance. The graphic above demonstrates the process of selecting and placing a Fellow in your Lab. A more detailed, and regularly updated timeline can be found on the Key Dates tab.

  1. Your Lab Site Coordinator has a Drop Box link to all eligible Applicants. STAR has made some recommendations to your Coordinator which may have been forwarded to you, but all Mentors have access to all applicants in the pool.
  2. You may wish to SORT the applicant pool by key criteria using the spreadsheet in the DropBox.
  3. CONTACT those applicants that interest you. STAR recommends that you discuss potential projects, your expectations, and any specific site requirements. STAR expects applicants to be available for research 35 h/wk for all nine weeks of the program. If the applicant has any conflicting dates you may accept at your discretion.
  4. Where possible it is helpful to include the Lab Site Coordinator during interviews as they can provide additional helpful information like where prior STAR Fellows were housed and when you will be able to make a recommendation to STAR
  5. To make a placement offer, the Lab Site Coordinator should send the applicant's name, the mentor's name, a project title, and a brief 2-4 sentence project description to the STAR Program Director. It is helpful to provide an alternate candidate if the preferred candidate declines.
  6. STAR will then identify funding and present the offer to the applicant who then has two weeks to decline or accept.
  7. STAR will contact the Lab Site Coordinator and Fellow regarding the decision. For accepted offers, the Lab Site Coordinator will then work with the Mentor and Fellow to schedule the on site orientation procedures, and any required training. In the event that the offer was declined by the alternate, STAR will work with the Lab Site Coordinator to identify other potential candidates.

Overall Mentor Responsibilities

Research Mentors support each STAR Fellow by:

  1. Sponsoring a STAR Fellow as a research intern in their laboratory for the entire duration of the Program, on those occasions when the Mentor is absent from the lab a staff member, postdoc, or other person is identified as the Fellow's key contact;
  2. Mentoring Fellows and supporting their professional development as researchers who also teach and who will be passing on the research culture norms and expectations to their students;
  3. Helping Fellows develop their research presentation (poster or short oral);
  4. Attending on-site presentations (also encouraged to attend closing research conference);
  5. Considering maintaining contact with STAR Fellows as they continue their teacher-researcher career.

The Fellow's Research Products

As a funding requirement and key education outcome, each STAR Fellow must submit two products based on their work in your group. The first product is a research presentation. First-time participants will produce a research poster (conference requirements here) while Program alumni may produce a short-oral presentation instead (requirements here). These presentations will be made publicly available at the Cal Poly Digital Commons so it is important to edit embargoed information in the presentation. Over 1,400 STAR poster downloads occur monthly so it is important that the information accurately reflects Lab Site requirements for public disclosure and co-author involvement. Presentations should be complete by the end of the summer Program and available to your site export control. In the event of security changes, Mentors may need to correspond with Fellows before the Fall Research Conference.

The second Fellow product is a lesson plan which is based on the Fellow's particular research project and aligned with Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core State Science and Math Standards. The lesson plan is developed under the guidance of the Workshop Leaders. Mentors often can provide valuable input on identifying the key concepts or special activities which may be suitable for STEM students.

Being a Successful Mentor

Mentoring is a skill and, like most skills, benefits from a refresher every now and then. Establishing a safe, growth-directed, and mutually respectful relationship is necessary to a successful mentorship for both the mentor and the mentee. Here are a few resources to help Research Mentors identify new strategies and continue their mentor development.


Program Goals

STAR Fellows typically have training and/or experiences shaped by their future teaching plans, but as STEM professionals, their summer focus is research. Each Fellow wants the personal challenge of integrating into a research team and working on an authentic piece of research. Their goal is to understand the nature of science and research/engineering practices so that they can be more effective teachers passing on those skills to their students. The STAR model predicts systemic success in STEM through three goals surrounding their research experience.

  • Increase RECRUITMENT of high-quality science, mathematics, and engineering majors into teaching by attracting outstanding STEM majors, increasing the prestige of teaching as a professional STEM career, and engaging leading laboratories as partners in providing outstanding research opportunities.
  • Improve STEM teacher PREPARATION AND DEVELOPMENT by promoting a deeper and directly research-based understanding of scientific and engineering practices through summer lab experiences.
  • Increase STEM teacher RETENTION by building a teacher-researcher community strongly connected to the community of scientific practice through creation of teacher-researchers and leaders.

Education Workshop Goals

Research Mentors work closely with their Lab Site Coordinator to identify a research project suitable for the nine-week Program period and select one or more Applicants suitable for the work. Research Mentors are encouraged to communicate with prospective and placed Fellows. After placment, it is especially helpful if Mentors email one or two key publications to Fellows which they can use to 'get up to speed' with the primary focus of the research group (Reviews often work well).

Particulars differ among sites, but Lab Site coordinators will usually be responsible for site access and orientation requirements while Research Mentors must ensure that Fellows receive an orientation to their particular lab and project at the start of the Program. Fellows are there to work 35 hours per week, with an additional 3-5 hours dedicated to the education workshop. Workshop Leaders are in charge of the education workshop content, and will also visit the Fellow in the Lab at least once. Mentors are encouraged to connect with them if they have the time and interest to share their skills and experiences with the cohort at their site as they discuss:

  1. Nature of STEM - How STEM research actually works
  2. Nature of STEM - Becoming a researcher and the diversity of research careers and skills needed on research teams
  3. K12 STEM education - Next Generation Science Standards cross-cutting themes and practices (they are entirely based on research)
  4. K12 STEM education - Research-learning environments
  5. STEM communication - Research products (oral and poster presentations)
  6. STEM communication - Teaching products (lesson plans based on each Fellow's research)
  7. Professional development - Getting a teaching job and setting yourself up for success in a school
  8. Professional development - Staying connected to research and being a scientific teacher

Working with Lab Site Coordinators and Workshop Leaders

Research Mentors work with Lab Site Coordinators who will, in turn, provide a lot of the connectivity to the STAR Program staff and Workshop Leaders as required. Workshop Leaders spend a lot of time in one-on-one interactions with STAR Fellows and the Lab Site Coordinators are the most knowledgeable and authoritative support for Research Mentors at each research location. The STAR program relies on close cooperation between Lab Site Coordinators and Research Mentors. The STAR Program is directed by fellow researchers who value the essential skills and efforts contributed by Research Mentors and welcome their input via email ( or telephone (805-756-2875) at any time.


STAR Fellows receive Fellowship stipends during their participation, workshop events, and ongoing professional development opportunities. Our Lab Site partners provide in-kind support with safety/research training, project supplies, and other considerations which differ from lab site to lab site. This project to reform STEM education to more faithfully reflect modern research practices and training is possible only through our Funding Partners coordinated by the Cal Poly Center for Engineering, Science and Mathematics Education which runs STAR. Our continued fundind depends upon the teaching and research outputs of our Fellows and Partners in what we intend to be a mutually beneficial relationship. If Research Mentors have a presentation, publication, or grant which has benefitted from STAR Fellow efforts, the Program would very much appreciate hearing of it so that we can continue to provide this high-impact partnership program (

STAR Conference Travel

Research Mentors are very welcome to join us for the Research Conference where STAR Fellows present their work in poster and oral presentations. It's a great opportunity to meet other mentors and appreciate what your mentorship has made possible. Your work is essential to the success of our Fellows and we'd like to help you support their presentation in whatever fashion we can. Travel arrangements to attend the STAR Research Conference can be facilitated by the STAR Program Staff, but we do not have sufficient funds allocated for all mentors to receive attendance funding. If you wish to attend, please contact the Program Assistant at even if you don't need travel assistance, to ensure that we have your registration materials properly prepared for you. Lunch is served during each conference, all other meals and travel costs are the responsibility of the Mentor unless arrangements are made in advance.

Just for Fun Photos

Many STAR Fellow projects produce some gorgeous graphs and delicious videos and every project involves a lot of great people. We'd like to share a bit of your STAR summer at the closing conference. To do that we invite everyone involved in STAR to share photos and/or videos of their summer experience to STAR.Program on Facebook (Star Cesame) or via email to We'll share a selection (as many as we can really) in the Research Conference program and presentations. This is completely voluntary. Don't wait until the end, upload whenever you get something you like!