Find a Mentor
Working on a science project? A mentor can help you in any step along the way!
Many of our previous Google Science Fair finalists and winners had trusted adults helping them with their project. A mentor doesn’t have to be a science expert or a lab technician, but s/he should be interested in what you’re learning and testing. Mentors come from all different places including your family, school, community group or even in a different country!
Although the submission period for the Google Science has closed, we hope you’ll continue creating science and engineering projects!
Why is a mentor important?
- Give you access to a lab for your research.
- Explain difficult concepts, which can save you a great deal of time and frustration.
- Help you with troubleshooting your experiment or providing instruction on techniques and equipment.
- Help you learn more about the cutting-edge research in your field, i.e. the research that has not yet been published but is still important to know for your own project. This new research could be essential to doing your experiment or knowledge of the new area might be considered necessary when discussing your work with others.
- Make sure you are interpreting your results and the results of others correctly (such as from a research paper).
- Coach you about how to present your findings in a way that will be favorably received by other scientists who will be your judges.
- Show you what it is like to be a scientist. If you want to see what a career as a scientist is like, this is a great opportunity to learn more.
Where can you find a mentor?
Talk to the faculty at a nearby college, university, or research institute. Make sure to ask around!
Often times there is research going on in your area that you do not know about. Search online, ask your teachers, look through the phone book, etc.
Mary Lou O'Donnell, a teacher from Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School in New York, whose students are frequent participants at international science fairs contact researchers at nearby institutes to help them complete their projects.
You can also contact judges from a previous science competition or a someone who wrote a science article in your field.
So, how do you find a mentor?
These are the steps that Mrs. O’Donnell recommends from her experience with her students. With a little modification, these steps can also be used to contact a mentor who is not nearby (do a phone interview instead of a meeting, and so forth). And, Ms. O'Donnell adds, "Advice for teachers: Students must find their own mentors! It's the only way they'll appreciate the mentor. This advice comes from many times when I've mentored kids and they come back complaining about my choice, the lab, etc. Mentors respond when contacted by motivated students, not by motivated teachers."
When finding a mentor always ask permission from your parent or legal guardian and make sure they know who you are talking to and meeting.
- Determine your general areas of interest: physics, chemistry, biology, psychology, astronomy, etc.
- Search nearby research university websites for scientists in the departments of these schools. Ms. O'Donnell states: "We steer our students to university professors. We have had private psychologists, doctors, and engineers work with students, but find that the level of research is usually not high enough." You want someone who is actively publishing research in his or her field, or in engineering, someone working directly on cutting-edge products or techniques in the area.
- At the department webpage for the university, bring up the faculty biographies. Read through them all, noting the email addresses or contact information for those you are interested in.
- Once you've gathered 20-30 professors' biographies, research them one by one. Prior to contact, you must find recent articles written by the potential mentor.
- Draft a personalized email in which you identify yourself, your school, and identify specifically what interested you about the scientist's research. Request a meeting so you can speak more about his or her research. You might also ask him or her to distribute your request throughout the department if he or she cannot help you. One of his or her colleagues might be looking for a student with whom to do research.
- Have someone proofread and edit the letter, then mail it out and cross your fingers! Note that you might go through numerous rejections until you find someone who wants to help you. Keep meeting and calling people! Eventually, you should be able to find a potential mentor. Often, the response to the email alone is only 33%-50%, so don't lose hope if only a few potential mentors reply. Positive responses range from less than 10% to as much as 33% (determined by asking a few fellow students involved in research).
Still need a little help?
Feel free to check out our list of educational organizations who help students find science mentors. Please note: Entrants and their parents are ultimately responsible for pursuing and vetting potential mentors. Google will not be involved in any arrangement made between an entrant and a mentor or one of the organizations listed. Be sure to let them know you’re a Google Science Fair participant.
The criteria judges use to evaluate your project.
For those of you curious about judging for the Google Science Fair, read the judges’ criteria below!
Judging for special prizes
Community Impact Award
The judging for this award is over, and the winners have truly made things better in their communities.
To read more about the winners in each region of the world, take a look at this blogpost.
The Inspiring Educator Award
The Inspiring Educator Award honors the contributions of one outstanding educator who goes above and beyond to encourage their students to achieve great things. We’ll be reading all of your nominations from your projects to choose this award winner!
The submission deadline has passed! What can I do now?
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