Finding a Faculty Mentor

Students will be responsible for finding their own faculty mentor. Students should select a mentor who has experience or expertise in their proposed project or thesis topic. There are many instructors here at ASU to assist you in completing a Directed Study project. The experience you gain networking with faculty to find the best fit is great practice for job/internship searches!

Students do not need to have any prior relationship with faculty prior to asking for their mentorship on IDS 401 [BIS 401 prior to fall 2019].  Meeting with faculty members can be done in-person, through Zoom, by phone, or by email.  Most faculty are willing to assist students with projects.  In order to increase the chances of securing a faculty, follow the best practices guide below.


Step 2: Identify possible research mentors

Here are a few suggestions to get started: 

  • Ask fellow students if they are involved in research and which faculty member they are working with. Ask faculty if they have any research positions available, or if they can refer you to other faculty.
  • Find lists of faculty by discipline and specialty using The Directed Study Faculty Mentor Search.
  • Review The College of Integrative Sciences and Arts research website – review research projects, faculty bio pages, and other ASU department and school research pages as well.
  • Look for faculty or departments offering research aide or lab aide positions on the ASU Student Employment website.
  • If you are a Barrett Honors College student, ask your faculty honors advisor for referrals.

Step 3: Prepare to talk with faculty

Once you have identified a faculty mentor you’d be interested in working with, learn all that you can about the project and the subject matter. 

  • Read faculty bio pages, CVs, research center websites, professional journals related to your major and the research project, and review the appropriate college research page and other ASU websites.
  • Update your resume to include transferable skills (prior research experience, leadership, relevant coursework, etc.), and contact the ASU Career and Professional Development Services for assistance.
  • Have the Directed Study Planning Worksheet or project outline completed.

Step 4: Making contact with faculty members 

Many faculty are willing to discuss possible directed study opportunities with students, especially for motivated and prepared students. Always have a project idea in mind before you contact a faculty mentor. The 401 coordinator is available to meet with you to help you generate project ideas, or you can check out ASU Libraries’ tutorial on topic selection found here (

  • General tips
    • If you are using email, be concise. Include your resume, academic transcript, and why you are interested in working with that faculty in particular. Show how you are prepared to complete a project under their guidance.
    • If you would like to meet in person, stop by their office hours or email the faculty member to set an appointment. Come prepared with your resume and be on time! Respect the faculty member’s time and commitments.
  • To discuss:
    • Potential projects: Pitch your project idea or multiple ideas if you have more than one.
    • The structure and format of your project.
  • Key points on how to construct a professional email:
    • Clear Subject line: Seeking Research Opportunity, Prospective Honors Undergraduate Researcher, and/or interested in examining X subject.
    • Tell the contactee how you found them: Perhaps you met them at a student organization or found their profile on a faculty website.
    • Do your homework: Make sure you have looked over their faculty profile, and are prepared to explain why this faculty member would be a good fit for your project. 
    • Highlight uncommon commonalities: If you have something in common with them, highlight that. Don’t make it up.
    • Make sure the request is specific (short but sweet): Let the faculty member know what it is you want to be working on and why. Do not just ask for his/her help.  Make sure to mention your availability, and ask when their office hours are.
    • Express gratitude: Always thank the faculty mentor for their time, and ask if any additional information is needed on your part.
    • Provide more background information: Help faculty see what skills you have to offer and your “train-ability,” which could be your resume and academic transcript.
    • Do not assume the faculty will know what IDS 401 [BIS 401 prior to fall 2019] is, or what will be expected of them.  Be prepared to explain this course.  If faculty have administrative questions that you are unable to answer, please direct them to the 401 coordinator.