First-Year Mentor Program

Each spring semester, FHP students are given the opportunity for first-hand research experience research by working under the guidance of an Iowa State faculty mentor. There are a wide range of research opportunities to choose from involving many disciplines and departments.

Students and faculty mentors are matched through a web-based process that lets you and prospective mentors rank projects, interests and skills. You could work on a project that is in your field of study, pick a topic that helps you decide on a major or explore a field you just enjoy. Students work 3 or 6 hours per week, earning either one or two credits (HON 290).

Everything you need to know about the First-Year Honors Mentor Program:

What is it?

Each spring, first-year Honors students are offered an opportunity to experience the world of research firsthand by working under the guidance of an Iowa State faculty mentor. It’s a unique opportunity to become involved in research early in your academic career.

How does it work?

The matching process begins in the fall. Here’s how it works:

  • ISU faculty fill out an online profile that describes the research they are doing and what will be expected of their student mentees.
  • You go online, describe your interests and skills, and select five faculty members with whom you’d be interested in working.
  • You meet with the mentor and, if you both agree to work together, sign a contract.
  • You will then spend 3 or 6 hours each week during Spring semester working with your mentor.

Students can earn either one or two credits of Hon 290 for their work in the Mentor Program.

What kinds of research can I be involved in?

There are a wide range of research opportunities to choose from involving many disciplines & departments. You could work on a project that is in your field of study. You can pick a topic that helps you decide on a major, or you can explore a field you just enjoy.

What will be expected of me?
  • A time commitment of 3 or 6 hours per week (you and your mentor decide which is appropriate)
  • Completion of three evaluations/reflections:
    • Early online “check in”
    • Participation in midterm discussion group
    • Written final evaluation
  • You will be graded on Satisfactory / Fail basis
How do I sign up?
  • Go online - The system is open from Thursday, September 29 until noon on Friday, October 7.
  • Describe yourself: Personal information, academic interests, and skills
  • Browse for potential mentors: Search the mentor info to find research topics that interest you and faculty with whom you’d like to work.
  • Select your top five (5) potential mentors- Be sure to set ‘Confirm Participation’ to YES by noon October 7.
  • Wait until you hear from us about your match — we will notify you on November 7-8 during your HON 121 class. Don’t sweat it if you’re not matched right away; there’s a lot of switching and adding afterwards.
  • If you have further questions about registration, click HERE.

First-Year Mentor Program Timeline

September: Faculty register and describe their research.

October: Students register and preference mentors (Sept 29-Oct 7); mentors review and preference students; students & faculty are matched on mutual interests

November: students notified of matches in HON 121 (Nov 7-8); non-contracted positions open for rematch; students meet with prospective mentors and discuss terms of mentorship (Nov 7-17); completed contracts are due by 4:00pm on Thursday, November 17; register for HON 290 credit.

January: Students begin working with mentors.

March: Students meet for a midterm discussion group.

April: Projects completed; final evaluations completed.



Ask your leaders or come upstairs and talk to: Dr. Svitlana Zbarska (515) 294-2064,

"Working with people of various educational backgrounds taught me how to work in groups more effectively than a class project, where the majority of people have the same amount of knowledge. The Mentor Project is a great way to begin research studies, gain priceless skills, build your resume, and make the most of your college experience."

"Before the program, being at a research university was a vague concept that did not relate to my own life...research work has changed all of that. Participation in this program has helped me build a deeper understanding of ISU—the opportunities that are available here and the work that is done in the field of research."

"My experience in the First-Year Mentor Program was probably the highlight to my second semester. Working on a research team has taught me more about my educational goals than my entire freshman year. It helped me realized that I like people and sales, not entirely the engineering side of business. this prompted me to evaluate my classes and actually was one of the reasons I switched majors. I loved the work I did and what I learned from it."

Registration Tips

Your online profile is the mentor’s first introduction to who you are. When completing your profile be sure to:

  • Write in complete sentences
    Whether you write in paragraphs or bullet points, using complete sentences conveys professionalism and thoughtfulness.
  • List relevant information
    Write about experiences and skills that relate to the type of project you would like to work on.
  • Save your information on your computer
    Type up your profile information and save on your computer. It makes it easier to edit and will be there just in case your browser eats your work.
  • Edit before submitting
    Re-read your profile before submitting it. Correct any spelling or grammatical errors.

When searching for a mentor:

  • Don’t just focus on your major
    The Mentor Program allows you to explore inside or outside of your major. Look for projects that can complement your major. Look for projects that suit your other interests (i.e., working with a mentor in Criminal Justice because you love crime shows). Look for projects in majors that you are considering or might pursue as a minor.
  • Google the Mentor
    Investigate the research potential mentors focus on and what other projects they have worked on. This will give you more information on how your interests match up and the type of work you might do.
  • Write down and save info on your “Top 5” mentors and why you liked them
    ;Once we close the registration site you won’t be able to access your preferences. Before you submit your preferences, write down the professors’ names, departments, and project titles. This list will help you remember who you chose and why you selected that mentor/project.