Helpful Hints for Mentors
Project not shadowing
While internships often have an intern 'shadow' a mentor, performing odds and ends tasks as they arise. This is not what the Akamai Internship Program is about. This program places interns with mentors who have a specific STE project that can be accomplished over the 8 week program.
In general, the intern’s project may involve answering a question, solving a problem, designing a program, system, or apparatus, or it may involve the completion of several smaller projects. As you work out an appropriate project, these questions might be helpful: Will the project…
- help the intern learn about defining or clarifying a question or problem?
- give opportunities to design one’s own experiment, or devise one’s own methods?
- be complete-able, or at least achieve an appropriate stopping point, within 7 weeks?
- help the intern learn to use data (or other evidence) to develop a scientific explanation, or to justify a solution to a problem?
- provide opportunities for the intern to grapple with alternative solutions or explanations?
- provide the intern with an opportunity to think and work like a scientist or engineer?
There are several ways you might go about assigning the intern to a project:
- Have several projects in mind and allow the intern choose.
- Review the intern’s skills, experience, etc., in consultation with the Akamai Internship Program, and design a project for that student. Or consult the intern directly for his/her skills and interests.
Assign a suitable undergraduate project directly to the student.
Link to helpful hints to mentors
Please remember that the internship is not just about completing the project – it is a valuable learning experience for the intern, to learn ways of reasoning, ways of working, and ways of communicating. There will be times when progress on the project will be slow because the intern is learning, fumbling, or stuck. Sometimes the point at which an intern is stuck is not so important, or really just has to get done quickly – then it might be necessary to correct the intern or give the right answer. But often the intern will learn the most if you let them struggle just a bit, and then guide them through the process of making progress. Sometimes saying, “Can you show me how you do the measurement, and let’s look at it step-by-step” is just what is needed, instead of, “That’s not right, let me show you how to do it.”
The “big picture” on mentoring
To make the intern’s experience even more valuable, you might consider the following:
· Help them network – if you can’t provide something they need, suggest other people at the workplace who might be able to help. Make introductions.
· Invite them to work-related events and gatherings; make them feel included in the group.
· Take advantage of informal down time to ask about their career/educational path; if you feel comfortable, share a bit about your own.
· Take an interest in their personal goals.
· Share your learning experiences, particularly what you learned from hard or negative times.
· Provide constructive and supportive feedback on overall career issues in addition to the project.
What the Akamai Internship Program provides and requires of the interns
During the Akamai Internship Short Course, we will go over information and strategies to help prepare them for their placements. We offer ongoing support throughout the summer (and beyond).
In parallel with their internship projects, Akamai Interns also complete a course in science/engineering communication. During the internship, the Akamai Program education staff will hold weekly meetings, where interns come together as a class by telecon or videocon. Please help your intern to attend – if possible, help reserve videocon or telecon time at your institution. (See the dates/calendar for info.) At each meeting, the interns get assignments, such as writing an abstract of their project, working on their resume and personal statements for applications, and preparing technical posters and presentations of their project for symposia and conferences.
At the “mini-talks”, assigned just before halfway in the internship, the interns prepare a short powerpoint on the background and early progress on their project. This assignment helps them research and clarify the project’s background and motivation; it starts them documenting their progress in a presentable form; and it provides an important opportunity for practice and feedback on their presentation skills. Since every intern gives a formal project presentation at the symposium, we intend the mini-talk as the core or “draft 0” of that final presentation; we hope it helps them make incremental progress. The mini-talks are first delivered at a special weekly meeting, where their peers and the Akamai Program staff provide feedback. Next, your intern will schedule a time to present to you, and get your feedback as well.
The interns are asked to get their supervisors’ approval (as well as any institutional approvals needed) before submitting final versions of abstracts, posters, and presentations. Please provide constructive feedback to your intern on these matters, in a timely manner – a delay in responding to their work can hinder their progress. If you feel at any time that the student needs more support than you are able to give, please notify the Akamai Internship Program staff; we are happy to offer more assistance with science communication skills.
How to become a mentor
If you are interested in becoming a mentor please contact the program coordinator: Lani Lebron. (link to her contact info)
Whats expected of you as a mentor
The well-defined part of mentoring is supervising interns on a specific project – helping them improve their skills and master the material, and tutoring them on their performance. The less-well-defined parts of mentoring are equally important: providing intellectual, emotional, even logistical support; modeling success and constructive participation in the enterprises of science and engineering; and sharing your experience to help with their career and educational choices.
Before you mentor an intern
You might find it helpful to reflect on your own experience as an undergraduate:
· Did you have a mentor that made a difference in your career? (Or do you wish you had?)
· What was positive or negative about that mentor’s style?
· What kind of help would you have liked as you got started on projects?
· What was the most effective way for you to get work done?
These questions might serve as a starting point to get you thinking about mentoring college students. But keep in mind that what worked (or didn’t work) for you may not apply to all students – try to reflect on other strategies as well.
In your first meetings with your intern please discuss any questions the intern has, and plan out…
· how frequently you will meet
· what the checkpoints on progress will be
· whether you (the mentor) will be away at any point in the summer, and who will look after the intern and project during those times
It’s likely that meetings/check-ins will be more frequent (daily or more!) at the beginning of the project, and become less frequent as the intern gains self-sufficiency. (But please still keep an eye on progress!).
What will it cost you?
The Akamai program provides the stipend for the internships. Mentoring an intern will require your time and effort to make create a meaningful and successful experience for the intern.