Tiered Mentoring


Welcome to the home page for the Tiered Mentoring program! This program is aimed at providing hands-on research experience to undergraduate students at the University of Akron. We specifically encourage students who may feel uncertain about whether they want to continue in Biology to apply. Too often, the introductory courses for any discipline are unable to provide interested students the excitement of hands-on research, and thus many students decide that biology is “not for them.” Studies have shown that many of these students decide to “stick it out” through these early courses and go on to earn their biology degrees if they have an early experience with a research group. This is particularly true for student underrepresented in science (read article on this topic). Such opportunities allow students to become part of the research process and feel more connected to their disciplines after their experiences. Thus, hands-on research has proven to be an important tool to motivate biology students (or students interested in STEM fields) to continue their degrees when they might otherwise not have.

Student research is also an important factor in being accepted into medical or other professional schools. Such schools highly value research experiences for undergraduates in their selection of the best candidates for their programs.  Additionally, the faculty mentoring students conducting research will write the best letters of recommendation for these students when they do apply to professional or graduate schools.


The tiered mentoring program goes one step beyond the above noted “traditional” research experience. As the name -“tiered mentoring” – implies, our program is designed for the students to be both “mentees” as well as “mentors.” Each student is encouraged to participate for a minimum of two years in the same lab. In the first year, the student is the “mentee” and learns the various aspects of the research and how to fit into the research group. In the second year, the student becomes the “mentor” for the “newbies” coming in the following year. Having the experience of mentoring newer students really shows the “mentor” students how much they have learned and gives them the confidence that they can succeed in biology.


Incoming tiered mentoring students will be paired with a graduate student, a faculty mentor and a tiered mentoring student from the previous year (if applicable). The faculty member and graduate student will direct the overall research project, and initially will provide a good deal of instruction to the tiered mentoring student. As time progresses, the tiered mentoring student will become more and more independent as they evolve into their own role within the research group. The overall development of the tiered mentoring student should follow four general levels (adapted from Miller, 2002): (1) undergraduates with limited experience will depend on the faculty/graduate student for direction, (2) with experience the undergraduates will move toward independence with the faculty/graduate student mentors as their guide; (3) faculty, graduate student and undergraduates will become collaborators, all making contributions to the research endeavor; and finally (4) the faculty, graduate student and undergraduate will learn from each other as colleagues.


Current UA Research Opportunities

Below are the research projects needing help for Spring, 2022:


How to Participate in the Tiered Mentoring Program

The first thing to do for an interested participant in the T.M. Program is to review the above list outlining the various research projects you could participate in. It would be wise to link to the professor's (on campus research) web page to get more information on the professor and his/her research program (click on the names of each professor at the bottom of the above research pages to link to their web page). You might also wish to email the professor before you make your choice of which research project you would like to work with (email addresses are on each professor's web page).

Students are encouraged to sign up for some number of independent research credits (credits depend on time commitments, and commonly range from 1-4 total credits) in the biology department and then do their research project over their time in the lab. Time commitments for research are negotiated with the research advisor and are quite flexible in most situations. The UA research opportunity will come with a $500 supply budget for student research (made possible by a gracious yearly gift from Norbert Thompson and a gift from Carolyn Olive in memory of her late husband John Olive, a previous professor in the Department of Biology), allowing the student to pursue a range of research topics that may not usually be available to them because of cost. [Please note - the $500 budget assumes a minimum of a 2-3 month time commitment; projects that are shorter than this will be allocated a concomitantly smaller supply budget.]

After identifying the research groups you are interested in, you need to fill out an application form. On that form, you can identify up to 5 research mentors you would be interested in working with. (If you list >1 faculty member, please rank your interest for each professor.) The application form requires you to input some basic information about yourself (e.g., GPA, awards/scholarships, work experience, etc.) and asks that you write a 1-page outline of why you are interested in working with the research group(s) you have identified. This may be the only information that the research mentors have to decide whether they will accept you into their lab or not, so writing a well thought out application will greatly increase your odds of being chosen to be in this program! If the professor needs more information from you, he/she may contact you personally (so make sure you give them an email address that you check regularly!).

Send your completed applications to Dr. Jordan Renna. You can either scan and email the application (jrenna@uakron.edu) or drop it off in the Biology Department mail room for Dr. Renna (ASEC Biology, Rm. D401)

The deadline for applying is 4/1/22. Once all the applications have been received, they will be circulated among the various professors who will determine whether an applicant is appropriate for a particular research group. The faculty will rank their acceptable applicants and then the students will be offered a position by 4/15/22. Each student will negotiate with each professor/research manager the starting date, the number of hours per week, and the date range for their particular research involvement.

If you have any further questions about this program, please contact Dr. Jordan Renna.