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Mentors & Thesis Chairs

This page provides resources for finding a research mentor, information about mentor responsibilities, and a list of departmental thesis chairs and a description of their role.

How to Find a Faculty Research Mentor

In recognition of the fact that each student’s research interest is unique, there is no one way to find a project or mentor. The topic of finding a research mentor is introduced in the SI course during the fall of the first year and is supported in numerous ways. Common methods include use of the Directory of Faculty Research Interests. This directory is searchable using Medical Search Headings (MeSH), by keywords, or by individual faculty names. Another method is by searching the list of PIs and projects maintained by OSR which is available upon request, and by reviewing the database of mentored projects conducted by students in prior years. These lists are updated in real time and contain information regarding projects available to YSM students. Searching the research headings available on departmental and program websites is a method which some students have found very helpful. Search engines are another approach. Other students have found it useful to meet with the thesis chair of the department(s) in which they are considering research to find out about the different research groups working in a given domain. OSR arranges mentor discussion panels throughout the year, as do some student interest groups and departments. Upper year students are another important resource in this search. Mentor searches conducted after the clinical years commonly incorporate role models and experiences gained during clinical rotations.

It is recommended that students perform a preliminary mentor search and select between 4-6 individuals with whom to make preliminary contact. Students should then reach out via email requesting appointments to learn about current research and discuss possible research projects. Students should attend research group meetings and meet with research team members in the absence of the mentor to gain insight into the group’s culture, climate, and operations. Medical students may use search engines to assess a given mentor’s work and productivity to determine both the alignment of research interests and the likelihood of being able to publish their work. In light of the fact that the mentor is expected to provide financial support for all components of the student’s research, depending on the type of research to be pursued, it is highly recommended that students work with a faculty mentor with sufficient extramural support. Therefore, medical students can leverage a federal listing of NIH grant recipients available at the NIH RePORTER website to evaluate the mentor’s funding. To expand the pool of mentors and projects available to students, OSR allows the development of mentoring teams comprised of junior and senior investigators.

Reading the evaluations of former students who have worked with that mentor and speaking with current or former students can be very helpful in making a decision. Finally, the student should then meet again with the chosen faculty member to develop a proposal for the project. The faculty member should make every effort to orient the student to a practical research question that can be answered within the available time and, to the extent possible, should encourage the student to contribute to the project by formulating an independent and original question.

The Scientific Inquiry Course offers extensive instruction and support for students in their search for a mentor. These include formal didactics and small group workshops. Finally, Drs. Chaudhry and Herzog are available to discuss options with individual students either during weekly office hours or at a mutually agreed upon time and location (virtual or in person).

Resources for Finding a Research Mentor: Directory of Faculty Research Interests

Faculty Mentor Responsibilities and Resources


Role modeling and supervision during formative years are critical to success. Therefore, OSR encourages a close working relationship between the student and faculty research mentor. Students receive instruction regarding best practices for mentor-mentee relationships in the Responsible Conduct of Research Course offered during the first year of medical school. In order to ensure and support high quality research mentorship, the Yale Center for Clinical Investigation (YCCI) offers formal mentor training annually. In addition, the OSR directs all mentors to the “Optimizing the Practice of Mentoring,” an open source online curriculum offered by the Clinical and Translational Science Institute at the University of Minnesota.

The below list is not intended to be all inclusive but, rather, presents the most critical responsibilities.

Specific Responsibilities of Mentors

  1. Faculty members should adhere to high standards of ethical and professional conduct and follow all institutional policies and procedures.
  2. The faculty mentor should orient the student to a feasible question that can be addressed within the available time. This usually requires multiple meetings with the student, culminating in a project and protocol. Where relevant, HIC applications and requests for data (including JDAT) should be submitted well in advance of the research period to avoid delays.
  3. With guidance from the faculty mentor, the student should develop their own project (although others may participate) and should eventually be encouraged by the faculty mentor to be first author on abstracts and publications. .
  4. The student should not be assigned as a research technician to accomplish someone else’s project in the lab, as a clinical research assistant on a clinical trial, or to duties lacking pedagogical merit.
  5. The faculty mentor should invest sufficient time in the student, including being available for weekly meetings to discuss results and, where necessary, help to focus the direction of the project. When weekly meetings are not feasible, the mentor should ensure that the student is receiving adequate supervision and guidance to maintain satisfactory progress on the research project.
  6. The faculty mentor is responsible for all research expenses (i.e. space and resources such as supplies, data sets, analytic software, research participant reimbursement, etc) and the supervision of the student’s work.
  7. The faculty member is responsible for assurance of compliance with all relevant research regulations and data security procedures, as well as for arranging student’s research access to the electronic medical record and other data resources.
  8. The faculty mentor must review, approve and sign the application for funding prior to submission to the Department Thesis Chair.
  9. In the case of the medical student thesis, the faculty mentor is the first reviewer and provides the initial approval of the thesis as submitted for graduation. (For more information see " Thesis Approval Process")
  10. The faculty mentor should plan to attend Student Research Day activities which will be held annually in May.

A close working relationship between the student and faculty research mentor is a major goal of this program and is strongly encouraged. When laboratory research is performed, it is the responsibility of the faculty advisor to provide all necessary space, equipment and supplies, including costs of publication of scientific articles. For non-laboratory investigation, the same commitment to guidance and support is expected, including but not limited to data access, statistical analysis packages, statistical and methodological support, abstract and publication costs, etc. Weekly conferences between student and advisor are encouraged during the course of the research. It is important to note that, where practicable, the research must be designed and specifically performed by the student with the advice of the faculty mentor. Medical students may not solely fulfill research duties expected of a research coordinator or laboratory technician absent of independent scholarly contributions. They may also not work jointly on a research project. If a faculty member chooses to mentor several students concurrently, each student should receive equal support and attention. Specific components of the summer and thesis research programs are offered in the Scientific Inquiry Course during the first year of medical school.

Departmental Thesis Chairs

OSR’s mission is executed at the departmental level by “Departmental Thesis Chairs.” These individuals serve a critical role in the cultivation and management of YSM’s student research enterprise and fulfill myriad roles related to medical student research at YSM. While their title denotes their role in the thesis process, their responsibilities extend to numerous OSR functions including:

  1. supporting students in their search for a mentor;
  2. provision of feedback on students’ proposals for research funding;
  3. approval of short term requests before a final review in OSR (Research Funding); and
  4. approval of applications for one-year funding prior to final review in OSR.

During the fourth year of medical school, when the student prepares the required thesis, Departmental Thesis Chairs perform critical functions including:

  1. communication with students regarding departmental deadlines for thesis submission and review (Thesis Deadlines);
  2. consideration and granting of deadline extensions;
  3. coordination of the departmental thesis review and approval process;
  4. review and approval of all theses submitted in a given department (Thesis Preparation and Approval);
  5. in very rare cases, nominating a thesis for prize consideration (see below, Thesis Awards).

Given their close working relationship with students, Departmental Thesis Chairs provide invaluable insights to OSR leadership. Drs. Chaudhry and Herzog meet with and communicate with this group regularly over the course of the academic year.

Department Thesis Chair Committee

Department Chairperson(s)
Anesthesiology Dr. Paul Heerdt
Biomedical Engineering Dr. Fahmeed Hyder
Cell Biology Dr. Peter Takizawa
Cellular & Molecular Physiology Dr. Biff Forbush
Child Study Center Dr. Andres Martin
Dermatology Dr. Sean Christensen
Emergency Medicine Dr. Fuad Abujarad
Genetics Dr. Curt Scharfe
History of Medicine Dr. Marco Ramos
Immunobiology Dr. Kevan Herold
Internal Medicine Drs. Charles Dela Cruz & Lauren Ferrante
Laboratory Medicine Dr. Ellen Foxman
Molecular Biophysics & Biochemistry Dr. William Konigsberg
Neurology Drs. Zachary Corbin & Sourav Ghosh
Neuroscience Dr. Michael Higley
Neurosurgery Dr. Angeliki Louvi
Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences Drs. Seth Guller & Shannon Whirledge
Ophthalmology & Visual Science Dr. Ninani Kombo
Orthopaedics & Rehabilitation Dr. Jonathan Grauer
Pathology Dr. Samuel Katz
Pediatrics Dr. Jeffrey Gruen
Pharmacology Dr. Daryl Klein
Psychiatry Dr. Marc Potenza
Radiology & Biomedical Imaging Dr. David Madoff, Interim Thesis Chair
School of Public Health Dr. Elizabeth Claus
Surgery Dr. Peter Gruber
Therapeutic Radiology Dr. Sanjay Aneja
Urology Dr. Isaac Kim