This handbook produced by
the Graduate School of the University of Alabama at Birmingham
For a PDF version of this document
--including the Guide for Authors to the UAB McNair Chronicle--
Program Background and Purpose
Dr. Ronald Ervin McNair exemplified excellence in academia and in life. He came from a low-income family in South Carolina. Despite a background of poverty and segregation, Ronald McNair received a bachelor’s degree in physics in 1971, magna cum laude, from North Carolina A&T University. In 1976, he earned a Ph.D. in physics from Massachusetts Institute of
Technology. Dr. McNair was nationally recognized for his research in laser physics. After working as a Physicist at Hughes Research Laboratories, he became a mission specialist astronaut with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1978.
Dr. McNair and his fellow astronauts died when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after take-off on January 28, 1986. The McNair Program was established in 1986 by Congress in his honor. The program provides effective preparation for doctoral study to low-income, first-generation college students, and students from groups underrepresented in graduate education.
UAB first qualified for a Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program in the fall of 1999. Our first Scholars came to campus in the summer of 2000. A complete list of current and past Scholars—as well as a summary of their research projects—is available online at the UAB McNair web site.
The Mentor-Scholar Relationship
Perhaps the most important aspect of the McNair Scholars Program is the relationship between the faculty mentor and the scholar. For the scholar, the benefit of participating in the program depends to a large extent on this relationship. The relationship is designed to encourage, motivate, and prepare McNair scholars for doctoral studies. The role of the McNair mentor can be broken into three categories. Each is a vital part of these undergraduates' summer program.
|Preparation for Graduate Education
Enhance students' awareness of the opportunities and demands of graduate education;
Help students evaluate graduate schools and programs, and introduce students to pertinent sources of information;
Enhance the relationship between faculty and students, and encourage students to think critically, ask questions, express opinions, and respect different points of view;
Encourage students to think about and discuss their goals and career objectives.
|Direct Summer Research Experience
Take part in a comprehensive eight-week summer research internship by assisting the Intern with the design and completion of a research project;
Help the student prepare a reasonable timeline for assessing the progress of his or her research, and review this timeline as the summer progresses;
Inform the McNair Coordinator of any major changes in the topic, orientation, or structure of the research project as soon as the need to make the change arises;
Ensure that students participate in all required seminars and meetings of the McNair program (see enclosed schedule);
|Report Results of Scholar and Mentor
Assist the student in preparing a final poster and writing a final paper that is based on the project and suitable for presentation and publication;
Approve the final research paper for submission to the McNair office;
Ensure that the student has adequate supervision throughout the summer experience.
Submit a one-page assessment of the research experience at the end of the research program, outlining participation and strengths and weaknesses of the intern in relation to the research (form enclosed).
The Peer Mentor-Scholar Relationship
In addition to their faculty mentors, UAB McNair scholars are assigned a graduate student as a "peer" mentor. The interactions between the peer mentors and the McNair scholars help to prepare the scholars to become successful graduate students themselves. Peer mentors will receive compensation for their service and should contact the McNair Director if they have questions about the payroll process.
Peer mentors help the faculty mentors to integrate students into the social environment of college life, to help them become comfortable thinking of themselves as graduate students, and to help them prepare for their academic and professional future. Each student, of course, will have special needs and concerns; however, observing certain general guidelines will help peer mentors ensure that they serve the students' best interests, as well as their own.
Converse with students about both academic and personal aspects of graduate school.
Elicit and answer students' questions about their lab experiences, their relationships with their mentors, and their impressions of the program.
Ask to see the results of the students' work often, whether it's looking at a review article they've read or discussing a scientific procedure.
Take each student and each question seriously.
Offer to discuss your educational and career plans.
In short, try to help the students feel that they are a part of an educational program, not just an intern who's been hired for the summer.
Keep an ongoing log of interactions with assigned students.
McNair Scholars are awarded a generous stipend and housing allowance for the summer that enables them to devote full-time effort to their research. Only in rare cases are Scholars allowed to take classes and/or hold part-time employment. They are expected to regard their summer research program as full-time employment. Note the following excerpt from the UAB McNair Scholars' Contract (included in its entirety in this booklet):
I understand that failure to meet deadlines for submission of research or any unexcused absences from workshops and seminars, research activities, or any other mandatory events, will result in deductions from my stipend and/or my dismissal from the McNair Program.
Additional Resources on Mentoring in Science and Engineering
All titles below are from the Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy (COSEPUP) and are available for free reading online.
Adviser, Teacher, Role Model, Friend: On Being a Mentor to Students in Science and Engineering (1997)
Careers in Science and Engineering: A Student Planning Guide to Grad School and Beyond
On Being a Scientist: Responsible Conduct in Research
Reshaping the Graduate Education of Scientists and Engineers
UAB McNair Staff Contact Information
Jeff Engler , Ph.D.
Oversees all aspects of the program
Ms. Wanda H. Jordan
Oversees student recruitment and acceptance, research assignments, scholar tracking, and budgeting.
Julia S. Austin, Ph.D.
Director for Educational Services
Oversees professional development seminars (writing, posters, etc.)