By Katie Lotterhos

In 2020-2021 we pivoted in response to the pandemic to offer a Virtual Lab Meeting Training Program: 34 students signed up for the program (mentees), who we matched to an academic lab (mentors) and participated in their lab meetings during the academic year.
At the conclusion of the program, we conducted an anonymous survey of mentees and mentors to assess the impact of the program and to evaluate if it was able to increase diversity within our network. Here are some highlights from the survey.


  • Of the 34 students enrolled in the program, 33 responded to our survey. There about a 50/50 split of undergraduate students and graduate students who participated as mentees.
  • Diversity in gender and sexuality: 16% of survey respondents did not identify as male or female and 26% did not identify as heterosexual.
  • Racial/ethnic diversity: 3% Native American or Alaskan Native, 12% Asian or Asian American, 15% Black or African American, 18% Hispanic or Latnix, 3% Middle Eastern or North African, and 48% white.
  • 94% of respondents agreed that the program helped to extend their professional network, and 93% would recommend the program to a friend.
  • 86% agreed that the program helped them develop a supportive network and find other people working in science with a similar background to their own.

  • 54% of respondents said that the stipend was moderately, or very important to their completion of the program, and 7% of respondents said that it was extremely important
  • 47% of respondents expect to interact with the host lab on a regular basis, and 47% hope to continue to interact in some way
  • Average rating by mentees was 9.1/10

Some mentee quotes:

  • “Through this program I was able to work in the lab I participated in because my interests aligned with what they were looking for in an undergraduate research assistant. I had a great experience with this program and greatly benefitted from it.”
  • “This program has done wonders for me in regards to my education and has really helped pushed me to become a better researcher and scientist. It’s highlighted all of the fun things I once knew science to be that I strayed from after years and years of simply completing assignments. Thank you kindly for this opportunity for not only me, but for all the other participants as well! This is an amazing program”
  • “In my experience, not only was I able to interact with people from far away, doing similar but not quite the same research as me, but also I became a bridge between my mentor’s team and local team. It was a wonderful experience that has been set to continue indefinetly, as we were all very pleased to be toguether!!! The chances of working with people that I admire would have been slim to none without you acting as a bridge. Thank you! Keep it up!”
  • “I was well pleased with the program and the opportunity it gave me as a first generation college student to get insight into what working in a lab group was like. I am excited to continue the connections with the lab into future projects and my career.”
  • “This program was probably the most useful program I have done so far! It was really valuable to go through the process of choosing another lab that aligns with my research interests. A big bonus of the program for me was being able to bounce research ideas off folks who were not in my lab, but know my area of interest. Sometimes when discussing ideas with my own lab, I feel more nervous knowing they are all so linked to my success and work. Having this program allowed me to speak of my ideas in a professional context, but with less fear of messing up.”
  • “This program was wonderful and provided me with so many resources and knowledge that I would not have otherwise had! My mentor introduced me to other relevant professionals who I was able to talk with over Zoom, she is in the process of developing a group project which will give me coding experience as well as authorship on a paper, and she introduced me to and REU internship program that I will hopefully be participating in this summer.”


  • In contrast to the mentees, 94% of mentors were white and heterosexual
  • 83% of mentors said that the program took less than 3 extra hours of their time
  • 86% of mentors said that mentees attended more lab meetings then was required by the program
  • Average rating of 8.75 out of 10 by mentors


  • “I had no expectations of this program going in, but was so incredibly pleased with the outcome. My mentee was really engaged in the lab meetings, and I think she benefited from the interaction (particularly in a year where starting research in a new lab as an undergrad was very difficult). Our lab also benefited from the outside experiences that our mentee brought into our group discussions.”
  • “The mentee was a mathematical modeler, we are primarily an empirical lab. The mentee loved being in an empirical lab that studies that same topics (marine larval dispersal and coancestry). The mentee have positive feedback and enjoyed that range of topics covered from how to review papers, how to write responses to reviewers, how to choose a journal, how the review process works, how to be a good mentor, how to choose job applicants without bias, and how to write job applications, exposure to all sorts of different empirical research that goes on in our lab.”
  • “My mentee designed an experiment that she will use to submit a NSF GRFP in October, and she will formally apply to my lab as a graduate student.”
  • “We co-wrote an RCN working group proposal (led by the mentee and students in my lab), which was funded.”
  • “Honestly, this was a complete win/win. My lab benefited greatly and I believe that my mentee benefited greatly as well. I’m not sure we will ever ask our mentee to stop coming to meetings!”
  • “My mentee, who is aiming for graduate school, was familiarized with opportunities to pursue funding through NSF and NIH. We talked through grant proposal development, and kicked around loads of ideas for experiments, which I think will set the stage for the mentee to secure funding for her grad work.”