Successfully recruiting students from underrepresented groups to pursue biomedical science research careers continues to be a challenge. Early exposure to scientific research is often cited as a powerful means to attract research scholars with the research mentor being critical in facilitating the development of an individual's science identity and career; however, most mentors in the biological sciences have had little formal training in working with research mentees. To better understand mentors' experiences working with undergraduates in the laboratory, we conducted semistructured interviews with 15 research mentors at a public university in the Midwest. The interviewed mentors were part of a program designed to increase the number of American Indians pursuing biomedical/biobehavioral research careers and represented a broad array of perspectives, including equal representation of male and female mentors, mentors from underrepresented groups, mentors at different levels of their careers, and mentors from undergraduate and professional school departments. The mentors identified benefits and challenges in being an effective mentor. We also explored what the term underrepresented means to the mentors and discovered that most of the mentors had an incomplete understanding about how differences in culture could contribute to underrepresented students' experience in the laboratory. Our interviews identify issues relevant to designing programs and courses focused on undergraduate student research.
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