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Dr. Delgado understands the needs of her students. She schedules weekly meetings with all her students and encourages them to voice their opinions and needs. On multiple occasions in my first semester as a graduate student, I found myself stressed and overworked. One day, I walked into her office for a question on my research and she must have read the stress on my face. Her face changed from focus to concern. Before I could even ask her my original question, she said, "Sit. How are you, my dear? How are your classes? How is your research going? And how is life?"
– Aide Robles, Master’s student
Scientists within the environmental engineering realm carry out leading-edge research that is invaluable to our society. As a professor, I operate under the philosophy that research should help this generation and future generations to have a better quality of life. I try to instill that philosophy in my students. Throughout my academic career,
I have mentored numerous undergraduate, high school and graduate students. I have mentored females and males from various ethnic and scientific backgrounds including environmental engineering, microbiology, civil engineering, chemical engineering, and biochemistry.
Since I began my appointment as an assistant professor, I have established a research team composed of graduate and undergraduate students (currently, two PhD students, two MS students, two undergraduate students and a visiting scholar). My mentorship experience has been and continues to be, an invaluable tool towards my development as a researcher and educator. I always encourage discussions and creativity in the lab and emphasize the importance of work my students do. I have been particularly successful at motivating female students to continue science and pursue graduate school. I try to be directly involved in their learning experiences in the lab and, to the best of my ability, I create an environment conducive to collaboration and teamwork. I foster critical thinking that encourages graduate students to do quality research and to develop their own research ideas. I offer guidance and support at all stages in their development as our next generation of engineers and scientists.
Mentoring students has its challenges. From my experience, motivating students to do the research and push themselves intellectually and creatively often requires significant involvement of the mentor. Research has shown individuals’ achievement and outcomes in an activity can be predicted by their expectancies for success and achievement (Wigfield & Eccles, 2000 Contemporary Educational Psychology). I have found that students’ motivation can be increased if they have a high expectancy for success with the research and if they value the research topic they have undertaken. For this reason, I make sure to highlight the relevance of the research in the scientific realm and in the students’ everyday and future professional careers. To instill confidence, I discuss my expectations, performance requirements and the feedback system. I revisit these frequently. I provide feedback to the students on their progress and make myself available to help them as much as I can in and out of the laboratory. The students feel confident that they have the resources (including the professor’s availability) to succeed, and that their success is directly related to the time and effort they dedicate to the research.