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Mentor Information and Responsibilities

As a mentor, you are the foundation of a successful research participation program, and you are commended for undertaking this important role. By hosting individuals at your facility, you are contributing to the education and training of the next generation of scientists, as well as advancing the mission of EPA.

Mentors should:

  • Develop a training plan for the participant, including the areas of participation in the research project, attendance in meetings, conferences, special courses, etc.
  • Clearly define the activities in which the participant will be involved. Let the participant know your expectations for research progress, professional behavior, compliance, attendance, etc.
  • Assist the participant in getting settled into your facility and in becoming a productive member of your facility’s community.
  • Provide the appropriate materials, equipment, safety training, technical and clerical support, and office space for the participant to conduct the project.
  • Provide ongoing technical guidance and advice.
  • Be accessible.
  • Periodically review the status of the participant’s activities and give appropriate feedback.
  • Approve appropriate absences by the participant.
  • Make sure that ORISE is immediately informed if stipend payment needs to be adjusted due to an adjusted schedule, an unpaid absence, or an early termination.
  • Assist in preparation of participant’s renewal request or final reports and make recommendations on extension of appointment.
  • Immediately involve ORISE if a participant demonstrates an inability to function effectively within your research environment.
  • Immediately involve ORISE if any concerning incidents occur or if the participant registers a serious concern.

Status of Program Participant

Although the research participant you host is involved in a project and participates in the program under your mentorship, the program is designed primarily to serve the participant. The project gives the participant an opportunity to receive hands-on experience that complements his or her academic course of study. Please encourage your participant to attend seminars, professional meetings, staff meetings, and other functions that will provide insight into the ways in which professionals interact within your facility and with others.

Because the primary purpose of the program is educational, the person you are hosting is not an employee performing a job, and there are restrictions on the types of assignments that you can make. For example, the participant’s project should not include work activities that are reserved for federal employees, nor should the project require the participant to provide expert advice; supervise, mentor, hire or fire anyone; have budget program management or signature authority; carry an official job title; or function in any way as a representative of the federal government.

Time Schedules

A full-time participant should be on-site at your facility and should avoid obligations that will interrupt the appointment. The participant with a full-time appointment should be assigned a research project that demands full-time attention (based on 40 hours per week).

Participants do not earn annual or medical leave, but may be allowed a limited number of personal days a year without a reduction of their stipend. All absences must be approved in advance by you, the mentor and the EPA project officer/ORISE program coordinator.

Should a participant need more days off in a year (for an illness, emergency, etc.), then he or she should notify you; you would then secure the necessary approval through your EPA project officer and then ORISE should immediately be informed (either by you or through your EPA project officer). It is imperative that ORISE be quickly notified of any change in a participant’s schedule that will result in a different stipend payment than regularly received.

Participants are paid for federal holidays.  For holidays and emergency closings, the participant follows the same schedule as your facility.

Should the participant choose to end the appointment early, it is essential that you notify ORISE of the early termination immediately. Your cooperation in making sure that ORISE is always informed – with as much notice as possible – of any schedule changes which may necessitate a change in regular stipend payments is essential.

Mentors should NOT:

  • Consider the participant an employee for any purpose. Participants receive no salary or fringe benefits. They receive a monthly stipend.
  • Consider the participant to be performing work.
  • Consider the participant as rendering advisory or personal services.
  • Consider the participant as providing expert advice.
  • Consider the appointment as a commitment to future employment by EPA or others.
  • Consider the appointments as dependent upon the performance of any specific work or the delivery of a product.
  • Assign program management authority, signature authority, or official job titles to a participant

Suggestions for a Successful Relationship

  • At the beginning of the appointment (before the participant arrives or on the first day), provide the participant with information and reading materials related to the specific project.
  • Work with your project officer to make necessary arrangements for the participant to gain access to the facility. Arrange for orientation to the facility and its procedures.
  • Be on site the first day of the participant’s appointment or designate a substitute to welcome the participant on your behalf. Introduce the participant to the appropriate staff members.
  • Provide a nurturing and stimulating intellectual atmosphere for the participant.
  • Encourage the participant to continue his or her education.
  • Encourage the participant to write a report on the research or technical project being conducted during the appointment period.
  • Leave instructions for the participant when you are unavailable, and designate a substitute mentor to serve in your absence.

Additional Information

For additional information on mentoring, please see On Being a Mentor to Students in Science and Engineering (developed by the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine).

Because we believe that good mentoring is the cornerstone of quality educational programs, ORISE staff have developed an online mentor orientation module. The purpose of this module is to provide mentors with information about how to make the most of their mentoring experience.

The module addresses the following topics:

  • Deciding to Host a Research Participant
  • Identifying an Appropriate Project
  • Selecting the Best Person for Your Project
  • Preparing to Host Your Participant
  • Orienting Your Participant on the First Day
  • Providing a Quality Experience
  • Preventing and Solving Problems

To access the orientation module, please visit ORISE Mentor Orientation.