Professor Michael Montoya was mentored well as a student, and is passing the lessons he learned to the students he mentors. He has worked with students from a wide range of majors, setting high expectations and expecting them to take the lead on their research projects. Professor Montoya was trained to think creatively, applying any and all methods to solving problems, and he requires his students to approach their research the same way. By encouraging creativity, he challenges the students he mentors to become independent, think for themselves, and follow their passions. UROP recognizes Professor Montoya for his commitment to mentoring undergraduates.

1. How did you develop an interest in mentoring undergraduate research or creative projects, and what type of projects have you directed?

I've created a studio/lab/research space where all kinds of students flourish. Biomedical engineering, molecular biology, anthropology, Chicano/Latino Studies, public health, sociology are just some of the majors of students who have worked with me. I was mentored well as an undergraduate and graduate student. So, I am doing what I know, what I think makes a great education. I have had students who have created videos and websites, (, and students who have done studies of urban Latino youth soccer leagues, ( The only requirement is that they want to work hard, seek a higher level and challenge than coursework alone, and are not afraid to explore the idea that human health, human biology and human society are inseparable.

2. What do you look for and what are your expectations of undergraduates you select to conduct research under your guidance?

I expect them to lead their research project. They need to be able to write well, follow directions, follow through, report back regularly when needed, and participate in the larger community of scholars with whom I work.

3. Describe your level of engagement and style in mentoring undergraduates.

Benevolent pressure. High expectations for a project that the student and I together find interesting. For those who dare to jump in and take charge, it is exciting. We meet regularly as part of my “lab,” the community knowledge project. We also meet individually as needed.

4. In your experience, how have your students improved or benefited as a result of their undergraduate research experience?

As an anthropologist, I was trained to ask a good question and bring to it any and all methods and theories required to answer it. This undisciplinary approach requires students to think outside the box and solve problems creatively. It begins with asking a great question.

5. What have you learned or benefited from guiding undergraduate research or creative projects?

I am continually impressed by the energy, optimism and determination of students who have found their passion. Seeing them benefit and grow as scholars and as people keeps me motivated. Since students are future leaders, I benefit by watching them learn the critical skills needed to solve complex problems.

6. What recommendations and advice would you give students embarking on undergraduate research or creative projects?

Don't listen willy-nilly to your professors, parents, pastors, priests, or pundits. Find your own voice and passion and then find mentors who will help YOU develop. If you don't care about what you are doing, why should anyone else?! Get in the game. It won't be easy thinking for yourself, learning to think out of the box, but being a drone gets old real fast.

Research Interests: Community Health, Social Determinants of Disease, Science and Technology Studies, Race

Faculty Profile:


Past Faculty Mentors of the Month

Dec. '10 Derek Dunn-Rankin
Nov. '10 Wendy A. Goldberg
Oct. '10 Bernard Choi
Sep. '10 Daniel S. Stokols
Aug. '10 James S. Nowick
Jul. '10 Thomas J. Carew
Jun. '10 Kristen Day
May. '10 Keith Woerpel
Apr. '10 Anshu Agrawal
Mar. '10 Darryl Taylor
Feb. '10 Michael J. Montoya
Jan. '10 Gregory Alan Weiss