A priority for Professor Anthony James is to teach the students he mentors how scientists think. By helping them learn the language and process of research within his discipline, he hopes to introduce his students fully to the life of a researcher. Along with the success he sees in many of his students, Professor James also has had students discover that research does not interest them—an important discovery that lets them focus their education elsewhere. Professor James received the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Fostering Undergraduate Research from the School of Biological Sciences in 2006 for his commitment to fostering undergraduate research.

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

I got into science as a result of an undergraduate research experience. I understand first-hand how such experiences can influence some people to do research. The students conduct mostly molecular biology projects looking to exploit genes to prevent pathogen transmission.

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

Interest in the subject, intellect to facilitate understanding the subject and initiative to show up and do what is needed for a successful research experience.

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

We meet weekly in a large format with the whole lab and then with a small student-only group to discuss the science. I work mostly to try and convey the context for what it is they are doing. The students work directly with senior scientists and graduate students who are in the lab much more consistently than I am.

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

I think they may learn the way scientists think. They also learn the language of the discipline, which helps them in their studies. A lot of them find out that they don't want to do research.

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

Mostly that they cannot read my mind! I need to remember that things that I take as commonplace are new to them. I am constantly trying to find ways of explaining complex subjects in a way that the students can understand.

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

Commit to doing what is necessary to work on a real project. If you find that it is onerous to do so, you probably are not really interested in research. Showing up helps a lot!

Research Interests: Genetic control of mosquito-borne diseases (malaria and dengue fever)

Faculty Profile: http://faculty.uci.edu/profile.cfm?faculty_id=2154&name=Anthony%20A.%20James

Email: aajames@uci.edu

Past Faculty Mentors of the Month

Dec. '11 Louis DeSipio
Nov. '11 Anthony A. James
Oct. '11 Tiffany Willoughby-Herard
Sep. '11 Angela Lukowski
Aug. '11 Petra Wilder-Smith
Jul. '11 Ron D. Frostig
Jun. '11 Sunny Jiang
May. '11 Samuel L. Gilmore
Apr. '11 Sally Dickerson
Mar. '11 Shahram Lotfipour
Feb. '11 Mark Steyvers
Jan. '11 Benjamin F. Villac