Professor Ron Frostig mentors undergraduates in his lab, in part, to help them overcome unrealistic views they might have developed about the process of science. Moving from their classes to the lab, his students get a close look at the tedium, frustration, success, and fun that are all part of life as a working scientist. In return, the undergraduates in his lab provide Professor Frostig teaching opportunities for his graduate students and, through their questions and enthusiasm, a chance to better design and analyze the experiments conducted in the lab. Professor Frostig received the 2010 Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Fostering Undergraduate Research from the School of Biological Sciences.

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

One of the problems that undergraduate students have is that they hear about science in lectures and textbooks and therefore develop an unrealistic view about the process of science. By having them in the lab and involving them in real science they get a taste of how science is performed: frustration, failed experiments, dead ends, serendipity, discovery and fun, all mixed up. Projects in my lab are all related to better understanding the structure, function and plasticity of the cerebral cortex—the most elaborate and mysterious part of the brain.

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

I look for a combination of curiosity, enthusiasm, and dedication for the project.

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

My laboratory is divided into teams that work on different projects. New undergraduates are assigned to one of these teams and work directly with a mentor, either a graduate student or a post-doc scholar. I frequently meet with the teams and we all work together on solving issues and moving the projects forward, and occasionally on writing the results for publication.

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

Many of my undergraduates go to medical or other professional schools and also to graduate school. They typically feel that the time in my lab was very helpful in terms of shaping their critical thinking, appreciating how science really works, and shaping their decisions about their future career.

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

Training undergraduates has benefited me and my lab members by enabling a great opportunity for training and teaching. Also we enjoy their enthusiasm and their questions that help us, in turn, to better design and analyze our experiments.

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

Use this unique opportunity to learn and be active asking questions and trying to understand in depth the project. It can be quite rewarding.

Research Interests: Structure, function and plasticity of the cerebral cortex

Faculty Profile:


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