Professor Susan Charles considers working with motivated undergraduate students to be one of her most rewarding experiences as a faculty member. She greatly appreciates the different perspectives her students bring to their research, which help her approach her own work in new and different directions. From their work, her students gain an appreciation of the effort that goes into a successful research project, along with the tremendous satisfaction of seeing it through to the end. In considering undergraduate students to mentor, Professor Charles looks for students who can think logically, will ask questions, and are not afraid to take chances. For the passion she brings to supporting undergraduate research at UCI, Professor Charles was awarded the 2009 Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Fostering Undergraduate Research for the School of Social Ecology.

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

Working with smart, motivated undergraduates is one of the most rewarding experiences for a faculty member. I like projects where they can form their own questions and jump into the data to test these ideas.

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

They must be able to think logically—taking a problem down a logical pathway to form a question or insight into some behavior or emotional experience. They must also have strong statistical and writing skills.

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

Unfortunately, not nearly enough! Throughout the years, as my graduate students have gotten stronger and better, they have taken over many responsibilities that I usually did with these students. I try to meet with my students every week or two and talk to them about their projects, but I know my graduate students are seeing them much more often.

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

My students understand the difficulty, and hopefully the satisfaction, of accomplishing a difficult task! I hope they believe in themselves and their ability more than they had before, and at the same time developed additional writing and statistical skills.

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

Undergraduate students often make me take a different perspective than I would have otherwise. They help me to gain a deeper understanding, and they provide a different viewpoint.

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

Don't be afraid to ask questions and to take chances. If you do, however, be prepared to work hard and have a lot of responsibility!

Research Interests: Emotional processes across the adult life span, subjective experience and cognitive processes, health and emotion

Faculty Profile:


Past Faculty Mentors of the Month

Dec. '12 James C. Earthman
Nov. '12 Kenneth J. Shea
Oct. '12 Jeanett Castellanos
Sep. '12 Barry Siegel
Aug. '12 Martha L. Mecartney
Jul. '12 Brandon Brown
Jun. '12 Wayne Sandholtz
May. '12 Farghalli A. Mohamed
Apr. '12 Susan T. Charles
Mar. '12 Katherine Faust
Feb. '12 Donald R. Blake
Jan. '12 Elizabeth Cauffman