Professor Mahtab Jafari treasures the personal relationships that she is able to build with the undergraduate students she mentors. By advising them on their projects, preparing for graduate school, career possibilities, and lifestyle choices, she provides her students with mentorship that continues long after they leave her lab. Many of the undergraduates Professor Jafari has mentored have gone on to medical school, pharmacy school or other graduate studies, and the guidance and inspiration she offered them have played a large part in their success. Professor Jafari was awarded the 2008 Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Fostering Undergraduate Research for the School of Medicine, a fitting recognition of the passion she has consistently shared with her students.

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

I have always loved teaching and mentoring, although I cannot think of how I developed an interest in mentoring. I have directed a number of projects that are related to the main focus of my lab: the impact of botanical extracts on lifespan and health span and understanding the molecular mechanism of action of these extracts. Recently, I started an educational research 199 course. In this course, I work with only one or two students who are interested in educational research. Students learn how to develop lectures and discussions, develop surveys, evaluate teaching effectiveness, and measure outcomes.

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

I look for students who have a genuine interest in science, who are team players, who can think critically, work independently and who like to think outside the box. I also like to work with students who challenge me.

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

I try to spend as much time as I can with my undergraduate students and they often come to my office to talk about research, coursework, their future and sometimes their lifestyle. We have weekly seminars where students have to present their work so I know about their projects in the lab. I also like to mentor them for their graduate work and career choices. I feel very privileged to have this opportunity to mentor my students. Most of my students who graduated from UCI are still in touch with me. They keep up to date about how they are doing at medical schools, pharmacy schools, graduate studies and their residencies!

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

Undergraduate research has a number of benefits; aside from the excitement of getting involved in scientific work, it teaches our students time management, leadership skills, people skills and how to be an effective team player. It also teaches them scientific methodology that can be used in pretty much anything in life; to observe, develop a hypothesis and test it!

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

It has been a fun, educational and at times a challenging journey. A few of my students have initiated changes in our assays that resulted in improving our lab work. Many of the undergraduate students in my lab also take my courses. These students also help me to improve my teaching. I enjoy interacting with undergraduate students and learning from them.

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

Learn as much as you can so that you can initiate your independent project as soon as possible, be creative, challenge yourself and your research mentor, ask questions, apply for UROP/SURP, present your work at conferences and publish.

Research Interests: The Impact of Botanical Extracts on Longevity and Health Span, Anti-Aging Pharmacology, and Preventive Medicine

Faculty Profile:


Past Faculty Mentors of the Month

Dec. '13 Jean Gehricke
Nov. '13 Sergey Nizkorodov
Oct. '13 David S. Meyer
Sep. '13 Kieron Burke
Aug. '13 Mahtab Jafari
Jul. '13 André van der Hoek
Jun. '13 Abraham P. Lee
May. '13 Sheryl Tsai
Apr. '13 Julia Reinhard Lupton
Mar. '13 Richard Matthew
Feb. '13 Jogeshwar Mukherjee
Jan. '13 Diane K. O’Dowd