As a mentor, Professor Jonathan Alexander has the opportunity to share the challenge and pleasures of research with his students. He also considers it important to introduce undergraduates to what really goes on at a university by involving them in the research process. He looks for students who have the dedication to keep working through the obstacles that are an inevitable part of the process and the creativity to make something out of what they find. All of the students he has mentored have moved on to graduate studies, and he feels that their research experience has been a vital part of the love of learning they have taken forward with them.

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

As a researcher, I know how exciting and challenging research projects can be, and I also know that working on such projects teaches us a lot about how to think about a problem or an issue and work through it methodically. Along the way, encountering moments of discovery and developing new insights sweeten the process. I want to share the challenge and pleasures of research with my students. I also think it's vital that our students have a strong sense of what a university actually does, and involving them in research--in the production of knowledge about important topics--is a powerful way to give students a sense of why universities matter. Through UROP, I've worked with students on a range of projects, mostly involving sexuality studies, such as the representation of gender and sexual identity in manga and in film. These have been important projects, expanding our understanding of what gender and sexuality actually are.

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

I look for creativity and dedication. Working on research projects can take a long time, particularly as the researcher works through many different ideas, methods, and interpretations--not all of which are ultimately productive. You have to try out different lines of thought to see what they will bring you. Being patient, meticulous, and dedicated are key features of a successful researcher.

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

I like to meet with my research students pretty regularly--at least once every week or so. But I also want them to explore on their own, to make mistakes, to take some risks, to read widely, to write even more widely--and then come back and show me what processes they've been through! We often learn most from doing and then reflecting on the doing we've done, the journeys we've taken.

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

All of them have moved on to graduate work in their areas. In one case, the student discovered a real passion for creative writing and has since published widely while pursuing an MFA. At the very least, I think all have developed a life-long love of learning and an appreciation for research.

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

I have learned that we have many extraordinarily bright students here at UCI. Student researchers have introduced me to some wonderful texts and perspectives, and I learn from them as much as they learn from me, I'm sure!

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

Talk to many different researchers about the work they do and how they got involved in it. Each of us has a story that can help light your own path, as well as help you think about why research is important, how it can be undertaken, and what benefits it can yield--professionally and personally.

Research Interests: Literacy, Sexuality, Pedagogy, Virtuality, & Poetry--preferably all at the same time. Or, more traditionally, Writing Studies & Rhetoric, Literacy Studies, Queer Theory, New Media, Science Fiction & Popular Culture

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Past Faculty Mentors of the Month

Dec. '14 Emiliana Borrelli
Nov. '14 Joel Veenstra
Oct. '14 Jonathan Alexander
Sep. '14 Leslie M. Thompson
Aug. '14 Jonathan R.T. Lakey
Jul. '14 Diego Rosso
Jun. '14 James Kyung-Jin Lee
May. '14 Lisa Pearl
Apr. '14 Jayne Elizabeth Lewis
Mar. '14 Donald Jay Patterson
Feb. '14 Dritan Agalliu
Jan. '14 Stephanie Reich