Professor Jonathan Lakey believes that research experience is an important element of an undergraduate education, giving students essential tools for approaching problems throughout the rest of their lives. To gain that experience, he insists that the students he mentors demonstrate a consistent level of commitment to improving the projects in their lab as well as themselves. He stresses the importance of communication skills, both written and oral, in the research process, and requires his students to present their work regularly. Professor Lakey is strongly committed to being a part of the undergraduate research culture at UC Irvine, and UROP is proud to recognize him for his contributions.

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

I believe that early exposure to research for undergraduate student is important not just for their training for whichever field that they will be working in, but it will ingrain in them the scientific approach toward any problems they will face in the world. Not just healthcare, but other fields of study and occupation still have plenty of issues that require careful and scientifically justifiable solutions, which can only come from proper research.

I have directed multiple projects related to diabetes, including development of alternative immunosuppression regiments, development of new preservation solution to prolong the optimal quality duration of organs for transplants, and the development of physical barriers to transplant rejection. None of these studies would have been possible without the dedication and the effort put in by both undergraduate and graduate students, not only in my lab but also in the labs of other UCI faculty and other universities.

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

I expect that any student working in my lab have a constant level of commitment, which shows that they’re willing to put time and effort in the lab, not just to doing their assigned tasks but also to improving themselves. To me, this includes committing a significant amount of time in the lab sufficient to complete experiments, participation in poster sessions and symposia, as well as developing sub-projects that improve the quality of the main projects in the lab.

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

The undergraduates in my lab have been reporting to my lab staff on a daily basis, and they report to me weekly on what they accomplish in the lab and what will need to be done to continue their projects in order to get scientifically meaningful results. I maintain an open communication policy with my students to make sure that every issue is handled as efficiently as it can be done.

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

One of the ways that students improve is in their scientific communication, gaining confidence and better clarity in their interaction either with their colleagues, other faculty, and the public, both for oral and written communication. This will help them with their future career even if it is not in the natural sciences, since it makes them a more influential person in the workplace.

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

The undergraduate researchers contributed significantly to expanding the scope of the research in my lab. Without their effort, I would not have been able to embark on several projects in parallel, both related to the JDRF grant I received, as well as with other novel, more exploratory territory.

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

Explore new territory. This can be the acquisition of new skills, a new question to approach, a new technique for attempting to answer a question. And then learn how to teach that to someone else, so you not only can communicate what you have accomplished, but also spread the knowledge.

Research Interests: Diabetes, Transplantation

Faculty Profile:


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