For Dr. Miryha Runnerstrom, one of the most impressive things about the undergraduate researchers she mentors is the passion they bring to their projects. As a mentor, she sees her role as helping the students focus that passion into a solid project design and realistic expectations that lead to success. She also feels that her collaborations with her students helps keep her informed about current trends in her field. Dr. Runnerstrom greatly appreciates the opportunity to work with students who are excited by the chance to make a difference in the world. UROP is pleased to recognize Dr. Runnerstrom for her commitment to undergraduate research at UC Irvine.

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

My interest in mentoring undergraduate research projects began when a student approached me with a very creative research idea that she hoped to undertake for her honors thesis project. I was impressed with her attention to detail and incredible enthusiasm for the project, and Iíve been mentoring undergraduate research projects ever since. Iíve worked with students on a variety of projects over the years, including research on maternal autoimmunity and childhood autism, on-campus stress-relieving environments, student knowledge and beliefs about the Ebola virus, and even e-gaming and its relationship to student health.

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

A studentís commitment to their work is, in my opinion, the most important thing to look for when selecting undergraduate research projects. My primary expectation is that students are passionate not only about their topic, but also about how they can help improve the health of the public. To me, commitment and motivation are more important than how closely the topic aligns with my own research interests. When a student is passionate about their project, they are more likely to find success in their research.

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

My approach to mentoring students is very hands-on and engaged. I meet with most of my mentees on a weekly basis throughout the year. During these meetings, I guide the student through the process of creating a research proposal, applying for UROP or SURP funding, obtaining IRB approval, collecting and analyzing data, and writing up the results in either a thesis or a peer-reviewed conference abstract or paper. At the outset of the project, I help students solidify major milestones, and throughout the year, I help them keep on course to reach their objectives. I'm always flexible with week-to-week achievements, but Iíve found that deadlines help with their sense of accomplishment on these larger projects.

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

I feel that the undergraduate research experience has helped to transform my students into individuals with a greater understanding of the research process, while also enhancing their critical thinking and evaluation skills. Undergraduate research provides students with opportunities to apply the concepts that they learn in their classes to real-world problems. For most of my students, the research experience has improved their confidence when applying to graduate programs and sets them apart from other candidates when they begin seeking jobs in the health field.

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

Collaborating with undergraduate research students has helped me gain a better understanding of the contemporary issues important to public health students today. Many of my mentees are quite reflective and seek projects directly related to student health and well-being. Often, they themselves are impacted by the subject of their study, either directly or indirectly. My undergraduate research students have shown me that no problem is insurmountable, no issue too insignificant, and that their desire to improve public health through their projects can become a reality that paves the way for a lifetime of engagement in promoting health and well-being.

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

My advice to students embarking on undergraduate research or creative projects is: be creative with your goals and milestones, check in with your mentor regularly, and donít forget to have fun!

Research Interests: Environmental psychology, environment and behavior research, wellness, global environmental change

Faculty Profile:


Past Faculty Mentors of the Month

Dec. '16 Miryha Gould Runnerstrom
Nov. '16 Allison Perlman
Oct. '16 John Billimek
Sep. '16 Wayne B. Hayes
Aug. '16 Aimee Lara Edinger
Jul. '16 Katherine Mackey
Jun. '16 Daniel Whiteson
May. '16 Wirachin Hoonpongsimanont
Apr. '16 Michael T. Goodrich
Mar. '16 Lonnie R. Alcaraz
Feb. '16 Kimberley D. Lakes
Jan. '16 RocŪo Rosales