Professor Dara Sorkin sees the mentoring she received as an undergraduate as a call for her to provide the same inspiration to the next generation of researchers. She looks for motivated students who approach their work with passion and integrity and works to help them discover and move toward their research and career goals. Professor Sorkin enjoys the energy her undergraduate students bring to their research, and often learns from the fresh perspectives they share. She is passionate about her support for the undergraduate researchers she mentors, and UROP is pleased to recognize Professor Sorkin for her contribution to the undergraduate research culture 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?

Including undergraduates in my research has been a core value of mine throughout my entire academic career. When I was an undergraduate, I had the opportunity to work with a faculty mentor recruiting newly married couples into a study examining spousal communication patterns and predictors of marital satisfaction. This experience shaped my entire career trajectory!

I hope that the undergraduates who work with me on community-engaged research designed to address the behavioral health needs of under-resourced populations not only discover their own passion, but also realize the significant beneficial impact that we can have as scientists working in partnership with these communities.

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

I love working with students who are passionate about the ideas, motivated by a challenge, and take responsibility for their learning. We expect everyone in our lab to be reliable, responsible, and to conduct their work with the highest integrity.

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

The students in my lab work closely with my Project Director, Dr. Kelly Biegler, and me. I am in my office daily with an open door, and students are welcome to schedule a meeting, and even drop in to discuss new ideas, lab work, etc. At the start of every year, we work together to develop a broad plan that addresses both research and personal career goals. Often these goals include receiving additional training, submitting a proposal for UROP, or attending a national conference.

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

Participating in research allows students to take what they have learned in class, dive into the literature to develop their own hypotheses, and then test these hypotheses to solve real-world problems. Being involved in research can help students become more focused analytic thinkers and sharper writers. Also, the research experience can be key for students determining what career might be right for them.

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

I am always impressed by the creative questions, projects, and solutions that the students develop—they can bring energy and a fresh perspective to the research.

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

Participating in research as an undergraduate is an excellent time to hone fundamental skills in methods, concise and persuasive writing, and the experience of working in a professional environment. If you want to get involved, then be prepared to be open to new ideas, engaged and passionate about your work, and, as they say…. “Just do it!”

Research Interests: Close relationships, social support and conflict, behavioral lifestyle interventions around chronic disease management, program evaluation, integration of technology into health decision making

Faculty Profile:


Past Faculty Mentors of the Month

Nov. '17 Dongbao Chen
Oct. '17 Cascade Sorte
Sep. '17 An Hong Do
Aug. '17 Todd C. Holmes
Jul. '17 Adam Martiny
Jun. '17 Mark I. Langdorf
May. '17 Anthony J. Durkin
Apr. '17 Thomas Ahlering
Mar. '17 Dara H. Sorkin
Feb. '17 Andrej Lupták
Jan. '17 Michelle A. Fortier