For Professor Thomas Ahlering, mentoring undergraduates gives him the opportunity to introduce them to the life of an academic MD, providing them a look at the careers they are considering. Through their work with him, his students are exposed to the entire cycle of patient care and learn the discipline required for future success. Professor Ahlering also finds that mentoring undergraduates keeps him informed helps him understand and more easily relate to the next generation. UROP is pleased to recognize Professor Ahlering for his commitment to the undergraduate researchers he mentors.

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

We have a very active research team and by pure happenstance I (we) were introduced by colleagues to UCI 199 students and their interest to be exposed to medicine/surgery and research. We also found that a lot of students have an interest in improving their Medical School applications. Our projects deal with developing algorithms to retrieve clinical outcomes following prostate cancer treatments and evaluating the impact of the U.S. task force D recommendation against Prostate cancer screening. Their success with our research gives them direct feedback on what being an academic MD can be like, exposure to medical school education and residency, and a means to improve their chances of getting into Med School.

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

Interestingly for the past 6-8 years I have been very fortunate to get Clinical Research Coordinators who know what I need academically and what I (we) need to achieve our goals. So as part of their Coordinator position (and these Coordinators were graduates of my Mentoring program) they have stepped up and have selected excellent students. The coordinators know the students well and keep the interactions between us very cohesive, productive and lively. We have been extremely successful getting students to either Med School or whatever their goals are.

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

Most of the work is coordinated through my Research coordinator. However, all of us meet weekly, at least, and discuss the progress of all of the independent but interlocking research. Students give PowerPoint presentations on background research and their own research outcomes. All students know my door is open to them.

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

The students, in addition to being exposed the clinical outcome research, also have opportunities to be in the hospital to witness robotic prostate cancer surgery, see patients in the hospital recovering from surgery, and see them in clinic for later follow ups. They are exposed to patient and doctor experiences and/or lifestyles and how important patient follow-up care is. It is extremely demanding and requires discipline.

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

The main benefit is the clear and very important role that students play in physically advancing our clinical research, which helps our patients personally and helps our publishing results. Secondly, it exposes me to this younger generation: how they think, what motivates them, and how they respond to the demand of our research needs.

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

Well, the students interested in our research are fairly uniform in their interest in Medicine and or the immediate medical industry. As such the recommendation is to work hard, ask questions, and question answers, and be sure you know what you are saying/reporting is correct—patients’ well-being is dependent on it.

Research Interests: Robotic Prostatectomy

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