Professor Zoe Klemfuss is inspired to mentor undergraduate researchers in part because of the importance receiving such mentorship played in her own education. Through their experience, undergraduates in her lab increase their skills and confidence while having the chance to explore the possibilities of pursuing a career in research. For herself, Professor Klemfuss enjoys the energy and fresh perspectives that undergraduates contribute to her lab, and has found new avenues for research based on those ideas. UROP is pleased to recognize Professor Klemfuss for her dedication to mentoring the undergraduate researchers in her lab.

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

I was fortunate to have excellent research mentorship as an undergraduate and in a gap year before graduate school. In graduate school and during my postdoc, my faculty mentors were role models for supporting student research. A fellow graduate student who was a few years ahead of me in graduate school probably had the greatest impact on my mentorship style. Even as a student, she managed a large team of undergraduates—inspiring and supporting them in their research endeavors. In my own work, I count on my undergraduate team to keep our projects running smoothly. There are always several projects running in my lab at any given time, all of which rely on skilled undergraduate support. This allows students to get involved in a diverse range of projects and find or refine their own interests. Independent undergraduate research projects in my lab have examined anything from the associations between stress and SES in a diverse child population, to means of reducing the negative impact of misinformation on memory.

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

While there are a number of basic qualifications I look for when selecting undergraduates to conduct projects in my lab, probably the most important to me is motivation and excitement to be involved in the research process.

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

My level of engagement with undergraduates depends somewhat on the individual needs of my students. I meet with my team once a week, and have individual meetings with students who are working on projects that require specialized training, especially when the students are conducting independent research under my supervision. I try to support student interests whenever I can; for example, I'm always on the lookout for opportunities such as conferences, jobs, funding, and awards that may be of interest to individual students or the whole team.

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

I think research engagement is one of the most important learning opportunities a university can offer undergraduates. The lab is a great place to see lessons from the classroom come to life. I have watched undergraduates in my lab find their strengths, develop skill sets that will benefit them across a wide range of future careers (e.g., writing skills, professional communication, critical thinking), and for some, they have transitioned from being unsure of their career path, to being confident and excited about their future. It’s incredibly rewarding to see students grow and develop as a result of their undergraduate research experience.

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

Guiding undergraduate research is extremely rewarding in that I sincerely enjoy the energy and excitement that students exude when making new discoveries and accomplishing their research-related goals. I also benefit because undergraduates can provide fresh and creative perspectives on research topics that I’m personally passionate about. As such, I’m often inspired to expand my own point of view and take my research in new directions, including in collaboration with students.

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

One recommendation is to communicate about ideas, questions, and road blocks. Students are often stifled by fear of making (or having made) mistakes. Instead, by communicating openly and professionally with others, including your research mentor, you can find ways to forge ahead, and better yet, to learn! Another recommendation is to keep focused on the big picture. Research entails a lot of attention to detail and tasks that may seem tedious, boring, or frustrating. But, if you think about the big picture—that every task is contributing to creating knowledge (and contributing to your education, professional development, and CV!)—it can drive you through and remind you why research is such an exciting endeavor.

Research Interests: Narrative development; children’s autobiographical memory; sociocontextual influences on children’s narrative, memory, and well-being; children’s eyewitness abilities

Faculty Profile:


Past Faculty Mentors of the Month

Aug. '18 Zoe Klemfuss
Jul. '18 Patrick Rafter
Jun. '18 Kelli Sharp
May. '18 Gilverto Q. Conchas
Apr. '18 Ozdal Boyraz
Mar. '18 Amal Alachkar
Feb. '18 Andrea Nicholas
Jan. '18 Wenqi Wang