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    check DO I NEED A MENTOR?

    • Most projects do not require a mentor.  If are uncomfortable working with a mentor and/or you are unable to commit to it, you should choose a project idea that does not require a mentor.
    • However, it certainly doesn't hurt to connect with an expert in the field.  These individuals have access to equipment / materials / know-how that may not be available in school.
    • Certain projects related to the following topics must have a mentor:
      1. Human subjects
      2. Vertebrate animals
      3. Potentially hazardous chemicals / equipment / biological materials
    • If you have a specific topic idea, you can run the ISEF Rules Wizard.  If Form 2- Qualified Scientist is needed, you will need to secure a mentor.  More information on paperwork is available on the Paperwork Page.


    • Members often choose one of two approaches when considering a mentor:

      1. Generate a specific idea and research plan, then find a mentor.

         + This is a good fit for somebody who knows exactly what they want to do.
         + This will allow the student to take ownership of as much of the research brainstorming/planning as possible.
         + This may make the mentor search challenging, as some scientists may be reluctant to work with a student unless the research is very similar to their current or former work.
      2. Find a mentor who works in your general area of interest.  Generate a research plan with your mentor.

         + This is a good fit for somebody who knows they are interested in a general field of study but does not have a specific idea about a topic.
         + The mentor will likely provide significant direction on the project plan, as it will need to be something they are willing/able to assist with.
         + This approach generally increases the pool of potential mentors, which may make the search easier than in the case of approach #1.


    • A mentor, or "Qualified Scientist," should be an individual with formal training in your area of research.  It is generally suggested that this individual possess an advanced degree.  In the case of human subjects, vertebrate animals, or potentially hazardous materials, the mentor will need to be approved before research can begin.
    • In general, individuals that you know personally are best, such as:

      1. Family members / relatives
      2. Family friends
      3. Neighbors
      4. Community members you know well (i.e. scientists, doctors, dentists, vets, psychologists, etc.)
    • However, especially with complex topics, it is often not possible to find someone that you know personally.  In this case, students have tried:

       + Search the websites of local universities with undergraduate and graduate programs in science.  Research groups often have their own pages which describe their research.  Make note of scientists listed on these pages or as authors in published papers.
       + Search the business directory for the Bucks County Chamber of Commerce.  Identify science-related businesses.  Search their sites for possible scientists.
       + Visit the website for the SYSTEM Program Ambassadors.  It contains a list of local scientists who have expressed interest in assisting local students.
    • Make a list of potential mentors.  Be sure to record their email address and phone numbers.  Mr. Hayden may be able to help you reach out to these individuals.