Mentoring undergraduate research scholars

2021 Undergraduate Research Scholars Sanjana Jayprakash, left, and Luisa Fonseca, right, with mentors Karin and Phillip Peterson. Photo provided by URVC

The Retired Faculty Mentorship project is a collaborative effort between the University’s Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) and the University Retirees Volunteer Center (URVC). The project provides Undergraduate Research Scholar (URS) students with opportunities to work with volunteer faculty mentors (current or retired) to develop and conduct research.

UMRA member Phillip Peterson, MD, an infectious diseases expert and professor of medicine emeritus, and his wife, Karin Peterson, JD, a retired attorney, mentored six URS awardees in 2021 on a project aimed at addressing three major crises: climate change, environmental injustice, and the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Dr. Peterson solicited the help of five colleagues to lecture on how their respective fields related to these crises. The project culminated with each student submitting a research paper addressing the effects of climate change on either human health or environmental injustice.

“Working with students brings new ideas and new ways of looking at things,” Peterson said.  The volunteer mentoring experience was “exciting” and “intellectually stimulating.”  

Germ Gems
In addition to mentoring through URVC since retiring, Peterson has combined his love of teaching with his passionate interest in germs to write and publish a weekly blog, “Germ Gems.” It’s a family affair, with grandson Anders Larson responsible for blog design and technical support. If interested, go to germgems.blog; it’s free and provides practical guidance on the microbial world for the lay reader.

For information about opportunities to mentor OUR/URS students at the U of M, please visit urvc.umn.edu and go to Projects > On Campus Projects > Retiree Faculty Mentorship to learn more.

—Deanne Magnusson, URVC vice chair and project director



The election of UMRA officers and new board members for 2024–25 will be conducted via an online poll from May 13 to 19, with the results to be announced at our annual meeting on May 21. Look for the ballot in your email inbox on May 13. Diane Young has been nominated to be president-elect.