EBRC Mentorship for Undergraduate and Masters Students (EMUMS) Program

EMUMS provides undergraduates and masters students mentorship and networking opportunities with current engineering biology Ph. D. students and postdoctoral researchers.

The mission of EMUMS is to facilitate the professional development of undergraduate and masters students – especially those from communities that are historically underrepresented in STEM – who are interested in engineering biology but may have limited access to Ph.D. student and postdoc mentors in the field.

Program Goals

  1. To provide a “near peer” support system for undergraduates and master’s students who are interested in engineering biology;
  2. To provide undergraduate and master’s students who are interested in engineering biology opportunities for networking and professional development;
  3. To help undergraduates and master’s students navigate transitions to higher levels of education or into the workforce;
  4. To increase representation of historically underrepresented groups in synthetic biology to create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive field.

Program Details

Undergraduate and master’s students that participate in EMUMS receive individual and group mentorship from active graduate student and postdoc members of the EBRC Student & Postdoc Association (SPA) for at least one year. The annual program cycle begins each January and continues through December of that year with virtual cohort meetings for all of those involved in March and October. EMUMS mentees meet each month with their individual SPA mentors, and each mentorship pair then meets with another mentorship pair to discuss topics including:

  • synthetic biology
  • career paths
  • life as a scientist
  • choosing graduate schools
  • writing personal statements
  • applying for scholarships
  • pursuing internships
  • other topics related to engineering biology

Mentees also have the opportunity to connect with other interested students and mentors through the #futureSPA slack channel and participate in professional development programs organized by the EBRC Student & Postdoc Association (SPA).

EMUMS is primarily targeted to undergraduates receiving education or training in engineering biology, synthetic biology, bioengineering, biotechnology, etc, at institutions with few or no PhD students or postdoctoral researchers. EMUMS mentors thus provide “near-peer” mentorship, which has benefits including:

  • Building camaraderie and a sense of belonging;
  • Helping mentees feel comfortable asking for advice as they navigate personal circumstances in an educational and/or professional context;
  • Minimizing negative impacts of academic power structures (e.g., a mentee can ask basic questions to a near-peer mentor that they may be nervous to pose to a faculty member);
  • Clarifying processes for applying for jobs or graduate school from individuals who have recently been through similar experiences.

EBRC EMUMS 2023 Committee

EBRC EMUMS 2022 Mentors

EBRC EMUMS 2022 Mentee Cohort

Coming soon!


Upcoming/Past events and news for the EMUMS Program

3 March 2023: EMUMS Internal Conference
An opportunity for mentors and mentees to socialize, network, and learn more about opportunities in engineering biology!

Contact Us

Are you a university coordinator or faculty member interested in offering this program to your students? Fill out this form and we’ll get back to you shortly.

Are you an EBRC SPA member interested in serving as a mentor? Check the pinned message in the EMUMS Slack channel to submit the mentor interest form. Mentors will be selected in October and the year-long mentorship cycle will begin in November.


For mentees:

  • What is synthetic biology/engineering biology? Synthetic biology is the design—or redesign—and construction of new enzymes, genetic circuits, cells, or other biological systems. Synthetic biology can be applied to many of the biggest global challenges we face, including climate and sustainability, agriculture, medicine, and manufacturing. If you want to learn more about synthetic biology, check out this resource and other resources below!
  • What kind of job or career could I have in engineering biology? Students with backgrounds in biological sciences, biochemistry, biomedical engineering, chemical engineering, and related disciplines have opportunities as synthetic biologists across many industries including pharmaceuticals, agriculture, chemical manufacturing, and more, at both large and small companies working to pioneer new technologies. There are positions in these industries for workers at all education levels. Many synthetic biologists also pursue careers in government or as professors and researchers at universities, where they both teach and research cutting edge capabilities and technologies.
  • What are the benefits of joining EMUMS? As a mentee with EMUMS, you will meet monthly with an assigned graduate student or postdoc mentor in the field of engineering biology. In addition to regular meetings, you will get to expand your network in the field with occasional cohort meetings to meet other mentors as well as other students interested in engineering biology. Lastly, in these meetings you will be able to discuss a diverse range of topics regarding science and potential career paths and learn about crucial skills for developing as a scientist including professional writing, networking, and effective communication.
  • Who will my mentor be? Mentors are active members of the EBRC Student and Postdoc Association (SPA), meaning they are either graduate students or postdocs who are actively working to engineer biology at either universities or national labs.
  • What will I get to discuss with my mentor? Topics for discussion are ultimately up to you and your mentor. Our mentors are capable of discussing anything from engineering biology fundamentals to potential career paths in the field of engineering biology to developing job or grad school application materials. At the first meeting, you will get the opportunity to discuss what your specific interests are and formulate your relationship with your mentor based on these interests.
  • I am interested in being a mentee, how can I get a mentor? Currently, we are only working with program coordinators and faculty at universities for developing the EMUMS program. If you are interested, contact a program coordinator or faculty member at your university and have them reach out to us here.
  • What is the time commitment? Mentees are expected to participate in at least 1 hour of monthly meetings with their mentor and other members of their cohort.
  • Are mentor/mentee meetings virtual or in-person? All EMUMS meetings are remote. Mentor-mentee pairs can decide which virtual platform (e.g., Zoom, Google Meet, a phone call) they prefer to use.
  • Can I pick my mentor? Or will my mentor be assigned? Mentors will be assigned by the EMUMS committee.
  • Can I join EMUMS if I do not have experience in engineering biology/synthetic biology? Yes, absolutely! EMUMS is designed for any student interested in developing a career in synthetic biology-related workspaces, including but not limited to academia, industry, science policy, science communication, etc. Currently, there are no external qualifications for joining, only that you are a part of a participating university program.

For mentors:

  • Do I have to be a member of SPA to mentor? Yes, the application form to be an SPA member can be found here.
  • What is the time commitment? Mentors are expected to meet with their mentees at least once a month for an hour at a time. Additionally, they should be able to occasionally make time to provide materials such as cover letters, essays, or feedback to their mentee and be prepared to regularly respond to email or slack messages.
  • What are the qualifications for being a mentor? You must be an active member of EBRC SPA. If you will be graduating or leaving a postdoc during the duration of the program, that is okay, we just ask that you commit to being a mentor for the full program year.
  • What topics should I discuss with my mentee? Topics of discussion can range and should be tailored to your mentee’s specific interests. Some suggested scientific topics might include biology fundamentals, applications of engineering biology, and methods to engineer biology. Non-scientific topics: career paths, life as a scientist, choosing graduate schools, and work/life balance.
  • How will my mentee be assigned? The EMUMS board will assign you a mentee after you are selected as a mentor.


Educational Resources:

A series of resources to help students learn more about synthetic biology


Join a Slack community of undergraduates, masters students, graduate students, and postdocs to ask questions, hear other peoples’ experiences, and discuss opportunities in synthetic biology! Fill out this form to join.

Scholarships and Fellowships:

Internships, Research and Job Opportunities in Engineering Biology: