CRSLA Lab: SMARTS Mentoring


Student Mentoring in Achievement through Research and Technological Skillset (S.M.A.R.T.S) Program


Founding Director & Faculty Mentor: Dr. Amee Shah

Where: Dr. Shah’s Research Lab in West Quad Bldg or her Office

When: Variable each semester depending on student preference

For Whom: Open to all Undergraduate and Graduate SPH and allied professions (Education, Psychology, Health Science)


Purpose of this Program:

This is a mentoring program to give you the experience of working closely with a faculty member on research activities. You will be involved in a small research project of your interest—or participate in one of the ongoing ones in Dr. Shah’s lab. Additionally, you will be able to participate, present, brainstorm, network, and learn from your fellow students through regular SMARTS meetings. Past meetings have allowed even undergraduate students to attend national and international conferences and present their research there, get sponsored by the university to attend these conferences, be able to work on papers being published, win best-student awards etc. Typically, students doing independent research studies with Dr. Shah are the main participants; however, you could volunteer, shadow or just attend the monthly SMARTS meetings, and/or benefit from faculty mentoring to become a distinctive student, and/or get selected for the Honors program.

  1. Provide a safe and supportive peer group to become a DISTINCTIVE student and future professional
  2. Develop original research projects & brainstorm research ideas
  3. Develop projects that teach you hands-on applications and technology of speech science and speech-language clinical practice
  4. Receive a platform to practice class presentations, theses, or conference talks
  5. Develop critical thinking skills through the process of developing research, analyzing data, thinking of variables, and critically examining the results
  6. Develop strong Information Literacy skills by conducting evidence-based literature reviews
  7. Develop a “research culture” that can strengthen your clinical skills as well as identify potential for future doctoral studies
  8. Develop a strong, unique team of clinicians and professionals—improve teamwork and collaboration, and be part of a strong Interprofessional Education model
  9. Develop strong professional verbal, written, and nonverbal communication through projects and mentoring involving telephone and live interviews with clients and patients; speaking with superiors; data collection through audio, video, or phone; meetings; mock scenarios, writing reports, letters, newsletters, and social media posts for community engagement---learning a vary professional communication across the diverse modalities
  10. Learn to develop improved time management and stress management through juggling projects (receive mentoring and coaching to help)
  11. Some of you will receive training in financial aspects of lab and research management: Ordering equipment, filing purchase orders, tracking orders and inventory, managing accounts etc.
  12. Learning the day-to-day operations of managing a lab: equipment and software, personnel, communications, data collection, interviewing participants, lab meetings, financial matters, website and social media updates, project management, end-reports and reflections, data storage and confidentiality, filing IRB clearance etc.
  13. Receive mentoring and a platform to practice job-interviews, resume-preparation that describes specialty skills and research experience, and other job skills
  14. Become ADVOCATES for education and awareness of issues pertaining to diversity, inclusion, and health equity—receive opportunities to engage in community and clinical outreach
  15. Develop an “Edge”: Teach each other new skills and programs, and inform each other of “what’s new out there” in the field
  16. Earn “Bragging-rights” & gain visibility: Celebrate achievements and be showcased in the lab website, School of Health Sciences website, and our Clinical Outreach social media platforms
  17. UNLEASH CREATIVITY!! Seek out your creative side—and surprise and inspire yourself and others!
  18. Brainstorm solutions to academic problems and challenges—become self-reliant and develop confidence
  19. Receive motivation from each other to be the best we can---and to be a competitive candidate for the job-market


The benefits of the SMART mentoring program are available to you through these three mechanisms:

  1. Signing up for a two-semester long independent study to develop your own “Project for distinction” and attending individual meeting with Dr. Shah and monthly group meeting with the SMARTS group
  2. Volunteering for a shorter time in various tasks of the lab and attending individual meeting with Dr. Shah and monthly group meeting with the SMARTS group
  3. Or, shadowing a research student involved in the CrSLA lab (with Dr. Shah’s and the research assistant’s permission) and attending individual meeting with Dr. Shah and monthly group meeting with the SMARTS group


Benefits of a Project with Distinction


Relatively few students graduate with active research projects, mentored under national leaders.

Increase Competitiveness of Graduate School Applications

Many graduate schools require a record of independent scholarship  

Gain Experience Conducting Research

Integrate knowledge from multiple domains

Learn in depth about a topic of interest to you

Understand all aspects of the research process   

Demonstrate Research Skills

Comprehend published research articles

Critically evaluate strengths and weaknesses of past research

Generate research hypotheses

Develop research design skills

Collect primary data / Utilize secondary data

Analyze data  

Write a complete research paper using the APA style          

Orally present research in public       

Prepare a manuscript for journal submission 

Professional Interactions

Interact closely with faculty

Interact with members of the field at conferences

Take science forward: enable new developments in the discipline

Develop expertise in an area and be able to educate fellow students, community and professionals in conferences


Student Results So Far (from 2015-2018):

  • Two Board of Trustees Distinctive Student Fellowships
  • Three students presented in a prestigious panel at a national conference
  • Two workshops presented at the Tristate conference
  • Civic Engagement grant
  • Stockton Foundation fellowship
  • Undergraduate Research Travel funds
  • Eight poster presentations and 3 panel presentations at the Day of Scholarship
  • All seniors working in the lab were able to get into graduate school (some with funding)
  • Resume help and strong letters of support from me that showcase the research conducted
  • Arts and Creative Products developed: A documentary video; two websites; a YouTube channel etc. 


Project for Distinction

A project for distinction is a two-semester professional research project (under supervision of Dr. Amee Shah) conducted by a student seeking to gain distinction in their undergraduate portfolio. After initial screening, interview, and selection, qualifying students must register for two semesters of 4 credits each in an independent study with a unique title and course number designed in consultation with Dr. Shah. The credits may be also be divided across two semesters, where appropriate (e.g., atypically large or time consuming projects).


Students must have a minimum G.P.A. of 3.5, and be a sophomore or higher.

When to Begin.

Some experience as a research assistant to a faculty member prior to beginning a project for distinction is recommended, but not required. The project should begin early during sophomore or  junior year to be of greatest benefit to students who are applying to graduate school and desire experience with conference presentations and manuscript submission.  Most students begin their project in their last semester of sophomore year and complete it in their last semester of their junior year. Completion of project and a conference presentation before the senior year would allow me to provide distinctive details about your performance and skills in your letter for graduate schools when you begin to apply in the senior year.

Deadline to Complete.

Ideally, before you begin your senior year. Depending on your schedule, you may continue to stay engaged in research or the SMARTS group through your senior year.

Process to apply

  • If you are curious about engaging in active research under a faculty mentor (myself), and exploring the possibility of doing a “Project for Distinction”,start by sending me a brief letter of interest via email along with your resume.
  • If you fit the initial criteria, I’ll schedule an interview with you. In the interview, I will discuss available projects and ask you about your interests and experiences. If there is a match, you will have made the final cut and I will let you know one way or the other by the end of that interview. If you do make the final cut, I will let you know after I make the final selection of all students for the next semester. (Each semester I  can take on about 8-12 students)
  • With some exceptions, it is usually a two semester commitment and we design a project by working through independent study credits or a service learning credits as a course, and you receive a grade for it in the end.
  • The research logistics of project-choice and schedule of work is tailored to individual students. I train you through the research process of designing, collecting data, and completion of a project, and applying to present along the way. You may also be mentored to apply to funding options, submit conference abstracts, and train to present in a conference. 

Types of Research Projects

Students may conduct experiments, observational studies (e.g., correlations), surveys, archival research, or qualitative research (e.g., interviews). The research method and design is determined by the student and their faculty mentor as an appropriate method for testing the hypothesis. Regardless of the chosen methods, research projects must include data and analysis of that data. Data can be collected in-person (e.g., laboratory, classroom, community), online, or through archived or other data banks.

Choosing a Topic

Your research experience will be part of the CrSLA lab, and hence would need to align with the mission and vision of the lab and my research expertise. Please visit the lab webpage for details on the mission, current projects, and methods used.


Your research experience is a formative process. Specific feedback and research skills will be taught, and it is expected that you will commit the time, dedication, and ethical handling of the project. If you are underperforming, you will be given specific instructions to improve those areas. As long as you complete the project with due diligence and in the time frame mutually decided on, you will receive a grade for completion. If you leave the project incomplete or do not report progress, you may receive a failing grade.