May 30, 2018

Getting published as undergrads: A mentorship story

Mentorship supported by Markin Undergraduate Student Research Program paves way to young scientist’s peer-reviewed publication

Most scholars vividly recall their early experiences with the peer-review process and the publication of their first article in a high-impact journal. Very few of these memories were created before graduate school. A number of Markin Undergraduate Student Research Program (USRP) alumni working with their faculty mentors at the University of Calgary are creating that memory before they finish their undergraduate degree.

Since 2011, 12 undergraduates who earned Markin USRP studentships emerged from their research experience with a first author publication. This fall, Emily Boucher, who has been mentored by Eduardo Cobo, DVM, MSc, PhD, learned that her work would be published in the journal Parasitology.

Cobo is an assistant professor in the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Calgary. He recalls his experience as a young scientist being mentored by a scholar in his home country of Argentina. Cobo’s mentor was rigorously trained throughout the world and a top investigator in his field, and someone Cobo aspired to be like. Cobo's experiences developing, reviewing and publishing his first manuscript showed him that “peer-reviewed publications are the means of communication in science and, as I like to say, What is not in a paper — it never happened.”

Today, Cobo’s mentee and Markin USRP alumni, Emily Boucher, describes her mentor as “very patient and supportive throughout the entire process. He invested countless hours discussing, reviewing and editing my manuscript.” 

Markin USRP alumna Emily Boucher and her faculty mentor, Dr. Eduardo R. Cobo from the University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine.

Markin USRP alumna Emily Boucher and her faculty mentor, Dr. Eduardo R. Cobo.

Syed Tarique, University of Calgary

Boucher first met Cobo in year one of her Bachelor of Health Sciences program. She applied for a Markin USRP studentship for the summer after her first year and worked closely in Cobo’s lab with graduate students and visiting scientists from Argentina. She says, “Frequent group discussions allowed me to receive feedback on my project and learn to critically read relevant papers.”

Cobo believes Boucher’s work ethic, curiosity, persistence, patience and tenacity set her apart. He says Boucher is an emerging talent and one to watch. In Cobo’s view, Boucher represents the best of the Markin USRP and the University of Calgary.

Boucher feels the most exciting part of her journey from undergraduate studentship to first-author publication was engaging wholly in the scientific process. “From hypothesis-testing to peer-reviewed publication, the experience gave me a deep appreciation for the challenges, but also the importance of doing scientific research.”

The opportunities that undergraduate research studentships like the Markin USRP afford UCalgary undergraduates are brought to life by investigators like Cobo who embrace the role of mentor and enable a learning partnership — the signature of great mentorship.