Twenty-two UAB professors from 17 departments are recipients of the 2010 Graduate Dean's Award for Excellence in Mentorship.
The award, now in its third year, recognizes exceptional faculty mentorship and demonstrates that UAB is a university that values the commitment to excellence in mentorship that is exhibited by its faculty says Bryan Noe, Ph.D., dean of The Graduate School and creator of the award.
|Harald Sontheimer (far left) was one of 22 recipients of the The Graduate School’s Dean’s Award for Excellence in Mentorship. He was joined at the ceremony honoring the recipients by (from left to right) Anne Wailes and Michael Brenner.
"This award recognizes faculty members who have been outstanding mentors, advisors and role models to the students and trainees with whom they have worked," Noe says. "We are particularly pleased to see that faculty from different disciplines and departments across campus were nominated for their dedication to assisting students, postdoctoral fellows and other trainees to realize their career goals."
These recipients were honored in a ceremony April 12:
David Chaplin, M.D., Ph.D., chair of Microbiology; Shelia Cotten, Ph.D., associate professor, Sociology & Social Work; Jose Fernandez, Ph.D., associate professor, Nutrition Sciences; Frank Franklin, M.D., Ph.D., professor, Health Behavior; Nataliya Ivankova, Ph.D., associate professor, Human Studies; Pauline Jolly, Ph.D., professor, Epidemiology; Ho-Wook Jun, Ph.D., assistant professor, Biomedical Engineering; John Kearney, Ph.D., professor, Microbiology; Connie Kohler, Dr. P.H., associate professor, Health Behavior; Claudiu Lungu, Ph.D., assistant professor, Environmental Health Sciences; Raymond Mohl, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor, History & Anthropology; Michael Mugavero, M.D., assistant professor, Infectious Diseases; Kent Oestenstad, Ph.D., associate professor, Environmental Health Sciences; Sarah Parcak, Ph.D., assistant professor, History & Anthropology; David Roth, Ph.D., professor, Biostatistics; Virginia Sisiopiku, Ph.D., associate professor, Civil, Construction & Environmental Engineering; Harald Sontheimer, Ph.D., professor, Neurobiology; Hemant Tiwari, Ph.D., associate professor, Biostatistics; Tino Unlap, Ph.D., associate professor, Clinical & Diagnostic Sciences; David Vance, Ph.D., associate professor, Family/Child Health & Caregiving; Pete Walsh, Ph.D., research professor, Mechanical Engineering; Thane Wibbels, Ph.D., professor, Biology.
Honorees received an engraved plaque and a bound volume that contains the nomination letters written on their behalf. For faculty to be selected, at least five letters of nomination had to be submitted on their behalf. The nominators were asked to consider personal characteristics, excellence in teaching and communication and mentoring characteristics in considering whom to recommend for the award.
The faculty receiving the award this year will not be eligible to be nominated again for at least five years. "This will help to ensure that as many deserving faculty as possible from across the university can be recognized for serving as outstanding mentors," Noe says.
Here are some excerpts from the nomination letters on the faculty being recognized:
"David was everything a graduate student could hope for in a mentor. He worked side by side with me demonstrating techniques at the bench. He taught me to critically evaluate both my field and my own results, and he instilled in me ethical and professional values that carried me through my training and have guided me through my career."
"Dr. Cotten is very interested in helping others develop their potential and follow their passions in research and education. She is truly excited about her work, a person who exhibits positive qualities and characteristics, a person who is willing to help others achieve their goals and a person who is willing to listen, guide and help others in any way possible."
"Jose's leadership and mentoring abilities are not limited to that which he provides our research team, but also to the many students and post docs he has helped with organizations, including Manos Juntos and the Diversity Mentoring Committee he founded in The Obesity Society, an international organization. Jose's open-door policy welcomes and enables daily interaction and fosters independence."
"Despite his busy schedule, Dr. Franklin always took time each week to patiently review my work, offer high-quality suggestions for improvement and keep me informed about publications, seminars or conferences that were congruent with my public health interests. He always has shown a keen interest in my development into a skilled but ethical professional and a well-balanced human being."
"Dr. Ivankova assisted me in the implementation of my pilot study and supervised the preparation of my doctoral prospectus. She managed this guidance using an effective balance of distance learning and face to face interaction, and she always was available for questions and support - even when she was working in another country. Her requirements were rigorous and challenging, and she raised the stakes with each new assignment, but these increased expectations always were backed with practical examples and encouragement."
"Dr. Jolly has worn many hats in her relationship with me. She has been to me a mentor, friend, mother, colleague, teacher, employer and role model. In all of these roles, she demonstrated a genuine interest in my academic, professional and personal growth. I am very fortunate to have crossed paths with Dr. Jolly."
"I had a hard time adjusting to life in the United States since this was the first time I was outside of my own country. My biggest problem was my inability to communicate effectively with others in English. Dr. Jun always encouraged me with his own experiences and eventual success as an international student. These conversations have helped me rise out of a feeling of despair and get motivated to improve myself, both as an English speaker and as a scientist."
"The beginning of my postdoc training with John was without a doubt a shock to my system. John forced me to think on my own and to come up with ideas for projects and interesting ideas/observations. He patiently waited and helped me evaluate all of the ideas - both the good and bad. Consequently I have become a much more independent thinker, a stronger scientist, and a more prepared postdoc to handle the pressure of starting my own research lab."
"Dr. Kohler is truly a caring and inspiring mentor. She takes the necessary time to get to know each student personally so she can better understand the needs and goals of each individual. By doing so, she helps craft an academic experience specifically for each student."
"Dr. Lungu gave me the liberty to conduct and develop laboratory techniques in such a way that suited my style, strengths and schedule while keeping me directed toward our initial research objective and timeline. Dr. Lungu also hosts a weekly meeting for all of his students conducting research and welcomes students not in his group that need guidance in his areas of expertise."
"Dr. Mohl consistently encouraged me to pursue a Ph.D. in African History. He met with me about various African history programs and helped me make my final selection of schools. He collected articles, books, book reviews and newspaper clippings and gave them to me so I could start a filing system on every country in Africa to help me once I get into a program. He also designed a directed reading course for me on the African Diaspora so I would have an African history course under my belt when I applied for further graduate study."
"Dr. Mugavero has been an incredible mentor. He has perfectly blended hands-on teaching and training with the giving of responsibility and autonomy to his mentees. Through very calculated guidance he helped me become a competent, albeit immature, clinical investigator - one who can both ask for help and work with a team and plan ahead, take initiative and spearhead a project and follow it to its completion."
"Dr. Oestenstad encouraged his students to think beyond the presented material and encouraged them when they failed to immediately grasp the concepts. He demonstrated a strong resolve to have his students rise to the challenges of their studies and gave them words of encouragement when they stumbled. There are professors, mentors and there are educators. Very few college professors rise to the challenge of all three, but Dr. Oestenstad embodies them all."
"Meeting Dr. Parcak was a turning point in my graduate career. It is not rare for students to change their graduate research topics in order to incorporate the skills that Dr. Parcak has shared through her courses. I am one of those students. She has honored me by being part of my graduate committee. As a researcher, she has taught me the value of critiquing published work and the art of creative thinking to solve unforeseen problems."
"Dr. Roth's achievements make him a great scholar, but it is his belief in his trainees that makes him a great mentor. Times when I do not have enough confidence in my own capabilities, Dr. Roth steps up to remind me of what I have done and what I can do. He is concerned about me as a person, at times asking me about my life outside of UAB and showing interest in what makes me who I am."
"In our first conversation, Dr. Sisiopiku paid great attention to what areas I was interested in and the goals I had in my mind and expressed her intention of full support. Together in the following days, we came up with a plan, which we believed was most suitable for me. Within this plan, I was given great flexibility to take the courses I was interested in besides the core courses. She also encouraged me to take some courses offered by other departments, which expanded my skill set and proved to be really helpful for my young career."
"Dr. Sontheimer always supported my research ideas, offered suggestions and challenged me to think critically about techniques. While I was encouraged to work independently, his door always was open for questions. His advice and support enabled me to apply for and successfully obtain a National Research Service Award. I strongly believe I trained under an excellent role model for future research. With his scientific record as an example, I will always be striving to make him proud."
"When I was searching for a research topic, Dr. Tiwari went out of his way to include me on a project of his. This spurred my own interest and led me down a path where I eventually chose a research topic that was not being studied by the department faculty members. He encouraged me to pursue this area of research by securing a rich dataset and organizing a group of faculty and post-doctoral fellows who also were new to this area of statistical genetics and interested in this research topic."
"Dr. Unlap arrives on campus as early as 6 a.m. to meet with students for tutoring and help in the lab. He works late into the night to do whatever is necessary to prepare his many laboratory classes and numerous weekly lecture presentations. Dr. Unlap exposes us to many famous people in the biotechnology industry and effectively motivates us with examples of his previous students' successes."
"Collaborating with Dr. Vance improved my research skills and made me more competitive for academic faculty positions subsequent to my traineeship. Other aspects of Dr. Vance's mentoring that are perhaps less tangible but extremely valuable include his help with networking and his availability and willingness to talk about issues ranging from different job options to balancing personal life with the demands of academia."
"Dr. Walsh demands the best effort from each student in a way that is inspiring and supportive. He is a great teacher and cares passionately about each student and what they learn. He is a tireless worker and is always willing to share his thoughts on my research ideas and is genuinely interested in my success. He has become more to me than an advisor; he is my mentor and friend."
"I have learned networking skills and gained numerous contacts by working with Dr. Wibbels and attending conferences with him. He is a well-respected member of the sea turtle research community and serves as a great role model for how to conduct network building. He has supported my career by writing numerous letters of recommendation for grants, fellowships and postdocs. Thanks in part to his help, I am the only person from Alabama or Mississippi to be awarded the National Sea Grant College Program Dean John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship this year."