Learning Through Research

Biology Mentor Awards

CUR Biology Division Mentor Awards



The Biology Division of CUR would like to honor Biology Mentors for their long-term efforts in supervising undergraduate research (UGR) students. Individuals may be nominated by CUR Institutional or Institutional-Enhanced members, or individual CUR members of the Biology Division.  Faculty mentoring interdisciplinary projects are eligible as long as those projects involve a major biological component. Awards will be made in three categories:  Early Career, Mid-Career, and Mature Career.  

For information on nomination procedures and requirements, please go to the CUR Biology Division website. Applications/Nominations must be submitted in their entirety by 5:00 pm (PDT), Monday, October 23, 201, by email to Dr. Sherell Byrd.

  • Early Career:   Scientists with 1-9 years of experience mentoring undergraduate researchers. While this generally corresponds to Assistant Professors, the committee recognizes that many mentors are not in tenure track positions and that some scientists begin significant undergraduate research mentoring even before they obtain a tenure track position.
  • Mid Career:     Scientists with 10-19 years of experience mentoring undergraduate researchers.
  • Mature Career:     Scientists with greater than 19 years of experience mentoring undergraduate researchers.

Application requirements:

  1. Institutional profile survey (CUR website listed above)
  2. Nomination Letter – a nomination letter (3 page limit) that can speak first-hand about the nominee’s mentoring of UGR students (two page limit). In their letter we suggest that the nominator explain 1) the nominee’s personal commitment to mentoring, and 2) how the nominee individualizes mentoring strategies to fit student needs and limitations.   Additional information that gives more detailed insight into the nominee’s mentoring philosophy and style is welcome.  .
  3. Nominee CV tailored to showcase mentoring activities – should provide information regarding cumulative mentoring activities involving UGR students (two page limit).  Please indicate all publications and presentations with undergraduate co-authors.
  4. Student Letters – Two recommendation letters from UGR students who were mentored by the nominee within the past two-ten years (two page limit).  In their letter we ask that students explain 1) how their mentor showed commitment to helping them achieve in areas of their life that mean the most to them (i.e. academic, career, or personal growth); and 2) how their mentor modeled positive behaviors and successful performance.  Additional information that gives more detailed insight into the mentor’s work on behalf of the student is welcome.

The CUR Biology Councilors will review the completed applications and will choose this year’s winners.  The winning mentors will be notified in late October or early November.  We look forward to reading the application letters and learning about the great opportunities and experiences undergraduate students are having across the nation.  

If you have any questions regarding the application process, contact Dr. Sherell Byrd.  


2016 Award Winners

lamendella-reginaDr. Gina Lamendella, assistant professor of biology at Juniata College in Huntingdon, PA, was selected as the outstanding early-career mentor in the CUR Biology division for 2016.  Dr. Lamendella received her doctorate in environmental science and engineering in 2009 from the University of Cincinnati and began working with undergraduates at Juniata College in 2012.  Since that time, she has mentored 47 undergraduates and coauthored 14 publications with many of her mentees. Her students have presented their research nationally and internationally, and many have received awards for their work.  Additionally, Dr. Lamendella received the 2016 Juniata College Gibbel Award for Teaching Excellence. One student nominator says, ”She leads by example in teaching how to troubleshoot and produce creative solutions to complex problems. Through working with Dr. Lamendella, I learned that research is a process rather than an end-goal.”  Her colleagues say that “she has lent her expertise to elevate the academic program within biology and other departments at Juniata.”

Bavis_RyanDr. Ryan Bavis, the Helen A. Papaioanau Professor of Biological Sciences at Bates College in Lewiston, ME, and currently chair of the Department of Biology, is the recipient of the mid-career mentor award.  Dr. Bavis received his PhD in organismal biology and ecology from the University of Montana.  He started his career at Bates in 2003 and during his tenure has mentored 59 biology, neuroscience, biological chemistry, and interdisciplinary study majors in their thesis work.  Additionally, he has sponsored 34 summer research students, as well as numerous independent study and internship students.  These efforts have resulted in more than 19 publications with undergraduate coauthors. His mentees say that Dr. Bavis taught them that “science is an ever-evolving collection of facts, ideas, and windows of opportunity” and that “life works out in its own way and if you put your mind to it, you can reach your own goals.”

2015 Award Winners

Dr. Sara O’Brien, assistant professor of biology at Radford University in Radford, VA, was selected as the outstanding early-career mentor in the CUR Biology division for 2015.  Dr. O’Brien received her doctorate in zoology from the University of Washington in Seattle in 2009 and began working with undergraduates first at Marion University and then Radford University.  In her time as an assistant professor, Dr. O’Brien has mentored 34 students and supported numerous student presentations at local, regional, and national meetings.  One mentee received special recognition for research at the Society for Integrative & Comparative Biology meetings, and she has manuscripts in review and preparation with student coauthors.  One student nominator says that Dr. O’Brien “always wanted what I wanted for myself (albeit a wiser version)” and that Dr. O’Brien “helped me push through my own self-doubt and thoughts that I would never be smart enough to accomplish what I have.”  Her colleagues nominated her because “[m]entoring undergraduates is how Sara thinks about her work as a professional.”

Dr. Olav Rueppell, professor of biology at University of North Carolina, Greensboro, was selected as the outstanding mid-career outstanding mentor for 2015.  Dr. Rueppell received his doctoral training at the University of Würzburg in Germany and did postdoctoral training at the University of Regensburg in Germany as well as in the Department of Entomology at University of California, Davis.  Since his academic appointment at the UNC Greensboro in 2003, Dr. Rueppell has mentored more than 50 undergraduates in his work on honey bees, with five of his mentees receiving excellence awards.  His student researchers have given (or coauthored) more than 100 presentations at local, regional, national, and international conferences, and he has published 73 papers with undergraduate coauthors. His students describe him as “passionate about science and his students” and reflect on “his commitment to inspiring, challenging, and cultivating students to become well-rounded, curious, and successful scientists.” Colleagues describe his mentoring as focusing “on the individual student with his/her interests and qualifications” in mind.  


Dr. Benedict Kolber, assistant professor of biology at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA, received an honorable mention as an early-career mentor.  Dr. Kolber received his doctoral degree in 2008 from Washington University in St. Louis, MO.  Dr. Kolber has mentored 18 student researchers, many who have gone on to graduate school and professional programs, and has published with undergraduate co-authors in prestigious journals such as the Journal of Neuroscience.  Dr. Kolber is described as displaying “persistence and commitment in everything that he takes up”, keeping “a positive perspective towards all outcomes.” 

Dr. Julie Korb, professor of biology at Fort Lewis College in Durango, CO, received an honorable mention as a mid-career mentor.  Dr. Korb received her PhD at the University of Northern Arizona in forest science, ecosystem science, and management.  Since her appointment in 2002, Dr. Korb has directed more than 70 student independent research projects that has resulted in 42 student presentations at regional or national conferences. She has published seven peer-reviewed articles with undergraduate coauthors and is described as inspiring students “to be better biologists and, more importantly, better people.”