The CUR Biology Division Mentor Awards honor biology mentors for their long-term efforts in supervising undergraduate research (UGR) students. Individuals may be self-nominated or be nominated by CUR Institutional or Institutional-Enhanced members, individual CUR members of the Biology Division, or the mentor's research students. Faculty mentoring interdisciplinary projects are eligible as long as such projects involve a major biological component. Awards will be made in three categories: Early Career, Mid-Career, and Advanced Career.
Early Career: Scientists with 1-9 years of experience mentoring undergraduate researchers. Although 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.
Advanced Career: Scientists with more than 19 years of experience mentoring undergraduate researchers.
Nomination Process, Application Process, and Deadlines
Nominations by Students.
To nominate a mentor, students must email Mentor Award Committee chair Janet Morrison
with "Mentor Award" in the subject line and provide their name; the title of the research project; and the mentor's name, institution, and email address. The mentor will be contacted to determine if the nomination is accepted. If it is, the student will be contacted to provide a nomination letter, which will also count as one of two required letters of recommendation from undergraduate researchers. The deadline for student nomination emails is February 1, 2021
; the deadline for student nomination letters is March 1, 2021
Self-Nominations and Nominations by Colleagues. The following application materials are required. The deadline for submission of these materials is March 1, 2021:
- Completed Institutional Profile Survey.
- Nomination Letter that can speak firsthand about the nominee’s mentoring of UGR students (two-page limit; 1 inch margins, Times New Roman 12pt. font). The nominator should explain (a) the nominee’s personal commitment to research mentoring, (b) how the nominee individualizes mentoring strategies to fit student needs and limitations, and (c) how the nominee's mentoring activity promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion in UR. Additional information that gives more detailed insight into the nominee’s breadth of mentoring activities and/or mentoring philosophy and style is welcome.
- Nominee CV tailored to showcase mentoring activities, which should provide information regarding cumulative mentoring activities involving UGR students (two-page limit, 1 inch margins, Times New Roman 12 pt. font). Please indicate the number of students mentored and over what time period, all peer-reviewed publications with undergraduate coauthors, presentations with undergraduate coauthors (noting if they were at regional or national venues), grant application submissions by your undergraduate students, student awards or honors for research, and career/graduate school outcomes for your research students.
- Student Letters – Two recommendation letters from UGR students who were mentored by the nominee within the past two to ten years (two-page limit, 1 inch margins, Times New Roman 12 pt font). Students should explain in their letter (a) 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 (b) 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 nominator should create one PDF file that includes the completed Institutional Profile Survey
, the Nomination Letter (if it is a self-nomination), and the CV. The PDF file should be sent as an email to the CUR Biology Division Mentor Award Committee chair Janet Morrison
with the subject line "Mentor Award--Nominee Firstname Lastname."
Student and colleague letter writers must email their nomination letter to committee chair Janet Morrison
as either a Word or PDF document (PDF preferred). The subject line of the email should state "Mentor Award--Nominee Firstname Lastname."
Review and Notification
The CUR Biology Councilors will review the completed applications and will choose the winners. Recipients will be notified in May 2021.
Questions regarding the application process may be addressed to Janet Morrison
, chair of the CUR Biology Division Mentor Award Committee.
2020 Award Winners
• Anne Brown (assistant professor, Virginia Tech, early-career awardee)
• Christopher Lassiter (professor of biology and director of undergraduate research, Roanoke College, mid-career awardee)
• Terry Hill (professor, Rhodes College, advanced-career awardee)
Dr. Brown, who earned her PhD in biochemistry from Virginia Tech, holds the positions of science informatics consultant and health analytics coordinator in the Research, Learning, and Informatics Department within Virginia Tech's university libraries. Her lab group utilizes computational biology and informatics techniques, with a research agenda focused on molecular dynamics simulations and in silico drug discovery, to understand protein structure-function relationships involved in neurodegenerative disease, among other collaborative areas. Brown developed a comprehensive, accountable, and hierarchical undergraduate research mentoring system, such that she can have more than 30 students active in her group at one time, and her extensive collaborations with undergraduates have resulted in numerous publications and presentations at professional conferences.
Dr. Lassiter trained in genetics and genomics at Duke University for his PhD and postdoctoral studies, and has been at Roanoke College for 15 years, where he teaches courses in cell and developmental biology and has mentored 29 undergraduates in his zebrafish developmental biology lab. His research collaborations with students have resulted in published papers with many student coauthors and numerous posters with students, including many at regional, national, and international professional conferences.
A mycologist with a doctorate from the University of Florida, Dr. Hill has been with Rhodes College since 1978, and he is now the most senior faculty member at the institution. Hill has had an active, productive, and fully funded research program for more than 40 years. He has mentored undergraduates in research over his entire career, focusing on filamentous fungus Aspergillus nidulans, with very notable outcomes. He has published many papers with student coauthors and had countless presentations with students at regional and national professional conferences.
2019 Award Winners
• Jessica Malisch
(asst professor of physiology, St. Mary’s College of MD, early-career awardee)
• Marina Cetkovic-Cvrlje
(professor of biology, St. Cloud State University, mid-career awardee)
• Amelia Ahern-Rindell
(assoc professor of biology, University of Portland, advanced career awardee)
Dr. Malisch earned her BS degree from the University of North Carolina, Wilmington and her PhD from the University of California, Riverside. She conducts research on avian endocrinology and metabolism, with projects focused on stress responses in white-crowned sparrows near Yosemite National Park and in white-throated sparrows and juncos in southern Maryland. Undergraduate students work closely with her at both sites, resulting in seven papers coauthored with students, eight presentations at national conferences with students as lead authors, and numerous student research awards. Malisch also brings her strong research focus into the classroom, where she incorporates real research experiences starting in her first-year seminar, right through mentoring students in the capstone research experience the St. Mary’s Project. Her students deeply appreciate her commitment and passion for research. As one student wrote, “Overall, Dr. Malisch is a passionate, dedicated, and motivated professor whose guidance has allowed many students to grow as scientists and intellectuals. She goes way beyond the call of duty as a professor because she makes it her job that we succeed.”
Dr. Cetkovic-Cvrlje earned MD and PhD degrees from the Medical School University of Zagreb in Croatia. She has consistently pursued her research interests in the biology of Type I diabetes in collaboration with 118 diverse undergraduate students, with very strong outcomes. Her “research kids” have been awarded 54 grants, made 87 presentations (including 20 award winners), and coauthored five peer-reviewed papers. These numbers are impressive and are built on a foundation of deep commitment to students as researchers. As her department chair noted, she has had an impact “on every one of those individuals” based on her conviction about the “power of undergraduate research to help students develop as scientists, students, and as human beings” - including beyond graduation. Indeed, her student letters mirror this enthusiastic endorsement of her as a mentor. Dr. Cetkovic-Cvrlje’s commitment to undergraduate research extends well beyond her own lab group. For example, she organized the Minnesota State Undergraduate Research Conference, facilitated a faculty learning community on undergraduate research on her campus, and has made numerous presentations about undergraduate research as professional conferences.
Dr. Ahern-Rindell earned her BS degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and her MS and PhD degrees from Washington State University. Trained as a geneticist and cell biologist, Dr. Ahern-Rindell pursues a long-standing research program on lysosomal storage disorders, with extensive involvement of undergraduate researchers. Over a 27-year career as a professor at primarily undergraduate institutions, she has mentored more than 100 undergraduate students in research, with the majority pursuing projects related to her own research program and resulting in fourth-year or honors theses and conference presentations. She also has published peer-reviewed papers and conference abstracts with many undergraduate coauthors, including on a second research interest, the teacher-scholar model and ethics in mentoring undergraduate research. A focus on learning through inquiry and research drives Dr. Ahern-Rindell’s teaching practice as well as her lab research. She was an early developer of student-centered, inquiry-based approaches in the teaching lab and classroom, with NSF-funded initiatives as early as 1994. Dr. Ahern-Rindell has shared her expertise in the collaborative mentoring of undergraduate research both in the lab and classroom nationally, through years of service to the Council on Undergraduate Research. Her student recommendation reflects her thoughtful mentoring practice of the whole person: “As a professor, advisor, and research mentor, … Dr. AR prioritizes students’ personal growth as much as she does their performance and productivity. She works tirelessly to make lasting impacts in her students’ lives that will go beyond a given course or research experience. She doesn’t simply teach ‘science’; she teaches how to be a good scientist.”
2017 Award Winners
Dr. Rachelle Belanger,
associate professor and assistant chair of biology at University of Detroit Mercy (early-career awardee). Dr. Belanger received her undergraduate and master’s degrees from the University of Windsor and her PhD from Bowling Green State University. Dr. Belanger’s research focuses on how sexual development and steroid hormones modulate the olfactory system. She has coauthored several papers with her undergraduate mentees, whose work has been recognized with several undergraduate student awards at the regional and national levels. In her nomination materials, her colleagues indicate that she is “continually working with undergraduate students in a research setting, and is constantly looking for new ways to incorporate research into traditional teaching laboratories.” Her students say that she spends time to truly get to know them and takes a sincere interest in their careers and personal goals.
Dr. Amit Dhingra
, associate professor of genomics and biotechnology at Washington State University (mid-career awardee). After completing his undergraduate and graduate education in India and postdoctoral fellowships at Rutgers University, University of Central Florida, and University of Florida, Dr. Dhingra joined the Department of Horticulture at Washington State University where he works in plant genomics and biotechnology. Many of his student mentees have been a part of an NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at WSU, where, according to his colleagues, he has developed an “uncanny ability to connect with and engage students, especially underrepresented minority students.” His student mentees indicate that Dr. Dhingra was willing to push them to participate outside of their comfort zones and enhanced their abilities and career options.
Dr. William (Bill) Ensign
, professor of biology in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology at Kennesaw State University (advanced-career awardee). Dr. Ensign received his bachelor’s degree from George Washington University, his master’s degree from University of Tennessee, and his PhD in fisheries science from Virginia Tech. After working as a research scientist for the US Forest Service and the Virginia Tech Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences, he joined the faculty at Kennesaw State. His research broadly focuses on fish diversity, distribution and abundance in freshwater streams and rivers. Dr. Ensign has authored multiple publications with undergraduates and regularly has had students presenting their work at regional and national conferences. According to his colleagues, Dr. Ensign has “created a rich community of research groups to allow students to work to their strengths within a given project.” His students indicate that he is an enthusiastic model of a successful scientist.