The rewards of teaching and mentoring
The desire to make a difference and have a positive impact on the world are arguably the most common reasons that teachers decide to teach. The reward is inherent in seeing one's students succeed and go on to make important contributions to society. It doesn't hurt, however, to receive formal recognition for one's efforts.
That is why the Office of Student Academic Success-Undergraduate Research & Creative Inquiry created the Excellence in Undergraduate Research Mentoring Award for individuals who have demonstrated success in mentoring undergraduates in their research and/or creative inquiry endeavors.
Ohio State University undergraduates, enrolled on any campus, may nominate an OSU faculty, post-doctoral associate or graduate student for the Excellence in Undergraduate Research Mentoring Award.
This year, two CBE teachers received the award: Professor Jessica Winter and graduate student Richard Hickey.
Jessica Winter, an established leader in the field of nanobiotechnology, was nominated by undergraduate student and National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship winner Thomas Porter. Last year, Thomas was named both a Goldwater Scholar and an Astronaut Scholar.
This is an unusual amount of success for an undergraduate, and one person who may have been the most surprised was Thomas himself. "Professor Winter demonstrated a lot of belief in me, and encouraged me to apply for opportunities I did not think I was qualified for," Thomas explained. "This ultimately gave me more confidence and opened up a lot of opportunities and connections I could not have imagined."
Thomas also credits Dr. Winter and her receptiveness to new ideas with helping him develop as a researcher. "She has an exceptional ability to take almost any idea and nurture it within the context of our lab. This helped me realize and better understand how to balance the novelty and practicality of new ideas," Thomas said.
Dr. Winter supported Thomas in pursuing any project he found interesting--and at any phase of the project, early or late. Winter knew that he wanted to pursue graduate school, and also supported his travel to conferences, which helped him explore many different research areas and gain experience presenting his own research.
"Dr. Winter did everything in her ability to help me gain a wide breadth of experience and provide me with opportunities to help me toward my goals," Thomas said. Thomas will attend MIT in the fall.
Richard Hickey, a former paramedic who was inspired to pursue graduate studies after reading about hemoglobin-based oxygen carriers (HBOCs), commonly referred to as ‘artificial blood,' also received the Excellence in Undergraduate Research Mentoring Award.
He was nominated by undergraduate researcher Emily McDonel, a biological engineering student who hopes to work in either the food and beverage industry or the pharmaceutical/healthcare industry following graduation.
At least, that was the initial plan. Her time in the research lab and the mentorship she received from Rich led her to consider pursing a Ph.D. to further continue her passion for research and make an even bolder impact when she inevitably enters into industry.
She credits Rich with encouraging her to be the best by drawing out her own thought-processes, reasoning ability, and conclusions, which helped to increase her confidence. "Rich is a very tell-it-to-you-straight kind of guy and will not spoon feed you the answer when you have a difficult question or are curious how to run a piece of equipment," she said.
"With his background and academic knowledge, he is a fantastic guide on other research projects, ideas, or even hunches to make sure you have considered other points of view and set you on the best path for success. Rich has pushed me to take my research to the next level through accepting more challenges and thinking outside of the box to develop new and exciting solutions which have allowed my research to reach a level appropriate for publication and presentation at conferences," Emily said.
"Through his mentorship, I know that I can succeed in anything I aspire to, whether that be in an industry or graduate school setting," she added. Emily recently received second place for her work on “Development of Hemoglobin-Based Oxygen Carriers (HBOCs) Through the Process of Co-Precipitation of Nanoparticles" in the Spring College of Engineering Undergraduate Research Forum.
Richard Hickey has also won other awards. In April, Richard received the University Laboratory Safety Committee (ULSC) Excellence in Safety Award from the Office of Environmental Health and Safety for his outstanding efforts to improve safety in the chemical engineering department. In 2017 he received a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.
Richard is an advisee of Dr. Andre Palmer, who last year also received the Excellence in Undergraduate Research Mentoring Award.