Each year, the VCU Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program accepts nominations from students for our “Outstanding Faculty Mentor” Awards. Undergraduate researchers are asked to identify a professor or faculty mentor who regularly goes above and beyond to create and engage students in research opportunities.
Students provide a written statement that describes why the chosen nominee deserves an outstanding mentorship award, including specific examples that detail their nominee’s contribution to undergraduate research at VCU. The main criteria for these nominations include; how the faculty member has enhanced the skills related to undergraduate research in their discipline, how the nominee has expanded the knowledge base of student researchers, the ways in which the mentor has assisted undergraduates in their engagement with research, the lasting impression the mentor has made on students’ future academic and professional plans.
Please join us in recognizing our 2016 Outstanding Faculty Mentors!
Professor Mary Boyes joined The Honors College in August of 2013 as an Assistant Professor for the Honors Writing Program and serves a co-coordinator of VCU Launch and an advisor to “Auctus: The Journal of Undergraduate Research and Creativity at VCU.” Mary was nominated by student researchers Alexander Ip and Christian Ruiz, who shared these comments on her mentorship, “I had an interest in social and economic stagnation of the middle class in the People’s Republic of China. Prof. Boyes helped me organize my research by designing assignments, such as source analyses and research reviews, which provided a scaffold for building my final research paper. By the end of the course, I had presented my research at the 19th annual VCU School of World Studies research conference. I was also accepted to present at the 2014 National Conference for Undergraduate Research. Through Professor Boyes’s encouragement and recommendation, I successfully became managing editor for Auctus, the VCU journal of undergraduate research and creative scholarship. Later, I found a research position in the stem cell engineering research lab of Dr. Raj Rao. Since taking Professor Boyes’s advice and joining Dr. Rao’s lab, I’ve received a UROP 2015 Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship.”
Dr. Lesley Bulluck, PhD., is an Assistant professor with the Center for Environmental Studies and Department of Biology at VCU whose central research interests are population ecology and behavior of birds, and are most often motivated by the ability to influence conservation and management. Dr. Bulluck has provided research mentorship to numerous undergraduate students at VCU, including recent Undergraduate Research Fellow, Denney Turner, “Working this past year with Dr. Bulluck has been nothing short of extraordinary. She opened my eyes to many different aspects of research. I have learned so much from Dr. Bulluck, the hands on experience alone was rewarding enough but working one on one with a professor that is so knowledgeable and passionate in their field was unbelievable. Working with Dr. Bulluck, I have broadened my knowledge of everything that goes into research. One can learn a lot in classroom-based education but working out in the field or lab, immersed in the subject can alter your thinking and conception. Overall, Dr. Bulluck helped me find my true passion this past summer. It has been a life changing experience that I am so thankful to have had with such a wonderful professor.”
Kristin Caskey is an artist, Associate Professor and Assistant Chair with the Department of Fashion Design and Merchandising in the VCU School of Arts. She has received multiple grants including the VCU Quest Innovation Fund and recently provided mentorship to VCU Global Education Undergraduate Research Fellow, Cassie Sun who expressed her gratitude with the following words “Kristin’s great connections and her experience working with creative communities was a key element in the Reviving Panxiu Project that I pursued for my summer research fellowship. Being a young student, new to the field and to community collaboration, I looked to her for leadership and experience. Kristin taught me all about her own experiences with art curation and how to promote events and shows. Kristin is a wonderful mentor who has given me so much advice. Her mentorship maximized my hands-on experience with the project.”
Dr. Rebecca Martin, Ph.D., is currently an IRACDA Research Fellow with the VCU School of Medicine. Dr. Martin’s current research focuses on an innate-like subset of B cells called B1 cells. Follicular B cells, or B2 cells, are the major source of allergy inducing IgE antibody. Dr. Martin served as a mentor to VCU Undergraduate Research Fellow, Matthew Zellner, who had this to say about his mentor’s guidance: “Dr. Martin has been my mentor since the fall of 2014 when she guided me through my independent study, which then led me to the UROP program. During my time researching under Dr. Martin, she has vastly expanded my knowledge in the field of research, specifically in the field of immunology. She has not only assisted me in my immediate needs as an undergraduate researcher, but has also advised me about my future in research which has inspired me to pursue a Ph.D. in immunology. Her incredible thirst for knowledge has inspired me to be the best researcher that I can be.”
Dr. Christopher Ehrhardt, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Forensic Science. Dr. Ehrhardt’s main interests are in the areas of forensic biology, microbiology, and trace evidence analysis. He currently maintains a microbial culturing facility that he uses to investigate the chemical and biological signatures associated with the production process of illicitly-grown bacteria (e.g., Bacillus anthracis, Yersinia pestis). Dr. Ehrhardt’s lab also works on developing new methods for analyzing complex cell mixtures that are recovered as evidence from a crime scene and mentored VCU Undergraduate Research Fellow, Eva Childrey, “Dr. Ehrhardt has an excellent quality of allowing his students the freedom to troubleshoot and logically analyze experimental issues, while still providing direction towards the solution. I have personally gained more technical and mechanical knowledge of equipment and instrumentation within his lab than within any of my teaching lab experiences, including Instrumental Analysis. I have been able to list my experiences with specific instrumentation troubleshooting on my resume, and discuss them with employers with positive outcomes. Dr. Ehrhardt’s persistence in his own research has influenced me to think very favorably of pursuing a career in research for myself. Through his support, I was successful in my applications and am currently preparing for a summer internship in a local Richmond laboratory.”
Dr. Wendy Kliewer, Ph.D., is Professor and Chair of the Psychology Department at VCU and manages the Kliewer Prevention Research Lab which is part of the Clark-Hill Institute for Positive Youth Development in the Department of Psychology at VCU. She has mentored countless students on campus and most recently guided Jerry Mize, VCU Undergraduate Research Fellow on his summer project. Jerry had this to say about his mentor, “Dr. Kliewer’s research lab is designed to give students a diverse variety of experiences. She has designed a research internship for course credit that takes undergraduates through the entire research process; many students have come out this experience with multiple publications and presentation credits. Dr. Kliewer has also enhanced my skills in leadership by promoting me to serve as a supervisor in her research lab, she truly cares about my progress and how I am learning. I do not think any mentor could have brought me anywhere near this far or better prepared me for my future in academia.”
Please join us in congratulating our outstanding faculty mentors, and all faculty who provide guidance to our students at VCU. Undergraduate research at VCU would not happen without the commitment and contributions of our mentors!