Faculty Mentor of the Week
Mentors make a difference! The Office of Undergraduate Research officially launched our research Faculty Mentor of the Week recognition on August 28, 2017. Each week our office will highlight one of our outstanding and very much appreciated research faculty mentors who offer leadership and support of our undergraduate student researchers.
2018 -2019 Faculty Mentor of the Week
Week 24: April 22 - April 28, 2019
Dr. Joshua Lile is an Associate Professor of Behavioral Science, Psychiatry, and Psychology in the UK College of Medicine. Dr. Lile’s research efforts include the study of cannabis-use disorder, the determination of underlying mechanisms of stimulant-use disorder and the development of interventions, and a relatively new area of research for Dr. Lile relates to alcohol use disorder. In the past year, Dr. Lile has mentored one undergraduate student, three graduate students, and one post-doctoral trainee.
Dr. Lile's passion for research and mentoring adds tremendous value to his life. Dr. Lile explained, "One of my favorite aspects of being an academic scientist is that there are always opportunities to learn new things. The mentees I have worked with have been a great source of new ideas about how to enhance my ongoing research or move that research in different directions." Mentorship is something that requires strong commitment from both parties, and takes a lot of effort. The end results, however, are more than worth it. "I have enjoyed being able to pass along the wisdom of my previous mentors, as well as my own knowledge and experiences, to help advance my mentees' career goals," said Dr. Lile. When looking for an undergraduate research mentee, he looks for students who are curious, goal-oriented, and hard-working.
The value of undergraduate research is a part of an educational process contributing to the learning and development of the student. When asked about the value of UK students engaging in undergraduate research, Dr. Lile replied, "Undergraduate research experiences encourage critical-thinking and problem-solving skills that can translate to any future career path."
Thank you Dr. Joshua Lile for your passion for research and discovery, your dedication to your mentees, and support of undergraduate research.
Week 23: April 15 - April 21, 2019
Dr. Babak Bazrgari is an Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering in the College of Engineering. Dr. Bazrgari is also the Director of the Human Musculoskeletal Biomechanics Lab with research focusing on the mechanical behaviors of the active neuromuscular and the passive musculoskeletal systems in the human body, and aims at controlling and managing musculoskeletal disorders. In the last year, Dr. Bazrgari has mentored eight graduate students and eight undergraduate students.
Mentoring is a great opportunity to deliver a rewarding and potentially life-changing experience for both the mentor and the mentee. "Mentoring students for me has not only involved giving and coaching, but equally learning from students," Dr. Bazrgari explained, "Particularly as related to differences in individuals' strengths and weaknesses, and how those personal characteristics can be properly implemented or managed to achieve one's goals in day-to-day life." When considering an undergraduate student for his lab, he appreciates a student's strong desire to learn, a willingness to accept responsibility, persistence, and hard work.
When asked about the value of undergraduate research, Dr. Bazrgari replied, "Getting involved in undergraduate research will enhance the educational experience of undergraduate students. It allows them to better realized the applicability of materials covered in the classroom and helps them develop important skills that can be leveraged toward achieving their career and educaitonal goals."
Thank you Dr. Babk Bazrgari for your support of undergraduate research at the University of Kentucky! We greatly appreciate the outstanding mentoring Dr. Bazrgari provides and the difference he is making for so many UK undergraduates.
Week 22: April 8 - April 14, 2019
Dr. Martin Nielsen is an Associate Professor and Schlaikjer Professor in Equine Infectious Disease in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment with research interests including equine parasitology, parasite control programs, and anthelmintic resistance. In the last year, Dr. Nielsen has mentored ten undergraduate students and four graduate students.
Dr. Nielsen is a dedicated supporter of undergraduate research and explained how mentoring adds value to his life, "Mentoring undergraduate students is one of the most rewarding activities in my work life. Hosting an undergraduate student is an opportunity to provide an experience that could be life-changing. Most of them come to me because they are curious about research and want to find out whether it might be something for them. We always need help with our many projects, so we provide some training in our laboratory methods and have the students start out working on some of those projects. After a while, many of them develop an interest in doing more and we encourage them to work on their own projects. I engage my graduate students in mentoring and supervising these students and help them develop a project idea. When we get to this point, it starts being really fun." He takes great pride in mentoring and developing undergraduate research students and aims to give them "an experience as a part of a research team, where people work together and help each other." Neilsen is proud of his undergraduate students' efforts, "Most of my undergraduate students have published their work in peer-reviewed research journals, and several have presented their work at scientific conferences. Needless to say that those are both tremendous achievements for undergraduate students. Whether they decide to pursue graduate studies or not, I consider such a research experience invaluable."
When looking for an undergraduate research mentee, Dr. Nielsen found that UK "is just full of smart, talented, hard-working and motivated young people, so I don't need to do much in terms of vetting or selecting the right students. That's our gold." Nielsen's passion for mentoring and research is tremendous. "In this day and age, there is no shortage of information available, and a lot of it is misrepresented, misinterpreted, and cherry-picked," he continued, "As a higher learning institution we should aim at educating our student to acquire and assess information in an unbiased manner. Research experience is key to achieve this."
Thank you Dr. Martin Nielsen for your support of undergraduate research! We greatly appreciate the outstanding mentoring Dr. Nielsen provides and the difference he is making for so many UK undergraduates.
Week 21: April 1 - April 7, 2019
Dr. Suzanne Segerstrom is a Professor of Psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences with research interests including personality, self-regulation, and health. Dr. Segerstrom's research primarily addresses the influence of individual differences in personality, cognition, and emotion on psychological health and physiological functions. In the last year, she has mentored six undergraduate students and four PhD students.
Dr. Segerstrom appreciates the opportunity to mentor students and explained, "My students challenge me to deeply understand what we are studying and how we are approaching science. Are we doing the best we can? What more do we need to do before we really know the answer to a scientific question?" When considering students for undergraduate research, she values two characteristics, no matter what career stage, "First, being smart and intellectually curious generates ideas. Second, being conscientious and hardworking realizes the potential of those ideas. The first gets a lot of attention, but the second is equally, if not more, important."
"Being a researcher is a great job, because you get to pursue answers to the questions that interest you." Dr. Segerstrom continued, "Undergraduate students who do research get a taste of that pursuit, which can be frustrating but is more fulfilling and exciting." Thank you Dr. Segerstrom for your unwavering support of undergraduate research at the University of Kentucky. We are pleased to recognize your dedication this week as our Faculty Mentor of the Week.
Week 20: March 24 - March 31, 2019
Dr. Mariantonieta Gutierrez Soto is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil Engineering. Her field of specialization is Structural Engineering. Dr. Gutierrez Soto is also the director of the Multidisciplinary Smart Structures Knowledge Research Lab at the University of Kentucky. Her specific research interests include sustainable and humanitarian engineering, smart structures, multi-hazard resilience, vibration control, game theory, and green engineering to name a few.
While this is her first year at UK, Dr. Gutierrez Soto has already mentored five undergraduate students and two graduate students. When asked about her role as a research mentor, she explained, "I find it rewarding to be a mentor, because I had great mentors in my life that influenced the person I am today. Working with my mentees opened new avenues and viewpoints to solve an interesting problem. We are working together to make a difference in protecting structures from natural disasters." When looking for an undergraduate research mentee, Dr. Gutierrez Soto looks for "an undergraduate that is self-motivated. Someone that not only has the drive to carry on the tasks at hand, but also comes to the meetings with creative new ideas to take the project to the next level."
Dr. Mariantonieta Gutierrez Soto values research and supports the undergraduate research experience at UK. When asked about the value of an undergraduate student engaging in research, she replied, "Research experience is one way to learn more about oneself and see the adventure that lies in the unknown. Research can be challenging and is supposed to be, because you are in nthe path of creating new knowledge; no matter how small, you are contributing and impacting the field."
Thank you Dr. Gutierrez Soto for your continued support and encouragement of undergraduate research. Your dedication makes a profound difference to students at the University of Kentucky. We are pleased to recognize you as this week's research Faculty Mentor of the Week.
SPRING BREAK: March 10 - March 17, 2019
Week 19: March 4 - March 10, 2019
Dr. Margaret Mohr-Schroeder is an Associate Professor of mathematics education in the Department of STEM Education, where she is also the Associate Deam of Clinical Preparation and Partnerships within the College of Education. Dr. Mohr-Schroeder enjoys researching pre-service teacher Mathematics Education, Mathematics Knowledge for Teaching, and Assessment. In the last year, Dr. Mohr-Schroeder has mentored 2 undergraduate research students. When asked about her role as a mentor, she replied, "I love working with undergraduate students! I love the fresh and innocent perspective they bring to a project. Watching them analyze data and discuss the results and their impact gives me a renewed sense of purpose. Further, the lens through which they analyze the data provides a different generational take, which in our work in education, is extremely important! They often times have insights that we would not traditionally think of."
When considering a student for undergraduate research, Dr. Mohr-Schroeder looks for students with enthusiasm for learning new things, persistence, and critical thinking skills. She explains, "Communication skills are of great value, as well, but I found those to be easier to teach than the former characteristics."
Dr. Margaret Mohr-Schroeder supports and values undergraduate research at UK and explained,"I think it's important to create more acces to the high quality undergraduate research experiences offered at UK, because I think it opens more opportunities for our students. Through undergraduate research opportunities, they get to explore and investigate a whole other world that will hopefully have a long term impact. The skills gained through an undergraduate research experience may not have direct connections to their future careers, but the 21st century knowledge and skills gained through these experiences will enable them to be better prepared UK graduates."
Thank you for your dedication and support of undergraduate research at UK. The Office of Undergraduate Reseach is pleased to recognize Dr. Margaret Mohr-Schroeder as this week's Faculty Mentor of the Week!
Week 18: February 18 - February 24, 2019
Jessica Houlihan is a Lecturer in the Department of Dietetics and Human Nutrition in the College of Agriculture and PA-C in the Department of Pediatrics at the Kentucky Children's Hospital. She is interested in clinical and community-based research, quality improvement research, preventative and primary clinical care, women's health issues, and teaching/precepting students. In the past year, Houlihan has mentored approximately 60 undergraduate seniors that are enrolled in the DHN 474 and 475 Research Theory and Application class. Ms. Houlihan explains, "Being a mentor has helped me to continue to see the value of research and the research process. My goal is to help students feel confident as researchers and have the interest to pursue research endeavors in their future careers." She continues, "I am amazed at the thought process and research curiosity of the students I have worked with over the years. Often students have questions and concerns regarding health disparities that they hope to answer through research."
When looking for an undergraduate research mentee, Houlihan appreciates students with a natural curiosity and critical thinking skills. When asked about the value of undergraduate students engaging in research, she replied "Research activity in undergraduate students builds confidence and strengthens critical thinking skills. It is a great transition process for upper-level students to prepare for careers or graduate education."
Thank you Jessica Houlihan for your continued support and encouragement of undergraduate research. Your dedication makes a profound difference to students at the University of Kentucky!
Week 17: February 11 - February 17, 2019
Dr. Samuel Awuah is an Assistant Professor of Chemistry in the College of Arts & Sciences. Dr. Awuah's research focuses on innovative drug discovery through computer-aided drug design, genetic editing, and rigorous chemical synthesis of organic and inorganic small molecule probes to interograte human biology processes and disease states towards new therapeutics. His laboratory is pivoted on three overarching themes involving drug discovery, chemical biology, and chemical immunology. In the past year, Dr. Awuah has mentored five undergraduate students.
When asked how mentoring adds value to his life, Dr. Awuah explains, "Working with talented undergraduate students at UK constantly stimulates personal learning as they ask important scientific questions that I would not under normal circumstances think about. They bring great enthusiasm and energy to my research program becuase of their desire to make discoveries." When considering an undergraduate research mentee, Dr. Awuah looks for students who are "passionate about solving problems using science as the vehicle." He also appreciates "traits of persistence and hard work" in his research mentees.
Dr. Samuel Awuah supports and values undergraduate research at UK and notes, "Our future scientific breakthrough lies in training undergraduate researchers." Thank you Dr. Awuah for your continued support and dedication! We are honored to recognize Dr. Samual Awuah as this week's Faculty Mentor of the Week!
Week 16: February 4 - February 9, 2019
Dr. Yang Jiang is an Associate Professor in the Department of Behavioral Science in the College of Medicine. She is also an affiliated faculty member of the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging, and of the Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Spectroscopy Center at the College of Medicine. Dr. Jiang's research focuses on understanding the neural mechanisms underlying visual perception and cognition in healthy and clinical populations. In the past year, Dr. Jiang has mentored eight undergraduate students.
"It has been a gratifying experience to work with talented undergraduates through various UK undergraduate programs, such as Honors College and STEMCats. I have learned a lot from these students who have majors and minors in neuroscience, psychology, biology, public health, history, German, and engineering," she notes, "I feel rewarded through their achievements including getting into Ivy League universities, medical schools, or winning an undergraduate teaching award for assisting research training."
When asked what Dr. Jiang looks for in an undergraduate research mentee, she replied, "What I look for in a student is his/her research interests and passion and willingness to work for their goals. The most successful students in behavioral and clinical neuroscience are those who are self-motivated, excited to learn new skills, and team-players." She believes that "being a mentor comes with tremendous responsibility for guiding and developing a mentee's mind and soul, beyond simply passing on knowledge." She continues, "I have seen time after time that research accomplishment is a great predictor for undergraduates' future success. I am most proud when students tell me that their research experience has helped and shaped them into achieving bigger dreams."
The Office of Undergraduate Research would like to thank Dr. Yang Jiang for her dedication and support of undergraduate research. We greatly appreciate your efforts and celebrate you as this week's Faculty Mentor of the Week!
Week 15: December 3 - December 8, 2018
Dr. Gail Hoyt is a Professor of Economics and Gatton College Teaching Fellow in UK's Gatton College of Business & Economics. Dr. Hoyt is the co-coordinator for the Lab for Economics and Accounting Proficiency. Gail has won numerous teaching awards including the UK Alumni Association Great Teacher Award, the UK Provost's Award for Outstanding Teaching, and the Kenneth Elzinga Distinguished Teacher Award from the Southern Economic Association. Dr. Hoyt's dedication to education and mentoring makes such a difference to her students and mentees. Thank you Dr. Hoyt for your support and encouragement of undergraduate research!
Week 14: November 26 - December 1, 2018
Dr. Ana Liberato is an Associate Professor of Sociology and Director of Graduate Studies in the Sociology Department in the College of Arts & Science. Her research interests include race, ethnicity, and gender and their interplay with political identity and political attitudes. Dr. Liberato's role as mentor giver her "satisfaction and pure joy from my successful mentees". She explains that "through interactions with them, I "renew" the love for my career and the energies and commitment needed for the constant pursue of effective teaching." When asked what she looks for in an undergraduate research mentee, she replied that she wants students to be "engaged, open-minded, and reliable. I feel I can work through any issue if these characteristics are present."
Dr. Ana Liberato supports and values undergraduate research at UK and explained, "Research can be a vehicle for multiple realizations by students in regard to what they are learning, what they can do with it, how they think, what they need academically and skills wise, and what really matters to them." Thank you Dr. Liberato for your continued support and dedication! We are honored to recognize Dr. Liberato as this week's Faculty Mentor of the Week!
Week 13: November 19 - November 24, 2018
Dr. John D'Orazio is a Professor of Pediatrics in the UK College of Medicine, as well as the Interim Director of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology. Dr. D'Orazio is a physician scientist who combines a clinical career in pediatric hematology/oncology, caring for children with cancer and blood diseases, with melanoma and melanocyte research. Over the last year, Dr. D'Orazio has mentored 4 students in his lab and many others in the hospital as clinical observers onn Pediatric Hematology/Oncology rounds.
Dr. D'Orazio enjoys mentoring undergraduate students and explains, "Though it doesn't happen with every student, it is rewarding to see the spark of curiosity lit by scientific discovery. I enjoy energizing a love of research in students. A good mentor-mentee relationship goes both ways - the mentor helps give perspective and guidance, while the mentee brings fresh ideas and a sense of untapped potential." When considering an undergraduate mentee, he looks for a student with an innate scientific curiosity.
When asked about the importance of undergraduate research, Dr. D'Orazio replied, "Why should students engage in undergraduate research? At some point in every student's undergraduate studies, she or he should question what they're being taught. Where did the "facts" come from in the textbooks they're learning from? - they came from research! When a student is no longer satisfied to accept knowledge simply by passive absorption, but feels the need to create knowledge by discovery, then they are ready to do research."
Thank you Dr. John D'Orazio for your dedication and support of undergraduate research at UK.
Week 12: November 12 - November 18, 2018
Susie Thiel is a multi-media artist, choreographer, performer and educator. She is the Director of the Dance Program and Assistant Professor of Theatre at the University of Kentucky. Over the past year, Ms. Thiel has mentored 10 undergraduate students and explained, "I work hard to teach my students the importance of dance research and practice as research. Most students do not realize the importance of dance scholarship or that dance performance and choreography is research. I help my students expand on their artistry to include a variety of research methodologies and methods, as well as gain new perspectives that can be interwoven into choreographic endeavors."
When looking for mentees, Susie looks for students with questions, someone that wants to employ collaborative and interdisciplinary approaches. Ms. Thiel told us about one of her former undergraduate research students who was a dance minor and also in her third year of medical school at UK. This student's research was based on biological science and dance and culminated into the resulting work, A Production on the Production of Cortisol: Glucocorticoids Made Personal that explored how stress impacted a person physically, mentally, and physiologically.
Susie believes "it is crucial for students to begin to conduct research at the undergraduate level as they are the future dance makers and scholars. Student research at the University of Kentucky provides the student with a foundation to conduct research in their fields. Thank you Susie Thiel for your dedication and support of undergraduate research at UK.
Week 11: November 5 - November 11, 2018
Dr. Sarah Kercsmar is Director of Undergraduate Studies and CLM Assistant Professor in the College of Health Sciences. Dr. Kercsmar loves teaching and working with students, from the very first year until graduation. She especially likes trying out new teaching methods and active learning tools to help students learn through hands-on experience. Her research interests include the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, service-learning, and population level public health interventions.
Thank you for all the efforts you put in research and for your dedication to undergraduate research and your undergraduate students. The Office of Undergraduate Research is pleased to recognize Dr. Sarah Kercsmar as this week’s Faculty Mentor of the Week!
Week 10: October 29 - November 4, 2018
Week 9: October 22 - October 27, 2018
Dr. Christia Brown is Professor and Associate Chair in the Department of Psychology, as well as the Director of Center for Equality and Social Justice. Over the past year, Dr. Brown has mentored 15 students. When asked how her role as a mentor creates value in her life, she explained, "I am deeply inspired by my mentees. The most rewarding part of my job is helping students develop a passion for research and a drive to ask the kinds of questions that can improve the world." Dr. Brown enjoys when students get excited "by the work we're doing and helps me see the research with new eyes."
When looking for mentees, Dr. Brown appreciates students who have a strong work ethic, inquisitive and passionate, and those who can bring a diverse perspective to the conversation.
Thank you Dr. Christia Brown for all the efforts you put in research and for your dedication to undergraduate research and your undergraduate students.
Week 8: October 15 - October 20, 2018
Week 7: October 8 - October 13, 2018
Dr. Joao Costa is an Assistant Professor in Dairy Sciences at the Department of Animal Sciences. Over the past year, Dr. Costa has mentored 5 graduate, 12 undergraduates and 3 undergraduates from France as well as a section of the StemCats research mentorship program in Animal behavior.
When looking for mentees, Dr. Costa looks for students with a motivation to learn, professionalism, and responsibilityl. Dr. Costa believes that students should be motivated to explore and learn from the opportunities that are given to them during this fundamental period of their lives at the same time that they are learning the essential professionalism that will help them in being successful in life.
Thank you for all the efforts you put in research and for your dedication to undergraduate research and your undergraduate students. The Office of Undergraduate Research is pleased to recognize Dr. Joao Costa as this week’s Faculty Mentor of the Week!
Week 6: October 1 - October 6, 2018
Dr. DaMaris B. Hill is an Associate Professor of English and Creative Writing in the College of Arts and Sciences. Over the past year, Dr. Hill has mentored many over 15 students including graduate students across many colleges at the University of Kentucky. When looking for mentees, Dr. Hill looks for students with commitment, creativity, and vision. Dr. Hill believes that students should engage in undergraduate research "in order explore and engage with their interests in a way that can impact their "glocal" community."
Thank you for all the efforts you put in research and for your dedication to undergraduate research and your undergraduate students. The Office of Undergraduate Research is pleased to recognize Dr. DaMaris B. Hill as this week’s Faculty Mentor of the Week!
Week 5: September 24 - September 29, 2018
Rebekah Radtke is an assistant professor at the University of Kentucky. She has mentored 4 students and has said that mentoring students brings vibrancy to her work and allows her to think about her research from a different perspective. She says mentees have influenced how she approaches her research by providing valuable insights and energy to projects that impact our communities.
When looking for a student to mentor, she looks for self-directed, passionate students who are also good comunnicators. Thank you for all the efforts you put in research and for your dedication to undergraduate research and your undergraduate students. The Office of Undergraduate Research is pleased to recognize Rebekah Radtke as this week’s Faculty Mentor of the Week!
Week 4: September 17 - September 22, 2018
Dr. Amanda Adams is an associate professor at the University of Kentucky. She has over 20 referred publications and has been working with students in research at the university since 2011. Working at the Maxwell H. Gluck Equine Research Center, she has involved her investigations around models of ‘stress’ in particular how the process of weaning, as a model of stress, impacts immune and metabolic functions. Her research is focused on understanding how endocrine disorders —Particularly, Equine #Cushing’s disease— affects the immune response of aging horses.
Thank you Dr. Adams for all the efforts you put in research and for your dedication to undergraduate research and your undergraduate students.
Week 3: September 10 - September 15, 2018
This week our Faculty Mentor of the Week is Dr. Martina Vasil! Dr. Vasil is an Assistant Professor of Music Education and Director of the Orff Schulwerk and Dalcroze Summer Institute. She’s mentored eight undergraduate music students over the past year. When she looks for undergraduate mentees, she looks for curiosity, a natural propensity for writing and thinking, and a drive to learn more on a topic that interests them!
Dr. Vasil's role as a mentor evolved from her love of having mentors throughout her life. "Mentors have helped me to grow my knowledge in the field, gain confidence in my own thinking and ability to communicate my ideas, and take advantage of professional development and research opportunities. It has been extremely rewarding to give back and become a mentor myself to provide the same benefits to others. I have learned more about life and how people learn best from my students and have expanded my knowledge according to my students’ specific research and teaching interests. In many cases, I have gained new friends as my mentees have graduated and become professionals in our field of music education."
When asked about the value of undergraduate research, Dr. Vasil explained, "It is valuable for undergraduate music education majors to do research so that there is an empirical base for their teaching. Understanding why we do what we do and best practices only strengthen our pedagogy and impact on the field. Further, providing a platform for undergraduates to showcase their research (whether as a “Ted Talk” as I did with my MUS 361 class or a research poster) instills confidence in students that their ideas and curiosity have value and furthers their drive to continue to be reflective and responsive teachers."
Thank you Dr. Vasil for your continued support and encouragement of undergraduate research. Your dedication makes a profound difference to students at the University of Kentucky.
Week 2: September 3 - September 8, 2018
Week 1: August 27 - September 1, 2018
Week 25: April 29 - May 5, 2019