Faculty Mentor of the Week

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Mentors make a difference! The Office of Undergraduate Research officially launched the  Research Faculty Mentor of the Week recognition program in August 2017 and have since recognized 61 faculty mentors. Each week our office will highlight one of our outstanding and very much appreciated research faculty mentors who offer leadership and support of UK's undergraduate student researchers.


2019 -2020 Faculty Mentor of the Week


Week 3: Sept. 15 - Sept. 21, 2019

Dr. Nathan Vanderford - College of Medicine, Toxicology and Cancer Biology

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Dr. Nathan Vanderford is an Assistant Professor of Toxicology and Cancer Biology in the UK College of Medicine. Dr. Vanderford is also the Director of the Appalachian Career Training in Oncology Program. His research interests include epidemiology and molecular etiology of lung cancer, research administration, technology transfer and entrepreneurship, and science pedagogy and career development. 

In the last year, Dr. Vanderford has formally mentored three undergraduate students; although he's also informally mentored 20 high school students, at least 16 undergraduates, and around 10 PhD students in the last year that have been in his courses or participated in the experiential Appalachian Career Training in Oncology program. "I enjoy working side-by-side with undergraduates to have a transformational impact on their career trajectories," Vanderford explained, "Although that may sound cliché, the opportunity to play a role in helping students achieve their academic and career goals is what motivates me most about being a teacher and mentor." Involvement of undergraduate students in Dr. Vanderford's research has been quite engaging, as they have worked on a cancer literacy educational intervention project targeted at middle and high school students, "For this project, undergraduates have helped me deliver the intervention in schools, collect and code data, and write a manuscript that was recently submitted to a peer-reviewed journal." Mentors help students by bringing together ideas from different contexts to promote deeper learning.  Dr. Vanderford appreciates students who are highly driven, motivated, goal oriented, curious, eager to learn, and highly receptive to mentorship, "It always amazes me that these characteristics describe the overwhelming majority of our student body here at UK." 

Dr. Vanderford's dedication to mentoring students stems from his positive research experience as a high school student and undergraduate. "As a high school and undergraduate student, I had the privilege of being impacted by wonderful mentors that truly had a transformational influence on my life as well as my academic and professional career," he continued,  "As a UK undergraduate, I began working in Dr. Glenn Collins’ lab in the College of Agriculture the summer after my freshman year. Dr. Collins was remarkably kind and generous with his time and knowledge. His dedication to and exceptional qualities in teaching and mentorship inspired me to work hard and to pursue big goals. It was this early research experience that ultimately lead to my pursuit of a PhD." When asked what advice he would give to students considering undergraduate research, he replied, "Go for it! Research can be a very enriching experience. It is thrilling to consider that through research, you can discover something that no one has ever known before. Additionally, you can develop very close connections with others, including faculty, who will be highly motivated to help you achieve your academic and career goals." 

Thank you Dr. Vanderford 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 2: Sept. 8 - Sept. 14, 2019

Dr. Nicholas Teets - College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment, Entomology

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Dr. Nicholas Teets is an Assistant Professor of Entomology in the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. His research interests include the mechanistic basis of environmental stress tolerance in insects. Much of Dr. Teets' research focuses on overwintering stress, both in temperate species and species from extreme environments like Antarctica.

In the last year, he has mentored six undergraduate students and one high school student, as well as five PhD students. Dr. Teets was fortunate to have an excellent undergraduate research experience with a supportive mentor who was instrumental in helping him find a lab to do his PhD. He explains, "The best thing about being a research mentor is seeing students achieve their goals. We have extremely talented students at UK, and I hope I can play a small part in getting them where they want to go."

Dr. Teets appreciates the opportunity to mentor students and values having undergraduate researchers in his lab, "Undergraduate researchers are vital to the success of our research program. Some students conduct independent projects for credit, and that research usually culminates in a scientific presentation and/or publication. The most dedicated of these students have the opportunity to present at national conferences and publish their research in scientific journals." When considering undergraduate students for his lab, Dr. Teets values motivated, curious, puncutal and responsible students. He also appreciates students who ask lots of questions, "Research is hard, especially when you're new, so write everything down!" 

Dr. Teets encourages students to engage in undergraduate research and offers words of advice to students looking for undergraduate research opportunities, "I would try to find a research mentor that you can have a long-term relationship with, rather than jumping around to different experiences. It’s obviously important to enjoy what you are doing, so don’t stick with something that makes you unhappy. But a sustained research experience will be more impactful." Thank you Dr. Teets 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 1: Sept. 1 - Sept. 7, 2019

Dr. Sebastian Bryson - College of Engineering, Civil Engineering

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Dr. Sebastian Bryson is the Hardin-Drnevich-Huang Associate Professor of Civil Engineering in the UK College of Engineering and the Co-Director for the College of Engineering Scholars Program in Undergraduate Research. His research interests include sustainable and humanitarian engineering, geotechnical and earthquake engineering, and civil engineering materials.

In the last year, Dr. Bryson has directly and indirectly mentored 13 undergraduate researchers. Bryson's undergraduate research opportunities range from involvment in predicting landslides using satellite data from the NASA Soil Moisture Active Passive mission and the NASA Global Precipitation Measurement mission to students using unmanned aerial systems to asses the existing landslides. His undergraduate mentees are also developing scale models of earth dams. Dr. Bryson states, "The best thing about being an undergraduate research mentor is seeing students evolve from being mildly interested in a research topic to being very enthusiastic about the topic." When considering undergraduate research students, Dr. Bryson appreciates dependable, hard working students who are self-motivated and look for solutions to problems for themselves.  

Dr. Bryson's dedication and support to undergraduate research is profound and encourages undergraduate students to consider engaging in research opportunities. Dr. Bryson recommends that students keep an open mind and explore research topics outside their knowledge bubble. He explains, "Some of the most interesting research is sometimes about topics you may not have previously considered. Also, understand that some research topics will be an excellent fit for you, while some...not so much." His advice to students is to "be willing to explore!"

Thank you Dr. Bryson for being a champion of undergraduate research! We are thrilled to celebrate you as this week's Research Facutly Mentor of the Week. 


Week 4: Sept. 22 - Sept. 28, 2019

Dr. Miriam Kienle - College of Fine Arts, School of Art and Visual Studies

Week 5: Sept. 29 - Oct. 5, 2019

Dr. Jill Haglund - College of Arts & Sciences, Political Science

Week 6: Oct. 6 - Oct. 12, 2019

Dr. Natalie Pope - College of Social Work

Week 7: Oct. 13 - Oct. 19, 2019

Dr. Jeffrey Seay - College of Engineering, Chemical and Materials Engineering

Week 8: Oct. 20 - Oct. 26, 2019

Dr. Michael Samaan - College of Education, Kinesiology and Health Promotion

Week 9: Oct. 27 - Nov. 2, 2019

Dr. Clare Rittschof - College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment, Entomology

Week 10: Nov. 3 - Nov. 9, 2019

Dr. Ann Kingsolver - College of Arts & Sciences, Anthropology

Week 11: Nov. 10 - Nov. 16, 2019

Dr. Jurek (Jerzy) Jaromczyk - College of Engineering, Computer Science

Week 12: Nov. 17 - Nov. 23, 2019

Dr. Robyn Brown - College of Arts & Sciences, Health, Society and Populations