Mentoring by faculty advisors is critical to the professional success of the department’s students and postdoctoral scholars. Every year, the University of Utah honors truly outstanding faculty mentors with the Graduate Student and Postdoctoral Scholar Distinguished Mentor Award. This year, the university has recognized Pearl Sandick, associate dean of Faculty Affairs in the College of Science and associate professor of the Department Physics & Astronomy, for her excellence as a mentor, not only for her own research advisees but also for many others in our community.
Sandick is a theoretical physicist who works at the intersection of particle physics, astrophysics and cosmology. She is an expert in models of dark matter, a substance known only through its gravitational influence on stars, galaxies and the largest structures in the universe. Sandick earned her doctorate from the University of Minnesota and held a postdoctoral appointment in Nobel Laureate Steven Weinberg’s group at the University of Texas, Austin, before joining the U in 2011.
She has been advising undergraduates, graduate students and postdoctoral scholars since her arrival at the U. She instills in her advisees a drive for research excellence and the ability to communicate science; both are essential qualities to launching a successful scientific career. Sandick also ensures that her advisees are supported in their professional development by preparing them for their next steps. Her former students have continued on academic trajectories or found fulfilling permanent positions in the private sector; her former postdocs are now faculty.
The university’s award recognizes that Sandick goes far beyond excellence in mentoring those in her research group. She works to build student communities and to ensure that students have access to training and resources for professional development. In her leadership roles in the department and the college, Sandick has promoted inclusive, active and responsible mentorship of all students, postdocs and faculty. She has inspired colleagues to view advising and mentoring excellence as a responsibility for the entire college.