The Office of Undergraduate Research has created a faculty award to honor mentors for their work with students. The Outstanding Undergraduate Research Mentor Award, now in its inaugural year, is given to those who were selected by their college leadership and peers for their dedicated service to mentorship. Of the 420 mentors across campus who worked with the Office of Undergraduate Research this year, these are the 2023 winners of the Outstanding Undergraduate Research Mentor Award.
Outstanding Undergraduate Research Mentors
Dr. Amy Barrios is a professor in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry. As conveyed by Executive Associate Dean Carol Lim, “Dr. Barrios has selflessly served the undergraduate community of future student researchers and has not only exposed them to the world of research but has shaped them into scientists who can change the world.” Dr. Barrios has mentored Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program Scholars, Summer for Undergraduate Researcher Program Participants, LEAP scholars, and the ACCESS scholars. Undergrads in her lab have earned several prestigious awards including internal funding, external funding, and the Office of Undergraduate Research’s Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award.
Professor Mary Burbank has been a seminal mentor for undergraduate students in the College of Education, mentoring honors thesis, and Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program Scholars. Her leadership has been to foster a next generation of teachers, serving as the associate dean for teacher education and the director of the Urban Institute for Teacher Education. Professor Burbank has been a seminal partner in growing the number of education undergraduate researchers.
In the past five years, Dr. Cynthia Furse has mentored Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program Scholars (UROP), as well as many other undergraduates, engaging them in all aspects of her research on topics such as photovoltaics, medical imaging, and implantable antennas. Dr. Furse has one of the most diverse research groups in the College of Engineering. She is a great collaborator and works with faculty and students across campus. Dean Richard Brown and Associate Dean for Research Kevin Whitty jointly stated that Dr. Furse “has contributed positively to the research culture of the department, college, and university involving undergraduate researchers.”
Professor Michael Gills is a highly dedicated and innovative professor of writing and has an outstanding record of undergraduate student research mentorship, both within and beyond the classroom. His students consistently report being inspired and challenged. Professor Gill’s mentoring has resulted in his students publishing in a competitive journal Scribendi journal as well as being recognized. As Associate Dean Rachel Hayes-Harb states, “The Honors College and the university are lucky indeed to have such a dedicated and talented mentor.”
Dr. Gannett Hallar has been successfully mentoring undergraduate researchers at the University of Utah since 2016. Her mentees participate in the Hallar Aerosol Research Team (HART) making connections between the atmosphere, biosphere, and climate. Her mentees have successfully received awards such as the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program and Wilkes Scholars. Her commitment to mentoring includes her role as a faculty fellow with Utah Pathways to STEM Initiative (UPSTEM), training in inclusive teaching and mentoring strategies. As stated by Dean Darryl Butt, “Dr. Hallar is a world-class mentor. Her dedication to our undergraduate students comes naturally, but she is also very deliberate in creating a structure of experiential learning that is inherently unforgettable.”
Alexandra Harbold has provided generous and valuable mentorship to theatre undergraduate students through and beyond the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Projects. Professor Harbold has mentored students on the generation of new and also existing works for the stage while exploring specific questions of social justice in performance. She supports students as they pursue independent projects that extend their educational experience far beyond what is possible in a traditional classroom. Chair Sydnee O’Donnell Cheek “As a colleague recently noted of her teaching and mentorship, “Andra is magic. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Professor Rachel Hayes-Harb has previously served as the Director of the Office of Undergraduate Research from 2014-2021 and as the Senior Education Advisor in the Office of the Vice President for Research developed the Research Mentoring Certificate. Professor Hayes-Harb has supervised Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program Scholars and Honors students since 2005. She has also co-authored journal articles with undergraduate students. As former UROP scholar Jules Vonessen states, “Rachel supported my growth...into someone capable of bringing a research project from the very beginning all the way to presentation at a conference.”
Dr. Sarah Hinners works with undergraduate researchers in various contexts (Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program Scholars–UROP, honors program, independent study, SCIF, research assistants, and Campus as a Living Lab). She encourages undergraduate involvement in research-oriented SCIF projects. In addition to direct mentoring of undergraduate student researchers, Dr. Hinners has dedicated considerable effort to cultivating opportunities for
student research via Campus as a Living Lab. Department Chair Stacy Harwood states, “Undergraduate students enjoy working with Dr. Hinners because she creates opportunities for impactful hands-on research experiences.”
Dr. Lauri Linder has contributed to sustained increases in undergraduate students who receive research mentoring in the College of Nursing. She has a continual record of engaging undergraduate students across multiple disciplines, including nursing, health, and pre-medicine, in her research in a manner that benefits the individual students and advances the productivity of her research teams. Dr. Linder intentionally seeks to impart an appreciation of inclusive research methods to her mentees. As Dr. Sara Simonsen states, “she is exceptionally well qualified for this award as both a mentor and champion for undergraduate research at the College of Nursing.”
Dr. Vandana Ramachandran has been serving as the departmental honors coordinator and advisor for the department of Operations and Information Systems at the David Eccles School of Business since 2011. She has advised undergraduate researchers, served as a faculty mentor for Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program Scholars and served as an honors thesis research mentor in Information Systems, leading students to earn Research Scholar Designation and publications. For Dr. Ramachandran, the best part of this journey has been “to see the students’ smiles of accomplishment at the end when they look proudly at their completed research paper.”
Dr. Ofer Rog’s research focuses on the complex regulation of chromosomes during meiosis. Dr. Rog and his assembled team of top-notch researchers have developed new methods, used innovative approaches, and carried out meticulous studies that are now revealing key elements of this complex process. The work conducted by him and his research group has provided stunning insights into the fundamental cellular processes explaining the origin and maintenance of different sexes, including our own. As Director Frederick Adler states, “Dr. Rog is also an extraordinary communicator with a dedication to helping colleagues and students find new ways to communicate.”
Dr. David Symons is an accomplished researcher, respected peer, and adored mentor. He has trained an astonishing number of undergraduate and graduate students, including undergraduate trainees over the last 20+ years (more than 100 students). Dr. Symons trains rigorous research scientists and displays unwavering support, facilitating their continued professional success throughout their careers. He also ensures that his trainees have opportunities to present their work at National Conferences, publish important papers, and compete for prestigious awards. Distinguished Professor and Chair Scott A. Summers states, “Dr. Symons is a thoughtful, active, and caring mentor.”
Dr. Melodie Weller mentors Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program Scholars, Summer Program for Undergraduate Research Scholars, and students with publication and presentations. Her students have received competitive opportunities, including the nationally competitive Goldwater Scholarship. And Dr. Weller’s students have been recognized as the Office of Undergraduate Research Outstanding Undergraduate Research Awardees. As conveyed by Dean Wyatt Hume, Dr. Weller is the School of Dentistry’s “most engaged and successful mentor for undergraduate research students.”