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2022 Awards of Distinction in Mentoring Undergraduates in Research Announced

2022 Awards of Distinction in Mentoring Undergraduates in Research Announced

Four West Virginia University faculty members, one postdoctoral fellow and one graduate student were recently named recipients of 2022 Awards of Distinction in Mentoring Undergraduates in Research.  

Sponsored by the Office of Undergraduate Research and the Office of the Provost, the award serves to recognize and reward faculty and graduate students who encourage and support undergraduates in making an original intellectual or creative contribution to their discipline. 

Since 2016, awards have been presented in four categories: behavioral and social sciences, biosciences and health sciences, humanities and the arts, and physical sciences and technology.  

New this year is an award for Graduate Student Mentor to recognize the important role graduate students play in mentoring undergraduates in research and creative work. 

The 2022 recipients are: 

“Undergraduate research is a high impact practice that helps retain students at WVU and is often a life-changing experience for the student and the mentor,” Amy Hessl, director of the Office of Undergraduate Research and professor of geology and geography, said. “WVU is fortunate to have these outstanding mentors serving undergraduate students. We hope the stories of these award-winning mentors serve to inspire other faculty and graduate students to include undergraduates in their scholarly endeavors.” 

Angel Smothers 

Angel Smothers Photo

A clinical associate professor, Smothers was recognized in the biosciences and health sciences category. For 23 years she has focused her efforts on community-based palliative care and faith community nursing with the past 15 years as a faculty member in the WVU School of Nursing.  

According to Ubolrat Piamjariyakul, associate dean for research and scholarship in the School of Nursing, Smothers goes beyond her normal teaching responsibilities when mentoring undergraduates in research.  

“Introducing nursing students to research and evidence-based practice early in their education can help to promote a sense of inquiry and critical thinking skills that students will carry throughout their lives,” she said.   

Brian Popp    

Brian Popp headshot

A Mountaineer since 2011, Popp has consistently included undergraduates in his research. He was recognized in the physical sciences and technology category.    

“Professor Popp is more than an excellent mentor to undergraduate students in his lab,” Gregory Dudley, chair of the C. Eugene Bennett Department of Chemistry, said. “He is an accomplished authority on mentoring and leader in promoting undergraduate research experiences.”   

In addition to mentoring undergraduate students in different programs, Popp supports other mentors to incorporate best practices in their own mentoring of undergraduates. He is also the author of a book chapter on best practices for undergraduate research training and mentoring. 

Joel Beeson 

Joel Beeson headshot

Recognized in the humanities and the arts category, Beeson’s efforts in addressing historical and contemporary social justice issues are informed by two decades of research in community media, digital humanities and documentary studies using emerging media. 

“The deep historical context that Professor Beeson’s research and work afforded me has informed every project and endeavor since,” Brianna Robinson, a WVU alumna who worked with Beeson in 2009, said. “It has helped me to grow pride in my state and roots and continue helping me to find ways to use knowledge and technological innovation to make an impact. Professor Beeson’s willingness to fully include me in research as an undergraduate student greatly impacted my professional decisions and work moving forward.” 

Nicholas Turiano 

Nick Turiano headshot

As a first-generation college student, Turiano found his true passion after working in a research lab. He was recognized in the behavioral and social sciences category. 

Since 2014, he’s shaped the educational experience for 39 WVU undergraduate students through mentorship and research opportunities. Those students have been part of McNair Scholars and the Research Apprenticeship Program.  

By providing mentorship that focuses on students’ strengths, Turiano ensures they get the hands-on skills that make them stronger scholars and better prepared to take the next step in their careers. 

William Walker II 

William Walker II headshot

A postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Neuroscience since 2018, Walker demonstrates a strong commitment to diversity in science as he works to ensure students from underrepresented backgrounds have the opportunity to conduct research. He was recognized in the graduate student mentor category. 

Erin Hudnall 

Erin Hundall headshot

Hudnall, a doctoral candidate in sociology, was also recognized in the graduate student mentor category. Although her program does not require or expect graduate students to mentor undergraduates, Hudnall had a strong desire to include them in her research efforts.  

“Erin is an exceptional and motivated student who has gone above and beyond to mentor undergraduates,” Katie Corcoran, associate professor of sociology, said. 

Recipients will each receive a monetary award to be used toward their research endeavors. 

The Office of Undergraduate Research connects students and faculty to provide opportunities for students to engage in scholarly inquiry and creative work. Students and faculty who are interested in research can visit the website or email