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Seven recognized for commitment to mentoring undergraduate students in research

Seven recognized for commitment to mentoring undergraduate students in research

Six West Virginia University faculty members and one graduate student were recently named recipients of Travis Stimeling Award for Mentoring Undergraduates in Research.

Formerly the Faculty Awards for Distinction in Mentoring Undergraduates in Research, the award was renamed this year in memory of Travis Stimeling, former professor of musicology in the College of Creative Arts, who passed away in November 2023. Stimeling was a recipient of the award in 2022 and was a passionate advocate of undergraduate research and providing students with research opportunities.

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.

Awards are presented in four categories: arts and humanities, behavioral and social sciences, biosciences and health sciences and physical sciences and technology.

In 2022, an award for Graduate Student Mentor was added to recognize the important role graduate students play in mentoring undergraduates in research and creative work.

The 2024 recipients are:

“The benefits of engaging undergraduate students in research and creative work are widely recognized in literature, including higher retention rates and more successful degree completion,” Cinthia Pacheco, assistant director of the Office of Undergraduate Research, said. “We know this success is only possible because of the outstanding faculty who support not only their students’ intellectual and professional development through scholarly pursuits, but also provide adequate emotional and social support.”

Maria Alejandra Perez

Through course based undergraduate research experiences, Perez provides students with the opportunity to engage in research through a course. The innovative approach has gained increased attention as a more inclusive approach to undergraduate research since it involves whole classes of students in addressing a research question or problem that is of interest to a larger community.

“My research experiences with Dr. Pérez have been above and beyond what is expected from an undergraduate career,” Savannah Reese, a geography major, wrote in her nomination letter. “Her classes provide a foundation for inquiry and her passion for learning gives students a new excitement for education. She takes a typical class and creates a space for inquiry, discovery, conversation, collaboration, and learning.

As part of Cultural Geography (GEOG 303), Perez guided Reese and her classmates through the process of preparing literature reviews, abstracts and presentations for the WVU Undergraduate Research Symposium.

“Our presentation won the Oral Humanities division and Dr. Pérez continued to mentor our group as we developed our presentations into a full article published in the Mountaineer Undergraduate Research Review,” Reese wrote.

Whether in Cultural Geography or now, Sustainability Studies, Perez’s research experiences with her students emphasize the critical role of the humanities in investigating the history, values and meanings that inspire humans to transform the Earth into a better place for all.

Elizabeth Bowdridge

An assistant professor in the Department of Physiology, Pharmacology and Toxicology in the WVU School of Medicine, Bowdridge is not only conducting important research, but she’s also helping young, female scientists see themselves in the field.

“While in undergrad, I yearned for a woman in STEM that I could look up to and demonstrate how amazing it is to work in science,” School of Pharmacy student Allison Dunn said. “Dr. Bowdridge has not only mentored me in research, but I feel as though she has mentored me in my own life as well.”

Bowdridge’s department chair, Timothy R. Nurkiewicz, professor and chair of physiology, pharmacology and toxicology, reinforces Dunn’s sentiments.

“As the only female member of the department actively engaging in research, the example Dr. Bowdridge sets for these young women in science is essential for them to envision their own success one day,” he said. “I foresee great scientific accomplishments in her future, and many successful students being trained under her guidance.”

Alexey Ivanov

Since arriving at WVU in 2007, Ivanov has mentored two to four undergraduate students each year in thesis or capstone courses as well as the Research Apprenticeship Program, Summer Undergraduate Research Experience and the West Virginia IDeA Network for Biomedical Research summer program. He’s also coordinated the WVU Cancer Institute’s summer research programs since 2016.

With undergraduate student researchers whose goals are often to earn advanced professional degrees, Ivanov provides invaluable research experience to prepare them for the next steps in their careers.

“Dr. Ivanov’s dedication to student mentoring and biochemical cancer research is truly remarkable,” Justin Hickey, a first-year medical student in the School of Medicine, wrote in his nomination. “His work has significantly impacted the research culture here at West Virginia University and has inspired countless individuals, including myself.”

Soumya Srivastava

With a passion for mentoring and creating a positive learning environment for her students, Srivastava has an impressive record of mentoring undergraduates in research since joining WVU in 2021. She encourages her students to apply for scholarships and funding to ensure they are financially supported while pursuing their research.

“Getting involved in the engineering field as a woman can be daunting because of how male dominated it is,” Alexa Bostic, a biomedical engineering major, wrote. “Dr. Srivastava taking me on as her mentee and showing me her dedication and passion for this profession has been a truly inspiring experience. She creates an inclusive and positive environment that every new researcher desires. There is not a more deserving candidate for this award, and every research mentor should look to Dr. Srivastava as a role model.”

Glen Jackson

As a researcher, Jackson provides undergraduate researchers in his lab with opportunities to experience interdisciplinary collaboration, participate in professional development and attend national and international scientific meetings. Twelve of his former mentees are enrolled in or have completed graduate-level degrees and are continuing to grow and develop as scientists.

“It is certainly worth mentioning that as a third-year Ph.D. candidate in the chemistry department at WVU, I still work for Dr. Jackson,” Emily Ruiz wrote. “Applying for graduate school was not on my to-do list when I attended the Research Experience for Undergraduates in 2019, but working for Dr. Jackson changed my mind completely. It is undeniable how amazing it is that Dr. Jackson being one of my mentors in my undergraduate research changed the trajectory of my entire life, and for the better I might add.”

Joshua Meadows

Meadows is dedicated to helping students gain confidence in themselves and their skills while taking ownership of their research projects.

“As a neurodivergent, first-generation college graduate from rural southern West Virginia, I am fervently committed to designing equitable programs that offer opportunities to our students from diverse backgrounds,” he said.

Throughout his career, Meadows has helped students gain acceptance into graduate programs, secure research positions or pursue a career in the workforce.

“Through his mentorship, I was introduced to Data Driven WV which showed me a whole new way of utilizing data analytics and solving problems,” Noah Adler, a business data analytics major, wrote. “Joshua also personally mentored me on my future career, discussing the prospect of graduate school and certain companies to apply for. Ultimately, because of Joshua’s mentorship, I decided to continue my education and enroll in WVU’s business data analytics master's program.”

Mason Hamilton

A doctoral candidate and graduate student mentor, Hamilton has been a program assistant for the chemistry Research Experience for Undergraduates program for the last three years. During the program he supported 31 students through their 10-week program. Additionally, Hamilton directly mentored seven WVU undergraduate students in the laboratory.

“From his mentorship I have been shaped into the researcher I am today,” Janey Sowada, a chemistry major, wrote. “Through every step of my undergraduate career, he has encouraged me and reassured me of my potential. Mason is a huge inspiration to me and is a person I look up to. Because of his support and guidance, I am pleased to say that I will be furthering my education and pursuing a Ph.D. in chemistry.”