Senior Faculty Honored with Basic Science Mentoring Awards

The Office of Graduate Education and Office of Faculty Affairs and Leadership Development recognized 10 faculty members with Excellence in Basic Science Mentoring Awards this week.

Senior Faculty Honored with Basic Science Mentoring Awards click to enlarge Back: Henrik Dohlman, Jeff Sekelsky, Matt Redinbo, Brian Strahl, Dorothy Erie. Front: Kathleen Caron, Gary Pielak, Chris Mack, Anna Sokac. Joan Taylor and Ben Major were unable to attend.

January 16, 2019

On Tuesday, the Office of Graduate Education (OGE) and Office of Faculty Affairs and Leadership Development recognized 10 faculty members at UNC-Chapel Hill for the inaugural Excellence in Basic Science Mentoring award. The celebration was part of a larger cultural movement in the biomedical sciences to prioritize mentoring and diversify the scientific enterprise.

In 2014, the NIH launched a “broad, trans-institutional strategy” to address the lack of diversity in the biomedical research workforce, and the National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN) was formed. Their mission is to provide researchers across all career stages in the biomedical, behavioral, clinical, and social sciences with the evidence-based mentorship and professional development programming that emphasizes the benefits and challenges of diversity, inclusivity, and culture. 

Anna O’Connell and Jessica Harrell from the OGE received training from the NRMN to facilitate mentor training and have been leading workshops for faculty in the biomedical sciences at UNC-Chapel Hill since 2015. The workshops cover topics including communicating with mentees, clarifying and aligning expectations, professional development, fostering independence, equity and inclusion, fostering research, and promoting self-efficacy. During the sessions mentors actively engage in discussion and learn from one another to optimize their mentoring practices.

This year, trainees at Carolina submitted nominations on behalf of their mentors for the first-ever Excellence in Basic Science Mentoring awards. Winners were selected because they embody the characteristics of truly excellent mentors. The nomination letters outlined the numerous ways the mentors actively support the scientific growth and development of their trainees, not only during their training period, but their long-term commitment to trainees even after leaving the lab.

The celebration of these mentors included a seminar on the “The Good Mentor’s Power to Tackle our Most Urgent Scientific Challenges”, given by Anna Sokac, PhD, associate professor of biochemistry at Baylor College of Medicine and a master facilitator with the NRMN.  She spoke about the benefits linking strong research mentorship to enhanced scientific identify in mentees, increased research productivity, and retention of underrepresented students. Her seminar was followed by the presentation of awards to the honorees, including snippets of the nomination letters from mentees, and a reception honoring them. 

The honorees were:

Kathleen Caron, Professor and Chair, Department of Cell Biology and Physiology

Henrik Dohlman, Sanford Steelman Distinguished Professor and Chair, Department of Pharmacology

Dorothy Erie, Professor, Department of Chemistry

Chris Mack, Professor, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine

Gary Pielak, Kenan Distinguished Professor of Chemistry

Ben Major, Associate Professor, Department of Cell Biology & Physiology

Matthew Redinbo, Kenan Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, Biochemistry, Microbiology and Genomics

Jeff Sekelsky, Professor, Department of Biology; Director of the Genetics and Molecular Biology Curriculum.

Brian Strahl, Oliver Smithies Investigator, Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics

Joan Taylor, Professor, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine

All are members of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. Taylor, Caron, and Mack are members of the UNC McAllister Heart Institute.

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