Scholars recognized for exceptional mentorship of students

Sam Bayliss, postdoctoral scholar in the Awschalom Group, and Garrett Grocke, PhD student in the Patel Group, have both earned a 2020 Maria Lastra Excellence in Mentoring Award. Bayliss and Grocke were recognized for serving as exemplary mentors for students in the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME) at the University of Chicago.

“Throughout an unusual and challenging year, we saw many examples of exceptional mentoring at Pritzker Molecular Engineering.” said Matthew Tirrell, dean of PME. “Garrett and Sam in particular showed an ability to go above and beyond in their mentorship, which is vital both for PME and the success of their fellow researchers.”

Funded by Prof. Juan de Pablo in honor of his mother, the award acknowledges graduate students and postdoctoral scholars who are willing to share knowledge; who nurture sustained mentoring relationships while also fostering mentee independence; who contribute to a positive and growth-minded laboratory culture; and who support the development of a mentee’s resilience, effectiveness, and confidence as a researcher.

The awards are based on nominations from both graduate and undergraduate students in the PME. This year, 37 nominations were submitted for 24 individuals, representing 14 different PME laboratories. A review committee, composed of members from the Dean of Students Office, faculty, graduate students, and postdoctoral scholars, choose the nominees in a double-blind process.

“I feel encouraged by the values of sharing, support, and consideration that this award promotes,” said Bayliss. “I think it is very valuable to be reminded of the broader scope of our role as researchers, the opportunities we have to help each other, and the benefits for both advancing science and fostering personal growth that a supportive environment can create.”

“Mentoring is important to me because I know its benefits firsthand,” said Grocke. “There have been many times in my life and career where someone has not only helped me overcome challenges and find success with their teaching and mentorship, but inspired me to do something I previously couldn't. I try to do whatever I can to help those around me succeed.”

This year’s review committee also acknowledged exceptional nominees with honorable mentions, including Whitney Fowler, doctoral student in de Pablo Group and Tirrell Group; Ryan Robinett, doctoral student in Riesenfeld Group; Kirill Shmilovich, doctoral student in Ferguson Group; Kevin Singh, postdoctoral scholar in Bernien Lab; and Wennie Wang, postdoctoral scholar in Galli Group.

“The quality of the nominations was outstanding,” said Laura Rico-Beck, the educational training and outreach coordinator for PME, who led the review committee. “What set the awardees apart was the intentionality of their mentoring practice as they consistently supported their mentees’ development of research skills as well as professional, personal, and social skills.”