Kent State Graduate and Undergraduate Research Mentorship Awards Announced
Intentionality to build successful academic mentoring relationships with students is what sets professors apart at Kent State, and each year two professors at the graduate and undergraduate level receive a student-nominated award for their ability to do so.
“Each year the Office of Student Research informs current students and alumni who have been involved in undergraduate and graduate research about the opportunity to nominate a research mentor for this award,” said Ann Gosky, director of the Office of Student Research in the Division of Research and Sponsored Programs.
The intent of the award is to recognize those professors exceeding in mentoring students in how to perform research in any field.
This year’s recipients are in the areas of STEM, architecture and environmental science.
Heather Caldwell - Excellence in Graduate Research Mentorship Award
Heather K. Caldwell, Ph.D. is one of two recipients of this year’s Excellence in Graduate Research Mentorship Award.
Caldwell is a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and cares deeply about her students.
“I just always think about how you want your students to be better than you, just like how you want your own kids to do better than you, so I focus on that,” Caldwell said. “It is very rewarding to watch them meet with success.”
Caldwell’s experience in research is extensive, as her work has been published in the Journal of Neuroendocrinology and Frontiers in Neuroscience. She is a member of the executive committee for Kent State’s Brain Health Research Institute and regularly reviews grants for the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.
In her role as a mentor, Caldwell explained how her relationship with students is mutually beneficial.
“As a scientist, I am only as good as my own students,” Caldwell said. “They are the ones in the trenches doing the science and generating the preliminary data that supports the funding I am trying to get to support their work, so we need each other.”
For Caldwell, her mentorship style relies on understanding each student is different.
“For my students, it's about trying to be kind to them and helping them grow, meeting them where they are,” Caldwell said. “Knowing them as the individual people they are is what it’s all about.”
Jennifer McDonough - Excellence in Graduate Research Mentorship Award
Jennifer McDonough, Ph.D., received the Excellence in Graduate Research Mentorship Award for her mentorship of students doing biomedical research to investigate new therapies for neurodegenerative disease.
McDonough is an associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences who takes a personalized approach to each student she mentors and understands that each student is unique in how they learn.
“I do think that of course everyone has their own style, but I think that what’s most important is that one size doesn’t fit all,” McDonough said. “You have to know your students and tailor your mentoring for that student,”
While taking this approach, McDonough also allows her students to gain independence by giving them room to grow.
“Allowing students to have space, to work independently and to make mistakes is important,” McDonough said. “Many students are very afraid of making mistakes, of doing something wrong, but that’s a key part of learning how to do research,”
McDonough understands that graduate research can be an overwhelming task, and it is a process of growth.
“I can remember when I was a graduate student, and how I felt like I had to know everything right away,” McDonough said. “I realized it’s a process, it takes time and you never know everything. That’s what’s really fun about research, you’re always learning something new.”
Jean Jaminet - Excellence in Undergraduate Research Mentorship Award
Assistant Professor Jean Jaminet, a research mentor in the College of Architecture and Environmental Design, has won this year’s Excellence in Undergraduate Research Mentorship Award.
Nominators noted Jaminet’s passion for contemporary discourse and his drive to lift up his colleagues.
“I always try to balance theoretical concerns with the pragmatic considerations of architecture,” Jaminet said.
In his interactions with students, he builds meaningful relationships to help students be the best they can be across multiple areas in architecture.
“I come into class and I hope to inspire my students, especially to be design-oriented professionals, but what the students sometimes don’t realize is that they inspire me as much as I inspire them,” Jaminet said.
Mentoring has elevated those relationships and Jaminet values the intellectual growth of his students.
“My favorite part of mentoring is seeing my students’ worlds expand as they are learning,” Jaminet said. “Cultivating their passion and interests in the discipline and practice of architecture.”
Edgar Kooijman - Excellence in Undergraduate Research Mentorship Award
Professor Edgar Kooijman, Ph.D., is a research mentor in the Department of Biological Sciences, the undergraduate coordinator for biological sciences, and the program director of biotechnology.
Kooijman works closely with graduate assistants to mentor his undergraduate mentees in order to foster an inclusive and collaborative research environment.
“We have very open communication, there’s really no hierarchy,” Kooijman said. “So it’s an environment in the lab where students feel welcome and valued, so they feel they can contribute to the research we do.”
Kooijman is also intentional about how he approaches each student from a mentorship perspective.
“The way I mentor one student might be very different from the way I mentor another with a different personality,” Kooijman said. “It is organic in the sense that I don’t really think about how I am mentoring. For me, what is important is creating opportunities for my students.”
In past years, Kooijman has coordinated the Mission Life competition on campus to create those opportunities.
“I took two groups of students to Brazil, to compete in the finals of that competition, and we also took students to Texas to compete with three other schools,” Kooijman said.