On Friday, June 2, students from the Integrated Program in Biochemistry (IPiB) gathered at the annual IPiB Summer Reception to announce and celebrate the recipients of this year’s awards for excellence in teaching and mentoring.
Learn more about the awards and this year’s recipients below.
Denton Award for Graduate Student Excellence in Teaching and Mentoring
The Denton Award for Graduate Student Excellence in Teaching and Mentoring — made possible by the generosity of Arnold E. and Catherine M. Denton — honors IPiB students who consistently provide quality guidance and scientific training in mentoring undergraduate students in their research efforts and show evidence of quality, commitment and innovation in teaching.
This year’s Denton Award winner is Bianca Chavez, a doctoral student in the Lim Lab who studies the function and regulation of telomeres — the repetitive sequences of DNA that protect the ends of chromosomes against degradation.
Chavez, a first-generation college student, learned about the importance of mentorship from her own experiences seeking out guidance and support throughout her education. “I’ve had such fantastic mentors along the way,” says Chavez of the professors, graduate students, and postdocs she has worked with. “For first generation students and students of color, mentorship is really critical to keeping the forward momentum and helping students get where they are going – whether that is graduate school or a job. So, I’ve learned how to mentor from having support systems myself.”
Chavez’s mentorship style is anchored in two interconnected values: making sure that her three undergraduate students feel prepared and establishing a comfortable environment for students to ask questions. “It’s important that the students in our lab feel well prepared to do everything from A to Z, but it’s just as important for them to know what to ask along the way. Science is about connecting with the people you’re working with. I want to create a comfortable environment so that the students know that I’m not the only person they can turn to for help. It’s daunting when you’re first starting to do research. They’re going to make mistakes along the way, and I want them to feel comfortable coming to me or anyone else in the Lim Lab to ask questions when that happens.”
Sigrid Leirmo Memorial Award in Biochemistry
The Sigrid Leirmo Memorial Award in Biochemistry recognizes graduate or postdoctoral students exemplify the spirit of Sigrid Leirmo. Leirmo, who received her Ph.D. from the Department of Biochemistry in 1989, was widely acknowledged among her peers and colleagues as a promising research and enthusiastic friend and mentor.
This year’s Leirmo Award went to Thomas Anderson, a doctoral student whose work in the Kirchdoerfer Lab marries his interests in structural biology, virology, and RNA biology through exploration of the protein complexes that allow coronaviruses to replicate.
“I put a lot of effort into collaborating in the lab, at the university as a whole, and also across the country with coronavirus researchers,” says Anderson. “It’s meaningful to have that aspect of my work recognized. I care about building up people who are new to research and building collaborations within the Department of Biochemistry and across my research communities.”
For Anderson, the award is all the more meaningful because of the effort that his colleagues put into his nomination. “Even without the award,” says Anderson, “people were willing to write letters of recommendation and it just means a lot that they took the time to appreciate me. It’s a nice recognition of trying to be collaborative and supportive and helping people out. Graduate school can be really grueling at times, and this was a nice surprise.”
Photo: Paul Escalante/Department of Biochemistry.