An award to recognize sustained engagement of graduate students and postdoctoral associates as undergraduate research mentors has been established in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry.
An award to recognize sustained engagement of graduate students and postdoctoral associates as undergraduate research mentors has been established in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry. The new award is funded by Gary B. Schuster and his wife, Anita. Gary Schuster is Vassar Woolley Professor Emeritus and Regents Professor in the College of Sciences. He is the 2017 recipient of Georgia Tech’s highest faculty honor, the Class of 1934 Distinguished Professor Award.
“Undergraduate research is a unique experience that can impact a student’s professional growth, career, and personal path. Mentors enable a constructive and positive experience for undergraduate researchers,” Schuster says. “Anita and I want to incentivize undergraduate research mentorship.”
Born and raised in West Bengal, India, Brahmachari studied chemistry in the Indian Institute of Technology. At Tech, she is a graduate student working with School of Chemistry and Biochemistry Professor Bridgette A. Barry to understand the dynamics of Photosystem II. She serves as a mentor in the Petit Undergraduate Research Scholars Program.
Among Brahmachari’s mentees is 2017 Petit Scholar and biochemistry major Chiagoziem E. “Chichi” Obi. In the Barry lab, Brahmachari and Obi are working on the project “Role of the Intrinsically Disordered Photosystem II Subunit, PsbO, in Photosystem II.” Another mentee, chemistry major Sara E. Konecny, also does undergraduate research in the Barry Lab.
In nominating Brahmachari as the inaugural recipient of the Undergraduate Research Mentor Award, Obi and Konecny emphasize how Brahmachari positively transformed their research experience “by being an exceptional scientist and selfless mentor – always accessible and supportive of all aspects of their lives...a constant inspiration, scientifically and personally.”
It has been satisfying and challenging to “push” Obi and Konecny to try experiments and work independently, Brahmachari says. “My mentees are on their way to becoming successful independent researchers. I hope to make a small but significant contribution to the success they are sure to experience in their lives.”
Hanna is a graduate student working with School of Chemistry and Biochemistry Assistant Professor Amit R. Reddi to develop fluorescent sensors for heme. He has served as a mentor for 2016 Petit scholar and biochemistry major Rebecca A. Hu. Hanna mentored Hu on the project “Investigating Heme as a Mitochondrial Retrograde Signal.” Hu has been conducting research with Hanna for five semesters.
In nominating Hanna, Hu notes Hanna’s emphasis on critical thinking. In addition, Hu says, “David truly cares about me, helping me overcome my limits, growing my strength, and making my research experience fruitful.”
“I see mentoring as hard but rewarding work,” Hanna says. “What makes mentoring so satisfying is when you realize how much your mentee has grown and accomplished, and you notice changes in yourself through the process. Rebecca and I have gotten a lot done and grown as we worked through our research together.”
As Schuster notes, mentoring helps not only the mentee but also the mentor: “Mentorship promotes self-assessment of the mentor’s own academic and professional skills as they pursue their own career goals.”