Awards for Mentoring Undergraduates In Research, Scholarly and Creative Activities

Award Nomination Details

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  • UW–Madison faculty members, groups of mentors, academic staff, post-doctoral fellows and graduate students are eligible
  • Nominees should have (or recently have had) responsibility for mentoring and working closely with UW–Madison undergraduate students in an independent learning environment
  • Nominees can come from any discipline as long as they mentor undergraduates in a scholarly activity
  • Nominees regularly exhibit several of the actions and attributes listed below in the “Nominee Info” section

Nominee Info

The following are examples of actions and attributes of potential nominees:

  • Successfully learn about and integrate the needs of the undergraduate scholar into their work
  • Support the undergraduate in their academic success beyond the shared scholarship experience – for example, have meaningful interactions related to professional development, beyond the scope of the student’s project responsibilities, and actively support the undergraduate’s academic and career aspirations
  • Provide access and support in helping the undergraduate present, perform and/or publish their project in a professional setting
  • Maintain high expectations for undergraduate work and provide the undergraduate with a high level of support
  • View teaching as integral to mentoring
  • Give students autonomy and support in asking and exploring new questions
  • Have a consistent track record of successful outcomes for undergraduates from a variety of backgrounds (e.g., presentation at professional conferences, publication, admission to graduate/professional school, etc.)
  • Maintain active and continued mentorship after the students leave the group (e.g., keep in touch and support students as they move through their careers)

How to Nominate

  • One-page letter from the nominee’s department chair or unit director making or endorsing the nomination that describes the nominee’s approach to mentoring and highlights how the nominee demonstrates several of the actions and attributes outlined in the “Nominee Info” section above
  • A minimum of one letter of support (maximum of 5 letters) from an undergraduate mentee describing how the nominee regularly demonstrates several of the actions and attributes outlined in the “Nominee Info” section
  • One letter of support from a colleague, supervisor or outside organization who can speak to the nominee’s demonstration of several of the actions and attributes outlined in the “Nominee Info” section, as well as the nominee’s mentoring philosophy
  • Short CV (1-2 pages) of the nominee

Applications should be assembled into a single PDF document and submitted via this Google Form.

Nominate a Mentor

Nomination Deadline: Friday, March 1, 2024

2023 Award Recipients

Image of Mentor Awards recipients at the 2023 Mentor Awards Ceremony at UW–Madison
Recipients of the 2020 through 2023 Mentor Awards are pictured with Interim Provost Eric Wilcots and Vice Provost John Zumbrunnen at the Undergraduate Symposium’s Mentor Awards Ceremony held in Varsity Hall (Union South, University of Wisconsin-Madison) on April 28, 2023. (Photo by Bryce Richter / UW–Madison)

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Marina Emborg - Professor, Medical Physics

Marina Emborg is a Professor of Medical Physics and the director of the Preclinical Parkinson’s Research Program at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center. Dr. Emborg has mentored over 80 undergraduate students, in addition of graduate students, postdocs and junior faculty. Many of her undergrads stay in her lab from freshmen to graduation and create long-lasting relationships. They work in mini-teams, with trainees of all levels and paths of life, learning to support each other and take leadership roles to solve challenging scientific questions. Dr. Emborg aims to nurture her students’ creativity and critical thinking and provides them with the tools to succeed in the next stage of their development and beyond.

Jelena Diakonikolas and Shivaram Venkataraman - Assistant Professors, Computer Sciences

Jelena Diakonikolas is an assistant professor in the Department of Computer Sciences, working on optimization algorithms for large scale learning problems. She is a co-founder of the WISCERS program, an undergraduate research mentorship program intended to create a pathway to graduate school for students from underrepresented groups in computing. WISCERS program has been running for 3 years, with about 20 undergraduate students, 20 faculty mentors, and 20 graduate students involved in each year. Jelena has personally mentored 3 WISCERS students, 2 of whom are continuing to top graduate programs this year. Her mentorship style rests on building solid foundations, embracing the struggle involved with tackling research questions, and being open to always learn more.

Shivaram Venkataraman is an assistant professor in the Computer Sciences Department and his research interests are in developing efficient software systems for machine learning and data analytics. He is the co-founder of the WISCERS, an undergraduate mentorship program that provides research experience to students from underrepresented groups and encourages them to apply for research-based graduate programs. Shivaram has mentored fifteen undergraduate students over the past four years, including 3 from the WISCERS program with nine students going on to pursue graduate study. His mentorship style involves encouraging students to develop an identity as a researcher, encouraging them to be curious and learn by asking questions.

Stephanie McFarlane - Graduate Student, Botany

Stephanie McFarlane is completing her doctoral research, which evaluates the outcomes of ecological restoration in grassland ecosystems and seeks to advance the predictive capacity of restoration ecology. While completing her PhD, she has mentored 12 undergraduates, with the commitment to support the growth and success of each individual student. Stephanie has spent many hours in the field and lab with her mentees demonstrating hands-on data collection and analysis methods, while creating a culture that encourages creativity, asking questions, and building collaborations. Stephanie will continue mentoring undergraduate students as she begins a postdoctoral appointment at UW-Madison, which aims to understand the mechanisms that attract pollinators to restored prairies.

Sean Schoville - Associate Professor, Entomology

Sean Schoville is Associate Professor in the Department of Entomology. Sean grew up with a love of the outdoors and became fascinated with the diversity of life and how species overcome challenges in the natural world. Starting as a graduate student, he has worked with more than 70 high school and undergraduate students through mentored research and outreach projects, hoping to inspire them to successful careers in science. Research mentoring enhances engagement, critical thinking, and skills development of both the mentor and mentee, teaching us how to collaborate and solve scientific problems effectively.

Shih-Heng Su - Scientist, Genetics

Shih-Heng is a Plant Geneticist from the Masson lab in the Genetics Department. Shih-Heng’s work focuses on studying plant root growth behavior under different environmental conditions, including in most extreme conditions, space. Mentoring should be a rewarding and fulfilling experience for mentors and mentees, as it allows individuals to learn from one another, grow together, and make meaningful connections that can last a lifetime.

Molly Willging - Graduate Student, Primate Research Center

Molly is a PhD student in the Endocrinology and Reproductive Physiology graduate program investigating the role of estrogen in regulating metabolism. One mentee from Molly’s lab highlighted Molly’s influence, “By encouraging curiosity and empowering students to lead their own presentations, Molly is able to bring out the best in all her mentees and students and has given us the tools to succeed academically and better self-driven learners.” Molly’s mentoring style aims to create an inclusive and supportive environment to empower undergraduate researchers to be confident and successful in science.