With the Distinguished Mentor Awards, Furman recognizes faculty who have made outstanding contributions toward engaging undergraduates outside the classroom in collaborative scholarship and supporting such opportunities locally and nationally through service and wide-ranging impacts. The awards are jointly funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute through Furman's HHMI-BRIDGES Undergraduate Science Education award and matching funds provided by the university. Since 2009, six Furman faculty members across six departments have been recognized with the award.

In total, each honoree is granted $10,000 for supplies and discretionary funding to directly support undergraduate research and scholarship activities.

For more information or to obtain an application for the 2012 Distinguished Mentors Program, please e-mail a request to Dr. John Wheeler, Program Coordinator, Furman HHMI-BRIDGES.

2012 HHMI Distinguished Research Mentors

Dr. Judy Grisel
Dr. Eli Hestermann

Judith Grisel served as a professor of psychology and directed Furman’s Neuroscience program for five years.  Professor Grisel mentored nearly seventy undergraduate research students over her Furman career—including twenty-three, between 2007 and 2012, that resulted in six professional publications with eleven student co-authors.  Judy was highly successful in garnering research support from extraordinarily competitive national funding agencies, including three major awards from the National Institutes of Health. She also served as the Herman N. Hipp Professor of Psychology at Furman (2000–2003). Between 2005–2010, Professor Grisel participated as a target faculty member in the NIH-INBRE biomedical research program, and over several years she made special effort to provide research opportunities not only to Furman students through programs such as HHMI, but also to those from South Carolina’s historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), other regional predominantly undergraduate institutions and students enrolled in the South Carolina Governors School for Science and Math.  As one illustration of the success of Judy’s mentoring efforts, of seventeen of her former students who have elected to pursue doctoral degrees in neuroscience, eleven are women and four of these are from racial or ethnic groups signicantly underrepresented in the sciences.

Eli Hestermann is an associate professor of biology who has mentored nearly thirty undergraduates in biology research since 2003, including twenty-two since 2007; impressively, nine of these students have been accepted to medical school, and an equal proportion to graduate school.  Hestermann has multiple publications with Furman student co-authors, and has given numerous invited presentations at prestigious venues such as the Society of Toxicology (2010) and the Association of College and University Biology Educators (2011).  Professor Hestermann’s students have delivered over twenty presentations themselves at professional meetings, and five have received special recognition as “best presentation” (in some cases among all graduate as well as undergraduate submissions). He has served as an NIH-INBRE target faculty member and mentor since 2005, providing research opportunities to a range of faculty and students from other South Carolina institutions including the Governors School for Science and Math, Women’s Colleges, and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Hestermann served as co-PI on Furman’s prestigious Merck/AAAS and HHMI awards in 2008, and has directed the HHMI Undergraduate Research Fellows Program, and HHMI Introduction to Research and Seminar courses since their inception. In 2008, he was South Carolina's state nominee for the Sydney McNairy Mentoring Award given by the National Institutes of Health. 

2011 HHMI Distinguished Research Mentors

Dr. Kevin Hutson
Dr. Sean O'Rourke
Communication Studies

Kevin Hutson, Associate Professor of Mathematics, has mentored 13 students in undergraduate research at Furman and his former institution (Denison University), including 10 students in the last five years. He has directed students participating in the HHMI Research Fellows program in a disciplinary field where researchers seldom enlist undergraduates. Due in large part to Hutson's efforts, the number of students conducting summer research from 2009-2011 grew from a scant few to an average of more than seven undergraduates per summer. In addition to co-authoring professional publications with Furman students, Hutson has participated as both an invited lecturer and panelist on national disciplinary forums about inquiry-based learning and advising undergraduate research.

Sean O'Rourke, Associate Professor of Communication Studies, is recognized for his exceptional efforts in mentoring significant numbers of Furman students. O'Rourke has directed scholarly writing and research of more than 45 students during the academic year and nine Furman Advantage and South Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities summer research undergraduates. Since 2006 he has served as primary mentor for 19 student publications and, this year, 17 new submissions. Impacting students beyond Furman, O'Rourke has received local and national attention for his service as faculty advising editor and/or associate editor for multiple undergraduate publications including Young Scholars in Writing.

2010 HHMI Distinguished Research Mentors

Dr. Brannon Andersen
Earth and Environmental Sciences
Dr. Gil Einstein

2009 HHMI Distinguished Research Mentors

Dr. Timothy Hanks
Dr. Victoria Turgeon

The HHMI Distinguished Mentor Awards

Purpose: The HHMI-BRIDGES Distinguished Mentor (DM) award acknowledges outstanding faculty engagement with undergraduates in areas of research, scholarly endeavors and original creative activities.

The Award: The award period will be for a one-year term starting the semester after the competition. In addition to the title, each DM faculty member will receive $5,000 to be applied toward supplies supporting appropriate scholarly activities (e.g., research supplies, computer hardware/software, etc.) and $5,000 in discretionary funds which can be applied to summer salary, faculty or student travel, student stipends, etc. for a total of $10,000. All tenured and tenure track faculty are eligible to apply.

Competitions: Two DM awards will be made to Furman faculty each year, 2009-2012. Furman participates in the DM program in concert with several additional HHMI-funded institutions. The selection committee is comprised of representatives from Furman, the University of Florida and other participating schools.

Responsibilities: DM awardees from all institutions must be willing to mentor students in their respective HHMI programs and have sufficient funding and infrastructure support to provide for the activities commensurate with their research. DM awardees may be asked to serve on the HHMI student selection committee and must be willing to participate in student recognition events as their schedules allow. DM awardees should also be willing to participate in events to share their work with the public.

DM Criteria: DM awards will be based on demonstrated excellence in undergraduate mentoring associated with research/scholarly work. The award criteria are designed to give the broadest definition of excellence in undergraduate mentoring, recognizing the range of academic disciplines. All faculty are invited to prepare for the 2011 competition based on criteria to include career-long contributions in any of the following areas:

  1. Active involvement of undergraduates in the applicant's laboratories or work environment related to research, education, scholarly publication and/or original creative composition. Several of many possible indications include student co-authorship of peer-reviewed journal publications or other published works, or student presentations/performances at major conferences or other professional venues.
  2. Evidence of institutional or national recognition of the applicant related to undergraduate mentoring. Examples include participation in national review panels, invited presentations or performances related to mentoring at national institutions and meetings.
  3. Evidence of honors, awards, or career success of the applicant's undergraduate mentees. Examples include success in post-graduate education, receipt of prestigious fellowships, or former students who have risen to high positions in professional organizations, government laboratories, or the academy.
  4. Evidence of fundraising activity for undergraduate research, scholarship, or mentoring. Examples include extramural funds obtained from federal agencies, private foundations or individual donors supportive of the institutional culture in engaged learning, or fundraising success with institutional foundation offices.
  5. Evidence that the faculty member will be an active member of the program and the broader worldwide research/education community. Examples include participation in HHMI-BRIDGES seminar course presentations and serving as a mentor to HHMI Undergraduate Fellows or high school students involved in outreach programs.

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