Advising is one of the most important aspects of a graduate education, and a great mentor can inspire a student long after they have earned their degree. Each year at the Everett Mendelsohn Excellence in Mentoring Awards, the Graduate Student Council (GSC) recognizes the faculty members who have made their students’ graduate school experience academically and personally rewarding and fulfilling.
“The impact a great mentor can have in the life of a graduate student is indescribable,” said Michael Ortiz, interim vice president of the GSC, in his opening remarks. “The mentor is often the person who helps us remember the joy of learning, who asks tough questions about our work, and who guides and shepherds us toward development as a scholar.” The Award is named for Everett Mendelsohn, a professor emeritus in the history of science, who was present for the ceremony.
GSAS Dean Emma Dench, herself a Mendelsohn Award–winner, intends to bring a greater focus to the student-advisor relationship during her tenure. “The Mendelsohn Award is the item on my CV of which I am most proud because it is awarded by graduate students themselves,” she said. “I fully expected the student tributes will move me to tears.”
During the award presentations, graduate student nominators introduced their mentors and shared examples of why they deserved this honor.
Finale Doshi-Velez, an assistant professor of computer science, is known as a caring, supportive, and well-balanced mentor for both her PhD students and other graduate students in the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, where she serves as faculty advisor of the peer-to-peer support group, InTouch.
“Finale excels in so many aspects of mentorship, but one characteristic which is common to all of these aspects is her ability to perfectly balance her behavior as an advisor,” said advisee Omer Gottesman, PhD student in applied physics. “To cultivate the scientific growth of her mentees, she manages to delicately balance guiding and directing her students so that they can stay productive and minimize the frustrations of stagnating research, and at the same time give them freedom to explore their own path so that they can grow their independence as scientists.”
Supporting Personal Growth
Venkatesh Murthy is a professor of molecular and cellular biology and co-chair of the Harvard Biophysics Graduate Program. Murthy’s mentorship fosters optimism in the lab and trust that “the best science occurs when well-rounded individuals are driven by their own enthusiasm and curiosity.” For nominator Hao Wu, PhD student in chemistry and chemical biology, Murthy’s advising enabled him to pursue an academic path that turned his graduate career around.
“With Venki’s mentorship, I was able to work on something I love and grow to be an independent thinker,” said Wu. “The trust and freedom Venki gave me really shows that he cares more about my personal growth than the ambition of the lab.”
Passion for Mentoring
Alison Johnson, professor of history and of Germanic languages and literatures, was applauded for her individual advisee mentorship and institutional advocacy for graduate students as the director of graduate studies in the Department of History.
“The GSC Mentoring Award is tailor-made for Dr. Johnson: Her ceaseless advocacy for graduate students at individual and institutional levels has benefitted more lives than I can count, or indeed than would be possible to know,” said Ben Goossen, PhD student in history. “As a dissertation advisor and committee member, Dr. Johnson’s intellect, wisdom, and passion for mentoring have shaped the experiences of a cohort of students who have pursued a fantastically and unusually diverse array of research topics.”
Going Above and Beyond
Luke Miratrix is an assistant professor of education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and an affiliate in the FAS Department of Statistics. Miratrix’s nominators praise his “ability to shape his mentoring approach to best fit each student’s needs and aspirations.”
“Luke has taught me how to think critically, conduct independent research, and pinpoint impactful projects to work on,” said Zach Branson, a PhD student in statistics who recently accepted an assistant professorship at Carnegie Mellon. “But more importantly, Luke has taught me how to be an inclusive mentor that makes lifelong impacts on their students. One of my main goals as a professor is to be an insightful and approachable connecting point for a wide variety of students, and Luke has been the best role model for that goal.”
Jesse Snedeker is a professor of psychology who has “cultivated an atmosphere of warmth and welcoming, while still maintaining the utmost standards of scientific rigor.” Jayden Ziegler, PhD student in psychology, praised Snedeker for the way she invests in every student.
“Her level of devotion to her students and to science is unparalleled,” said Ziegler. “Academically, she has pushed me to do the best work I possibly could have. I have learned so much working with her: about how to be a PhD student, how to write, how to (respectfully) critique others’ work, how to support our students and undergrad research assistants, how to be part of a team, how to think critically and deeply, how to grapple with uncertainty, how to show up.”
The Value of Cooperation
Gabriela Soto Laveaga is a professor of the history of science who “exceeds all expectations” as mentor and is supportive of her students’ emotional and physical health during difficult transitions.
“Professor Soto Laveaga embodies the highest level of excellence through her research, teaching, and service and is uniquely gifted at mentoring her students in all different areas of our academic preparation,” shared Angelica Marquez-Osuna, PhD student in the history of science. “I have been inspired as she models the value of cooperation and collaborative work in academia. Among many other things, she taught me an important lesson: Good mentors believe in their students.”