Graduate Student and Postdoctoral Scholar Distinguished Mentor Award
The Graduate School established the Distinguished Mentor Award in 2006 to honor and encourage the considerable efforts and accomplishments of faculty who have demonstrated exceptional commitment to the mentorship of graduate students and postdoctoral scholars. The Distinguished Mentor Award is for faculty from any discipline.
The award recognizes faculty who stand out for effectively guiding graduate students and postdoctoral scholars throughout their professional training in a continuing, multifaceted partnership sustained by mutual respect and concern. In addition, the award recognizes faculty who make a broad impact on mentorship by facilitating communities or building infrastructure for mentorship of graduate students and postdoctoral scholars.
Distinguished Mentor Awards 2019
H. Joseph Yost
Neurobiology & Anatomy
I am deeply committed to successfully training the next generation of biomedical scientists for three reasons: First, I have the privilege of enjoying a wide range of academic pursuits due to the efforts of the previous generation, of my own generous mentors, and of a wide team of colleagues. I feel the responsibility to pay it forward. Second, rigorous intellectual training in the sciences, with its accompanying (and frequently humbling) reminders of truths outside ourselves, serves as an important counterbalance when culture seems to have gone off its rails. Third, the practice of science can be invigoratingly creative, most often when it is seeded by insights from individuals and teams with a wide range of perspectives. We get to see things and ideas that have never been seen before, and share them with others. Supporting diversity in biomedical sciences requires a significant investment of time, resources, and energy. It requires focusing on each individual, listening to and understanding their unique strengths and weaknesses, encouraging them to learn how they can flourish with their own talents and aspirations, fostering their professional growth, and occasionally running interference for them through a sometimes-nasty maze of obstacles. Most importantly, it requires us to accept a standard of excellence that goes beyond the simple metrics of grant-dollars and publications; scientific creativity that arises from a unique perspective does not always translate into enhanced “productivity,” but is critical if the discoveries of tomorrow are to transcend the status-quo of today.
Although one-on-one training experiences are often the most personally rewarding, successful mentorship also requires building professional research and educational infrastructures that will allow a larger number of diverse individuals to have opportunities to enjoy the practice of science. At the beginning of the pipeline, our BioEYES outreach program brings zebrafish projects to 4th-12th grade students in local schools with underrepresented populations, encouraging students to believe that it is fun to do science, and most importantly, that they can be scientists. Our new NIH R25 Genomics Summer Research for Minorities (GSRM) program provides underrepresented minority undergraduates an opportunity to explore careers in a burgeoning field. Our NIH T32 Developmental Biology Training Program and American Heart Association Strategically Focused Research Network program provide research fellowships and enriched mentoring environments for predoctoral graduate students and postdoctoral (PhD or MD) fellows to enhance their career development and pursue new interdisciplinary research projects in several departments across the campus. Providing opportunities for high-quality, mentored research, from grade school through graduate school and postdoctoral programs, promotes the unique form of scientific creativity that only arises from a true diversity of perspectives.
My approach to mentoring is one of autonomy, trust, respect, persistence, and determination. The core theme of my mentoring philosophy is to support my students along their independent journeys in attaining their goals and reaching their highest potential. I believe that this can be best achieved by creating a learning environment that provides both autonomy and structure (i.e. structured-autonomy). I encourage my students to seek out answers to questions on their own, while I provide guidance based on their individual needs. This allows for both my students and myself to learn at a much deeper level, as I actively listen to each of my students and adapt to their individual needs. As a result, we develop a relationship built upon trust and independence. This developed trust increases my students’ confidence in their own abilities, namely who they are and who they want to become. I am passionate about obtaining new skills and knowledge. Subsequently, I hope to inspire my students to become life-long learners, and vehement in all of their pursuits. One of the greatest challenges and rewards of being a mentor is to help my students build upon their strengths, and refine areas of improvement in order to reach their full potential. Each student possesses unique talents and areas of development, so I strive to aid them in their individual growth and achievement.
I am persistent and determined in all of my academic and clinical activities. Calvin Coolidge stated “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent”. Our world today is filled with frequent examples of immediate results. Therefore, I hope to instill a sense that many opportunities in life come from persistence, determination, and patience. I am humbled and grateful to all of the students who allowed me to be a part of their journey, and who I have mentored and/or precepted throughout my tenure at the College of Pharmacy.