BOONE, N.C. — Dr. Howard Neufeld, professor in the Department of Biology and a longtime faculty member in the Honors College, and Dr. Megen Culpepper, assistant professor in the A.R. Smith Department of Chemistry and Fermentation Sciences, are recipients of the 2020 Undergraduate Research Mentorship Excellence Award, conferred by Appalachian State University's Office of Student Research.
Neufeld has over 20 years of experience mentoring students in research, and Culpepper has mentored 21 students since her arrival at Appalachian in 2014, including Honors College students writing honors theses. Below, both College of Arts and Sciences professors offer advice for faculty mentors and recount their experiences.
Neufeld advises patience and encouragement
About the rewards of mentoring, Neufeld said, “To watch an undergraduate go from being naive about science and inexperienced in working with sophisticated scientific instruments, to being technically competent, aware of the literature and savvy about how to do science, is one of the greatest thrills of being their mentor.”
He recounted one experience with honors student and Chancellor’s Scholar Rachel Jordan ’18, who is now earning her Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
This climate-related research由乔丹在祖父山潮湿和寒冷的天气诺伊菲尔德进行的，帮助了圣诞树行业在北卡罗莱纳州，并在几个专业会议提出。乔丹被评为全国科学基金会（NSF）研究生研究奖学金，提供五年朝她的博士学位充分的资金支持。
Neufeld said patience and encouragement were key to an effective mentorship. He advises other faculty to “be patient at first as students make mistakes, but encourage them and show them that they are not alone when they do make mistakes.”
In his nomination form recommending Neufeld for the award, one of Neufeld’s undergraduate student mentees said Neufeld encourages hands-on research — making it exciting and fun — and, while encouraging students to challenge themselves, also respects the limitations and obstacles a student might encounter.
Culpepper applauds ‘perseverance and internal push’
“Mentoring students is hands-down the best part of my job,” Culpepper said. “Students at this level of training are eager to learn and do an amazing job becoming scientists.”
She said the reward comes in seeing her students recognized for their hard work, and she recounted the following story about a student working with her on a National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant:
“He was so bright and a first-generation college student like me. Graduate school hadn’t worked out for him,” she said. Culpepper was helping the student explore job opportunities, one of which was a position testing cockroaches for specific diseases.
Culpepper advises young faculty choosing to mentor to “make yourselves vulnerable to your mentees. I have told countless stories of my own failures and successes. They see me struggle to keep it all together; they see my highs and lows, just like I see theirs. We are a team,” she said.
Scott Hammers ’20, a mentee of Culpepper’s and a graduate of Appalachian’s B.S. in chemistry–biochemistry program from Raleigh, said, “Culpepper strives to make sure everything is learned correctly and then pushes you to always do better. She helped give me insight and advice about graduate schools and the application process. She taught me laboratory techniques and the science behind them, which has in turn made my classes that much easier.”
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