2020 Recipients: Dean's Award for Excellence in Mentoring

The Graduate Division and the Office for Postdoctoral Scholars are pleased to honor the recipients of the 2020 Dean's Awards for Excellence in Mentoring for Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Scholars. The grad students and postdocs below are being recognized for their outstanding work as mentors for their colleagues. Now in its 2nd year, this award celebrates the contributions of trainees who have formally or informally taken on some of the responsibilities typically held by traditional mentors, supervisors, and sponsors during their training, particularly in the areas of research, career and professional development, or social and inspirational mentoring.

Each of the six awardees received a certificate and $500 stipend, and are featured in the recognition video. Congratulations as well to honorable mentions who also received certificates.

Celebrating the 2020 Awardees

PREMIERING ON JULY 30, 6 p.m.: A video celebration of this year's exceptional grad student and postdoc mentors! Join Graduate Dean Elizabeth Watkins, PhD as we learn more about the six awardees' approaches to mentoring through brief interviews with their nominators and the honorees themselves.



Graduate Students


Alain Bonny

Alain Bonny

Biophysics PhD program
Nominated by Hana El-Samad, PhD (Professor)

“His life trajectory is one of service, of commitment to advancing others, of lifting others up and making the world around him a more equitable place.”

“Alain has a rare talent of making people realize their potential, and I have seen this talent deployed by Alain in my lab for many years.”

“He is a great researcher, a kind and nurturing human being, and a warrior for equity. He is a mentor, an ally and a sponsor for many.”

Alexandra Long

Alexandra Long, PhD

Tetrad PhD program
Nominated by Sophie Dumont, PhD (Associate Professor)

“Alexandra knows how to truly listen, and listens without judgment, with the mindset that diversity makes this world a better place, and that she can learn as much from her mentees as they can learn from her. She doesn’t just help her trainees learn how to do, but helps them learn how to think for themselves, and become independent...”

“She single-handedly organized for a group of 12 high school students from an underserved high school to spend a day in our lab last year...being there with Alex that day reinforced how passionate and talented she is about science education and outreach, and how strongly she believes in the premise that the scientific enterprise would be best served by recruiting the best brains to science – no matter who they belong to.”

Emmanuel Onywera

Emmanuel Onywera

Nursing Master's Entry Program
Nominated by Lauren Friedman (Nursing MS student)

“He gave us hope that we too could be successful in the program and as nurses. He reminded us to take care of not only ourselves but also our peers. Emmanuel’s actions taught us the importance of unity and coming together to motivate and inspire.”

“Emmanuel developed a lesson plan and hosted a study session prior to every single exam in that class. He spent hours of his time explaining complicated material, strengthening our understanding of topics, and answering our questions. He shared studying tips and strategies that had been beneficial for him.”

Honorable Mention: Grad Students

Roberto Diaz | Tetrad PhD program
Nominated by Steven Cincotta (PhD student, Developmental and Stem Cell Biology)

Melanie (Mel) Jeske | Sociology PhD program
Nominated by Nicole Foti (PhD student, Sociology)


Postdoctoral Scholars


Renaud La Joie

Renaud La Joie, PhD

Memory and Aging Center
Nominated by Amelia Strom (Research Assistant)

“Renaud has exemplified a commitment to rigorous, thoughtful, and collaborative research and has given me countless technical and statistical skills. However, the true value of his mentorship lies in the care and consistency with which he treats all mentees.”

“He is a leading role model in research technique and integrity, an active supervisor of junior lab members and diverse research projects, a primary contact for advice in career advancement, and a compassionate, highly respected figure in our community.”


Matthew McCarroll

Matthew McCarroll, PhD

Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases
Nominated by Douglas Myers-Turnbull (PhD student, Biomedical Informatics)

“A master of his own unique mentorship style, Matt gives clear explanations, hands-on demonstrations, and continual support and encouragement.”

“Matt has the emotional intelligence and dedication to consider every perspective and handle interpersonal conflicts gracefully.”

“... Matt stepped up and supported the lab and its members without hesitation – all while continuing his research – by providing management, direction, oversight, coordination, and staff training.”

Helen Willsey

Helen Willsey, PhD

Department of Psychiatry
Nominated by Matthew State, MD, PhD (Professor and Chair, Psychiatry)

“Helen provides critical social and inspirational mentoring to her mentees. Her enthusiasm for science is infectious, and it is clear that she serves as a source of happiness and inspiration for her mentees.”

“Helen is a key researcher in our multi-institutional Psychiatric Cell Map Initiative research consortium and has been a vocal advocate for her trainees, including ensuring that they are invited to attend and present at the monthly meetings, and more importantly, that they are received as valuable contributors.”

Honorable Mention: Postdocs

Miqdad Dhariwala, PhD | Microbiology and Immunology
Nominated by Tiffany Scharschmidt, MD (Associate Professor)

Courtney Gallen, PhD | Neurology/Neuroscape
Nominated by Alexander Simon (Staff Research Associate)

Vasudha Srivastava, PhD | Pharmaceutical Chemistry
Nominated by Zev Gartner, PhD (Professor)

Juliane Winkler, PhD | Anatomy
Nominated by Johanna Hinrichs (Specialist)

Ziyang Zhang, PhD | Chemical Biology
Nominated by Shizhong Dai (PhD student, Chemistry and Chemical Biology)



Nominations for the 2021 Dean's Awards for Excellence in Mentoring will be accepted in spring 2021!