Mentor Awards in Research, Scholarly and Creative Activities

The Office of the Provost offers awards to recognize the important role mentors play in fostering undergraduates’ intellectual, personal and professional growth through participation in high-impact practices including research, scholarly and creative endeavors. These awards provide faculty members, academic staff,  graduate students and post-doctoral fellows with recognition for their excellence in mentoring undergraduates and their contribution to our students’ Wisconsin Experience. The awards provide $2,000 of university expendable funds.

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2023 Mentor Awards Ceremony

2023 Mentor Awards Ceremony-- Mentor Awards Recipients
Several recipients of the 2020 through 2023 Mentor Awards are pictured with Interim Provost Eric Wilcots and Vice Provost John Zumbrunnen at the Undergraduate Symposium’s Mentor Awards Ceremony held in Varsity Hall (Union South, University of Wisconsin-Madison) on April 28, 2023. (Photo by Bryce Richter / UW–Madison)

2023 Awardees

Marina Emborg

Professor, Medical Physics

Marina Emborg is a Professor of Medical Physics and the director of the Preclinical Parkinson’s Research Program at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center. Dr. Emborg has mentored over 80 undergraduate students, in addition of graduate students, postdocs and junior faculty. Many of her undergrads stay in her lab from freshmen to graduation and create long-lasting relationships. They work in mini-teams, with trainees of all levels and paths of life, learning to support each other and take leadership roles to solve challenging scientific questions. Dr. Emborg aims to nurture her students’ creativity and critical thinking and provides them with the tools to succeed in the next stage of their development and beyond.

Jelena Diakonikolas and Shivaram Venkataraman

Assistant Professors, Computer Sciences

Jelena Diakonikolas is an assistant professor in the Department of Computer Sciences, working on optimization algorithms for large scale learning problems. She is a co-founder of the WISCERS program, an undergraduate research mentorship program intended to create a pathway to graduate school for students from underrepresented groups in computing. WISCERS program has been running for 3 years, with about 20 undergraduate students, 20 faculty mentors, and 20 graduate students involved in each year. Jelena has personally mentored 3 WISCERS students, 2 of whom are continuing to top graduate programs this year. Her mentorship style rests on building solid foundations, embracing the struggle involved with tackling research questions, and being open to always learn more.

Shivaram Venkataraman is an assistant professor in the Computer Sciences Department and his research interests are in developing efficient software systems for machine learning and data analytics. He is the co-founder of the WISCERS, an undergraduate mentorship program that provides research experience to students from underrepresented groups and encourages them to apply for research-based graduate programs. Shivaram has mentored fifteen undergraduate students over the past four years, including 3 from the WISCERS program with nine students going on to pursue graduate study. His mentorship style involves encouraging students to develop an identity as a researcher, encouraging them to be curious and learn by asking questions.

Stephanie McFarlane

Graduate Student, Botany

Stephanie McFarlane is completing her doctoral research, which evaluates the outcomes of ecological restoration in grassland ecosystems and seeks to advance the predictive capacity of restoration ecology. While completing her PhD, she has mentored 12 undergraduates, with the commitment to support the growth and success of each individual student. Stephanie has spent many hours in the field and lab with her mentees demonstrating hands-on data collection and analysis methods, while creating a culture that encourages creativity, asking questions, and building collaborations. Stephanie will continue mentoring undergraduate students as she begins a postdoctoral appointment at UW-Madison, which aims to understand the mechanisms that attract pollinators to restored prairies.

Sean Schoville

Associate Professor, Entomology

Sean Schoville is Associate Professor in the Department of Entomology. Sean grew up with a love of the outdoors and became fascinated with the diversity of life and how species overcome challenges in the natural world. Starting as a graduate student, he has worked with more than 70 high school and undergraduate students through mentored research and outreach projects, hoping to inspire them to successful careers in science. Research mentoring enhances engagement, critical thinking, and skills development of both the mentor and mentee, teaching us how to collaborate and solve scientific problems effectively.  

Shih-Heng Su

Scientist, Genetics

Shih-Heng is a Plant Geneticist from the Masson lab in the Genetics Department. Shih-Heng’s work focuses on studying plant root growth behavior under different environmental conditions, including in most extreme conditions, space. Mentoring should be a rewarding and fulfilling experience for mentors and mentees, as it allows individuals to learn from one another, grow together, and make meaningful connections that can last a lifetime.

Molly Willging

Graduate Student, Primate Research Center

Molly is a PhD student in the Endocrinology and Reproductive Physiology graduate program investigating the role of estrogen in regulating metabolism. One mentee from Molly’s lab highlighted Molly’s influence, “By encouraging curiosity and empowering students to lead their own presentations, Molly is able to bring out the best in all her mentees and students and has given us the tools to succeed academically and better self-driven learners.” Molly’s mentoring style aims to create an inclusive and supportive environment to empower undergraduate researchers to be confident and successful in science.