Graduate Faculty Mentoring Award 2019

Recipients of the 2019 Graduate Faculty Mentor Awards were announced at the Poster Session event on Tuesday, April 9. Established in 2005, this award recognizes and highlights the outstanding mentoring undertaken by Dartmouth faculty advisors in the graduate community.

Students from across the programs under the Guarini School of Graduate and Advanced Studies submit nomination letters to the School and all nominated faculty are invited to submit their CV to the Award’s Selection Committee from the GSC Executive board. All of the letters of recommendation submitted for each nominee are reviewed before selecting the awardees. In addition to publicly recognizing each recipient’s contributions to the School’s graduate community, the GSC awards $500 to encourage further mentoring.

The Graduate Faculty Mentor Award is a vote of recognition from the student body for those have gone above and beyond to support, guide, and encourage them in pursuit of research and scholarship. We were incredibly heartened by the volume of nominations for the 2019 Faculty Mentor Awards. The heartfelt letters spoke of the deep gratitude our students have for the mentoring efforts of our faculty across many programs.

When increasing demands are placed on our graduate community to push harder and aim higher, the mentor relationships are critical in defining the experiences our students have during their time at the Guarini School. The letters we received spoke highly of the research opportunities faculty provide for students, the academic guidance, connection to professional networks, and support in times that could otherwise have resulted in crisis.

This year, we are delighted to announce the recipients of the Faculty Mentoring Award are Dr. Jay Dunlap, Nathan Smith Professor of Genetics and Chairman of Molecular & Systems Biology, and Dr. Jennifer Loros, Professor of Biochemistry and Genetics, and Dr. M. Ida Gobbini Associate Professor in Psychology and Brain Sciences.

Dr. Gobbini joined the presentation virtually from Italy where she is currently teaching at the Medical School of the University of Bologna, where she is an Associate Professor. Dr. Gobbini earned her M.D. magna cum laude from the University of Florence, Italy and then went on to complete a residency in neurology. She received her PhD from the University of Pisa examining the metabolic and molecular function of the nervous system and sensory organs.

From here, Dr. Gobbini rapidly moved through the ranks, holding positions in the National Institute of Neurological disorders and Stroke, the National Institute of Mental Health, Princeton, and now at Dartmouth. She is an internationally recognized expert in face perception, and her research focus is on the cognitive and neural mechanisms for person perception with a particular emphasis on how people recognize familiar individuals, access person knowledge, and form and update representations of others. She is highly respected in her field and has published in numerous international journals and has a total of 12,966 citations in Google Scholar. Dr. Gobbini's influence extends internationally as evidenced by her ability to draw some of the biggest names in face perception to a workshop hosted by the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience on campus last summer.

Dr. Gobbini's nominators spoke highly of her mentoring style, which allowed them to explore research pertinent to their interests. “Rather than molding graduate students into workhorses for her own ideas,” wrote one, “she prefers to spend time to understand who they are as researchers.” Dr. Gobbini clarifies this by emphasizing the importance of setting up a framework of research questions and then encouraging her students to explore within these guidelines. “I aim to encourage them first to examine the work we are doing in the lab, to replicate our research as a first step, which helps clarify their own understanding, ensures the accuracy of our data, and provides them with the instruments to explore their own questions more independently” she says.

Indeed, the importance of academic integrity is perhaps what lies at the heart of the mentor relationship Dr. Gobbini defines with her mentees. One of her nominators spoke with gratitude of a stance that “lies squarely and deeply in honoring me as an academic.” To this end, Dr. Gobbini emphasizes the importance of training students to make their data open source, to uphold the integrity of their work, and to make honest and important contributions to the field on their own.

We received many nominations for the Faculty Mentoring Award and in every letter of recommendation for Dr. Gobbini, we learned of the deep respect her students and mentees have for her, speaking highly of her ability to listen and empathize with them during tough times when her own workload is full, and also of her passion for encouraging scholars from all backgrounds to pursue excellence.We are absolutely delighted to honor Dr. Gobbini with this award. Congratulations!

Dr. Jay Dunlap and Dr. Jennifer Loros received a significant number of nominations this year, which comes as no surprise to those who know them. They have enjoyed a decades-long partnership in which they have shared a laboratory space and, by extension, the personnel within it. One of their nominators for the award wrote, "Over the course of their remarkable career they have directly mentored over 50 scientists and influenced hundreds more, all of whom I am sure will want to see Jay and Jennifer be recognized for this award together."

Dr. Dunlap received a double BS in Chemistry and Oceanography at the University of Washington, Seattle and then went on to pursue Biology at Harvard, where he received his PhD. His research has focused on understanding the molecular basis of circadian rhythms in model systems and translating those insights gained into understanding mammalian circadian clocks.

Dr. Loros received her BA in Biology at the University of California at Santa Cruz, where she continued her work and earned a PhD. Her research effort pioneered the sub-field of circadian output and developed some of the defining vocabulary of the field. The model systems they use include fungi and mammalian cells in culture, the study of both of which lead  to an understanding of how cellular clocks control life.

Together they have published and presented widely both at home and abroad, and are highly respected researchers in their field. In addition to hundreds of publications and numerous fellowships, Drs. Dunlap and Loros have honed a very discerning approach to mentoring, as evidenced by the numerous letters of recommendation we received. Several writers spoke of the fact that in spite of the high volume and quality of research article output of the group, "their form of mentoring is not to micromanage their group on every detail, but to provide resources and opportunities" wrote one and, as Dr. Dunlap humbly put it, “we just bring in good people and get out their way.”

But no person is an island, and we know that even good people can be waylaid by an unforeseen event and Drs. Dunlap and Loros have created an incredibly positive and supportive environment in the lab that turn crises into opportunities. One nominator wrote “Jay and Jennifer have supported me unconditionally and encouraged me. I did not expect such kindness and sensitivity, and I am grateful for it every day.”

They have a rigorous set of expectations including a weekly lab meeting and journal clubs, and a two and a half day retreat each year, allowing each student to receive in-depth feedback from them consistently and regularly. This structure serves as a good safety net within which students can explore research interests in a supportive and productive environment. “For my part,” wrote one nominator, “they allowed me to develop my own projects and collaborations. This was crucial as it taught me how to be an independent investigator and how to forge the professional relationships I needed to be successful.”

Drawing from each of their own experiences, Dunlap and Loros have formed the type of supportive relationship that they agree is akin to parenting, a role they celebrate in their researchers. “Some of the best memories are the babies and children,” Loros says. “I had my two children in my early years at Dartmouth. Our lab became known for all the babies and children attached to our students, and I do know some women came to the lab because they knew it to be a safe place for family life.” Dr. Loros even got facilities in the Vail Remsen buildings to carve out a comfortable space to be used for nursing mothers who need to express milk during their work day –no small gain.

This welcoming, supportive and nurturing environment has resulted in many former students forging paths in academia in their own labs, including department heads and  a number who hold named and endowed professorships. Scientists from the Dunlap-Loros lab are the scientists the world needs, and we are honored to present them with the Faculty Mentoring Award this year.

Editors Note May 16:
This article has been updated to note the comments provided by nominators of Dr. Loros and Dr. Dunlap were not correctly attributed.