Faculty Members Recognized for Outstanding Mentoring

The Faculty Mentoring Award is designed by the Graduate Student Council (GSC) to recognize outstanding commitment to fostering the professional and personal development of graduate students.

An effective mentor relationship is multi-faceted and provides supportive guidance to the mentee both professionally and personally. Nomination letters are submitted each year from current and past students in testimony to their mentor's outstanding impact on their development.

Significant value is placed on these nurturing relationships that are supportive, confidential, both professionally and personally, and crucially, lie outside the parameters of assessment and evaluation. An effective mentoring relationship is essential for navigating the challenges of balancing research, teaching, and publishing and a positive mentoring relationship is associated with higher career satisfaction and research success.

The 2023 Faculty Mentoring Award Recipients: Dr. Kimberley Samkoe and Dr. Diane Gilbert Diamond.

Dr. Kimberley Samkoe is an Associate Professor of Engineering at the Thayer School of Engineering, with a research focus in molecular fluorescence imaging for quantitative assessment of in vivo molecular expression of proteins for cancer diagnosis, therapeutic monitoring and surgical resection.

Letters from Dr. Samkoe's nominators came from a broad representation of colleagues. Not only did we receive letters of recommendation from her current lab, but also from alumni and from students outside her lab – such is the breadth of support for her outstanding mentoring style.

It is clear from the letters written in support of her nomination that those who have the good fortune to interact with Dr. Samkoe are left richer for the experience. Despite an incredible research, teaching and mentoring schedule, she meets her mentees where they are with compassion and patience, giving them the "freedom to not only think critically but to also make mistakes," wrote one nominator.

"She was the person I turned to when I had those 'stupid questions' I was too embarrassed to ask my primary advisor," wrote another.

Each letter spoke of her patience and approachability which, in turn, helped them develop greater efficacy in research presentation and discussion. And, even as her lab team has grown and with it her research responsibilities, she continues with an unwavering commitment to her students.

When asked about her approach to mentoring, Dr. Samkoe acknowledged the importance of her own experience as a mentee, when "my PhD supervisor encouraged me to join a student network for research the experience opened my eyes to the importance of collaboration – of networking."

The value she places on collaboration was reiterated by several of her nominators, with one noting this active support led to the publication of manuscripts as a co-author and presentation of their research at international conferences within the first two years of joining Dr. Samkoe's lab.

"Her commitment to excellence is inspiring," wrote one of her nominators. We heartily agree.

Our second recipient, Dr. Diane Gilbert-Diamond, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. Her research focuses on pediatric health outcomes, including the interaction between environment and genetics in child obesity.

Dr. Gilbert-Diamond's approach to mentoring acknowledges the emotional and academic development of her mentees, and she has created an environment where everyone – staff, students, and faculty alike – feels supported.

"Mentoring the next generation of scientists is one of my core professional missions," she states. "I sincerely hope that students will be able to develop knowledge and skills that will benefit their physical and mental health."

"Her leadership has created an atmosphere where all members are highly invested in and celebrate each other's success," writes one nominator.

Through expert collaboration, she facilitates innovative approaches to research while encouraging a sense of mutual respect among her lab members. This approach helps her mentees feel supported and trusted to explore questions that might otherwise go unasked.

"With the growing awareness of the importance of mental health, I make an effort to foster well-being, and to take a whole-person approach to mentoring and to encourage a growth-mindset," Dr. Gilbert-Diamond states.

Dr. Gilbert-Diamond understands that imbalance in one area of a person's life will inevitably come to negatively impact other areas and infuses her mentoring with a deep understanding of the importance of balance.

"She encourages students to engage in activities that bring joy outside of research, enhance physical and mental health," writes one of her nominators.

This approach resonated particularly with her mentees who began working with her during the pandemic. Even through the challenges of working in remote and hybrid models, Dr. Gilbert-Diamond "never once cancelled weekly meetings or failed to spend one-on-one time" with her mentees.  In spite of these challenges, and thanks to her skilled approach to relationship-building, Dr. Gilbert-Diamond has created "an atmosphere where all members are highly invested in and celebrate each other's success."

May we all set such excellent examples.

Please join us in congratulating the 2023 Faculty Mentoring Award recipients.