The University of Kentucky Office of Undergraduate Research recently honored four professors for their dedication to mentoring with the Excellent Undergraduate Research Mentor Award during the 17th annual Showcase of Undergraduate Scholars.

The student-nominated award recognizes UK faculty who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to mentoring undergraduate researchers, providing exceptional undergraduate research experiences, as well as supporting and promoting undergraduate research initiatives on campus.

This year, students nominated a record number of 42 faculty mentors for the award, representing 30 disciplines and eight colleges. During the showcase’s award ceremony, the following four outstanding faculty mentors were recognized for 2023.

Martha E. Grady, PhD, associate professor, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, UK Stanley and Karen Pigman College of Engineering

Grady was nominated by student Tony Butera, who said, “Dr. Grady has gone above and beyond when it comes to being committed to getting the best out of me. She has provided me with guidance, support, advice and other resources that have helped me in being successful in my research endeavors. Challenges and obstacles are always going to be there when working with research but learning how to handle and overcome scenarios like this have been life lessons that I have gained due to Dr. Grady’s commitment to providing a supportive environment to grow and learn.”

Yosra A. Helmy, PhD, assistant professor, Department of Veterinary Science, College of Agriculture, Food and Environment

Helmy was nominated by two students, Grant Kelley and Rami Musa. When asked why Helmy should be considered for the award, Kelly said, “Dr. Helmy has inspired me to always think critically and seek out my own answers. She’s taught me that while precedent is important, new and unique thoughts, ideas and perspectives are what fuel the acquisition of new knowledge.” Musa continued, “Dr. Helmy’s unwavering support, guidance and encouragement have played a critical role in my success as a student researcher. Her professionalism in overseeing every student and her dedication to providing career advice and support to all of her students makes her the best candidate for the award.”

Carlos Rodriguez Lopez, PhD, associate professor, Department of Horticulture, College of Agriculture, Food and Environment

Lopez was nominated by three students, Isabella Lytle, Bridget Bolt and Gretchen Ruschman. “Dr. Lopez goes above and beyond for his students,” said Lytle. “He will push his students to work hard and get to the future that they dream of.” Bolt continued, “From the beginning, Dr. Lopez has been invested in the success of every student that steps foot into his lab. He focuses on implementing skills that aid in the future professional development of students that lasts a lifetime. I would not be where I am today without him. The experience he granted me has opened continuous doors I would never have imagined open.” When asked why Lopez stands out as a mentor, Ruschman said, “Within the lab, there is a diverse group of undergraduate researchers with their own unique ambitions. He does an excellent job in guiding and supporting each one of us on our own individual path. Dr. Lopez truly cares for his undergrads and has fostered an environment of encouragement, mentorship and scientific excellence that transcends beyond the lab.”

Kathryn Saatman, PhD, professor, Department of Physiology, College of Medicine

Saatman was nominated by student Ashley Glover, who said, “Dr. Saatman has been an active guide in helping us develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Additionally, she creates a supportive environment in the lab which allows for continuous growth and development. Her dedication to helping me develop important research skills, pursue my research interests and connect with other professionals in my field has undoubtedly had a significant impact on my undergraduate research experience. She exemplifies the qualities of persistence, passion, dedication and strength in all that she does.”

At UK, faculty mentoring is a valued investment and a key ingredient to students’ success in the relationships formed between faculty and students. The dedication and mastery of these mentors prepare students for the rigors of not just their career fields but how they progress professionally and personally.

For a list of this year’s award nominees, click here. For a full list of previous award winners, click here.