Rinaldi-Ramos and Stabler receive 2021-2022 HWCOE Doctoral Dissertation Advisor/Mentoring Award

Congratulations to Drs. Carlos Rinaldi-Ramos, Chemical Engineering Department Chair & Dean’s Leadership Professor, and Cherie Stabler, professor and Integra LifeSciences Term Professor, on receiving the 2021-2022 Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering Doctoral Mentoring Award.

This honor, based on an extensive review of her credentials, letters of recommendation, and peer and student evaluations, recognizes excellence in mentoring our students. College Undergraduate Adviser/Mentor Award winners are also submitted to University Faculty Development for consideration for the university-wide Undergraduate Adviser/Mentor of the Year Award.

Dr. Rinaldi-Ramos’ statement regarding his approach to mentoring:

Of all the many rewarding aspects of being a university professor, I enjoy mentoring students the most, especially in research. To me, discovery is most fun in collaboration with students, and I find the satisfaction of seeing students grow as scientists is a great way to counterbalance the frustration that often accompanies research at the forefront of knowledge. In mentoring, I strive to recognize that each student is unique and as such, the advisor/student relationship will be unique. I try to learn how students learn and how to motivate their growth and I strive to tailor my approach to their needs while emphasizing important core knowledge and skills. I also believe that my student’s success is tied to my effort and dedication as a mentor. Even with the demands of being department chair, I strive to have frequent communication and interaction with my students, through weekly group meetings to foster group communication, weekly to bi-weekly individual meetings to discuss progress and challenges, ad hoc meetings as needed, and effective online communications through team management platforms (e.g., Teams). We balance this with discussions of important issues facing students (e.g., imposter syndrome, depression, etc.) and social activities (e.g., group dinners) to relieve stress and foster team spirit. This approach of constant communication balancing academics, research, and personal needs helped us retain our sense of community through the pandemic, while we pivoted efforts towards projects that could be conducted remotely or with physical distancing and reduced resources. As a result, my students become experts in the synthesis, characterization, and biomedical applications of magnetic nanoparticles while learning transferable knowledge and skills in nanomaterials and bioengineering, gaining experience in using and maintaining research instrumentation, participating in multidisciplinary and multi-campus collaborations, and learning valuable teamwork, leadership and communication skills.

In the classroom and laboratory, I like to emphasize fundamentals and teach students to appreciate that by knowing the why they will understand the when and how of physical phenomena. This emphasis stems from understanding that a university education is but a brief period in a lifetime of learning needed to remain current in the field. As such, an emphasis on fundamentals provides a foundation for continued learning as students become practitioners.

Dr. Stabler’s statement regarding her approach to mentoring:

In my laboratory, I strive to support a culture that conveys the values of diversity and inclusion, creativity and support, and ethics and rigor. I value diversity and inclusion in my team because I know this is not only for the advancement of society but for the betterment of scientific advancements. To solve complex problems, diversity in training, perspectives, and lived experience are needed. To push the boundaries of scientific knowledge, team members must feel empowered to speak and act in ways that are outside of their comfort zone. They should also know they are valued and respected by their team members and mentors. Thus, I strive to ensure that my team reflects the diversity of our environment and that its members value and listen to diverse opinions. I also strive to create an inclusive space for people to extend themselves beyond their comfort zone, as well as support them to “fail”, learn, and grow. As researchers pushing the boundaries of knowledge and also striving to translate concepts from the bench to the bedside, it is essential that we hold ourselves to the highest ethical standards.

One way I support this is by creating a team-based research environment, where students collaborate to collect, evaluate, and interpret data. Recognizing the inherent stress mentors can sometimes put on their students to prove were are “right” on a particular hypothesis, I continue to remind students that there is no “good” or “bad” data and that the goal is a well-designed study – not the end result. I also publish results, even if they disprove the original hypothesis. Finally, we share detailed protocols and provide guidance to researchers on various techniques and methods. Overall, I seek to not only support a culture that supports the scientific pursuits of the student but also ensure they understand the importance of the ethical collection, interpretation, and communication of science.