Outstanding Mentors Honored by BUILDing Scholars Across Colleges at UTEP

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Contact Info: jpgarza@utep.edu

Calvin Stewart enjoys lunch with several of his students at a research retreat, sitting around a table

Calvin Stewart (right, 2nd from front) enjoys lunch with several of his students at a research retreat

By John Garza

Research mentors from each college at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) are recognized annually by the BUILDing Scholars program for excellence in mentoring undergraduate research. As an institutional development initiative, the awards serve to foster and encourage undergraduate research by rewarding exemplary mentoring of students. Awardees must demonstrate their commitment to student mentoring through engagement in mentored research activities including direct research supervision, support for presentations and publications, and winning of awards or other markers of success for mentees. One award is presented to a nominee from each of four colleges supporting undergraduate biomedical research.  

The 2019 awardees represented a diverse array of research areas and many held leadership positions at the university. From the UTEP College of Liberal Arts, Wendy Francis, Ph.D., professor of psychology, studies bilingual cognition and the impact of second language on long-term memory. Sudip Bajpeyi, Ph.D., associate professor of kinesiology in the College of Health Sciences, serves as Director of the Metabolic Nutrition and Exercise Research Laboratory. Calvin Stewart, Ph.D., represented the College of Engineering, and is Director of the Materials at Extremes Research Group. Chuan Xiao, Ph.D., associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry in the College of Science, heads the structural biochemistry lab where he utilizes various imaging techniques to determine the structure and function of biological molecules. 

All of the awardees have impressive records supporting undergraduates as they begin their research careers. Xiao has mentored upwards of 50 undergraduate students in his time at UTEP, including several BUILD scholarship recipients, resulting in numerous presentations by and awards for his mentees. His commitment to undergraduate research is further demonstrated by his involvement in the development of research-driven courses designed to engage students in research experiences as early as their first year of college, before they continue in labs such as his own. Bajpeyi’s mentoring activities have also resulted in multiple theses, abstract presentations and student awards, and he writes that “mentoring is the most important component for a successful educator and is inseparable from teaching, research, and service.”

Stewart’s approach to mentoring puts his students first by being “an advocate, using resources and connections to open new opportunities for students.” He said a mentor is “someone who listens first, and provides guidance tailored to the mentee.” 

Similarly, Bajpeyi described mentoring students as a process of “guiding them to discover the best within themselves.” The activity is inherently rewarding as he “helps students grow by finding their true interest and passion,” and he adds that these experiences have provided him with “numerous learning opportunities” from his students. 

Stewart makes a special effort to learn from each of his mentees. 

“Each student is an individual with their own strengths, weaknesses, and motivations,” Stewart said. “Your goal is not to train them up to be a mini version of you--it is to train them up to the best version of themselves.”



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