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April 27, 2023

MSU faculty honored with Undergraduate Research Mentor and Supervisor Awards

Dr. Ilce Medina-Meza, assistant professor in the College of Engineering, and Dr. Brooke Ingersoll, professor in the College of Social Science, were honored with the 2023 Undergraduate Research Faculty Mentor of the Year award for Michigan State University

Dr. Zinan Wang, a research associate in the Department of Entomology, was honored with the Undergraduate Research Supervisor of the Year award. Two Faculty Mentor of the Year awards are given annually – one representing science and engineering and one representing the social sciences and humanities. One Research Supervisor of the Year award is presented annually and recognizes supervisors who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to mentoring undergraduate researchers. Conferred at the University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum (UURAF) Award Ceremony on Wednesday, April 26, 2023, these awards celebrate outstanding mentors who exemplify what it means to take ownership of student success.

Undergraduate Research Faculty Mentor of the Year award recipients

Dr. Medina-Meza is an assistant professor in the Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering and currently leads the College of Engineering’s Food and Health Engineering Laboratory. Medina-Meza’s nominating student praises her “extraordinary commitment to undergraduate research,” as well as her “unwavering guidance and help navigating unexpected circumstances.” Medina-Meza’s undergraduate nominator expressed appreciation for her “willingness to answer any call, text, or email” no matter the time or day of the week. She is known for fostering an environment where students feel comfortable taking risks and performing new experiments, developing leadership skills as their confidence grows. Since 2018, Medina-Meza has mentored over fifty undergraduate students and eight graduate students. She encourages them all to participate in internships and programs that support their goals, and her determination to help others applies not only to students but to anyone who seeks her advice.

Dr. Brooke Ingersoll, a professor in the Department of Psychology, is the director of the MSU Autism Lab where she currently oversees thirteen undergraduate research assistants, four graduate students, one post-doc and four post-baccalaureate lab staff. Ingersoll has a knack for spotting interests in her students and fostering them into passions. Says her nominating student: “I led a discussion in our team’s biweekly journal club on the representation of autism in social media, as it was always a topic that intrigued me. Brooke immediately saw my passion for this topic and suggested I pursue an independent research project. She continued to meet with me periodically throughout the semester to mentor me in all aspects of developing a research project, from writing questions to discussing the best software and methods for data collection. With her help and guidance, I presented my results at MSU's University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum (UURAF).”

With notable accomplishments such as co-developing Project ImPACT, a coaching program used by parents to help improve social communication in their young children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), Ingersoll inspires her students and leads by example. “Upon joining the lab during my freshman year, I was unsure of the career possibilities I could go into as a psychology major and had limited knowledge of graduate school opportunities. I am now graduating in May with plans to pursue a clinical psychology Ph.D. and follow in the footsteps of Brooke, researching early interventions for young children with ASD,” says the undergraduate nominator.

Undergraduate Research Supervisor of the Year award recipient

Dr. Zinan Wang has a keen understanding of what his mentees are capable of, often before they themselves are aware of it. A researcher within the Department of Entomology in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Wang can be relied upon to bring challenging new opportunities and unfailing encouragement to the undergraduates he supervises. According to his nominator: “Zinan would often forward me an email stating, ‘Let’s apply for this. I’ll help you.’ To which I would reply, ‘I’ve never done that before. Let’s give it a shot.’ I trusted Zinan’s judgement that said opportunity would be good for me academically and professionally.” Wang accompanies undergraduates along the path to their goals and supports them when and how they need it, from revising resumes to offering a safe space to talk through stressful moments. He also teaches them about themselves: “Through Zinan’s mentorship, I’ve grown confident in my abilities to learn new skills and ask for new responsibilities, even if they appear intimidating. Traits that I will carry with me in all my endeavors.”

The Undergraduate Research Faculty Mentor of the Year and Research Supervisor of the Year awards are completely student-driven, as only undergraduate researchers can submit nominations and the university’s undergraduate Research Ambassadors review and select the finalists.