Past ICRU Distinguished Mentors


Dr. Antentor O Hinton, Junior - Department of Internal Medicine

Nominated by Margaret Mungai, Jordan Samuel, and Serif Bacevac

Dr. Antentor Hinton, Jr. is a post-doctoral scholar in the Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center.  He was nominated by his students Margaret Mungai, Jordan Samuel, and Serif Bacevac.  Aside from Dr. Hinton’s dedication to mentorship, his optimism, and his contagious excitement for science, all three nominators individually spoke to Dr. Hinton’s concern for his mentees as people above all else.  Whether it is creating practice MCAT questions or helping to hone resumes, Dr. Hinton has gone above and beyond in his duty as a mentor to leave a deep and long-lasting impact on his students.


Dr. Joyce Tsai - College of Education; University of Iowa Museum of Art

Nominated by Lindley Warren

Dr. Joyce Tsai is a Clinical Associate Professor in the College of Education and a Curator of Art at the University Of Iowa Museum Of Art.  She was nominated by her student and ICRU Fellow Lindley Warren.  Dr. Tsai’s unique blend of expertise has made her an invaluable resource for students like Lindley.  She is an unwavering advocate for the creative scholarship of her students, working to secure funding where needed and arrange opportunities that will push students as artists and academics.  Dr. Tsai’s selfless generosity with her time has created career-defining experiences for her undergraduates.


Dr. E. Dale Abel - Department of Internal Medicine

Nominated by Nicholas McCarty and Paul Taufalele

Dr. Abel is the Chair and DEO of Internal Medicine, the Director of the Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center, the Director of the Division of Endocrinology & Metabolism in the Department of Internal Medicine, and the Head of the Interdisciplinary Diabetes Clinic at the Iowa River Landing.  On top of these highly demanding roles, he makes time to mentor a broad range of individuals, including many undergraduate students.  His nomination for this award came from seniors Niko McCarty and Paul Taufalele, who wrote that, despite his busy schedule, “[Dr. Abel] always makes himself available to assist students with their research, grant proposals, and applications; pushing them to exceed beyond previously conceived limitations.”

Dr. Gordon Buchanan - Department of Neurology

Nominated by Callie Ginapp and Stephen Kruse

Dr. Gordon Buchanan is an Assistant Professor in the University of Iowa’s Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Neuroscience.  His nomination for this award came from Callie Ginapp and Stephen Kruse.  Each nominator said that Dr. Buchanan’s successful mentorship style comes from a “guide-from-the-side” approach, allowing students autonomy while expecting self-motivation and responsibility, combined with an open-door attitude that facilitates a sense of community within the lab and a friendly environment open to questions and discovery.


Dr. Scott Baalrud - Department of Physics and Astronomy

Nominated by Patrick Adrian

Dr. Baalrud is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.  He was nominated by his student Patrick Adrian, a junior majoring in Physics who works with Dr. Baalrud in the Fundamental Plasma Theory Group.  In his nomination, Patrick wrote “Dr. Baalrud is an excellent candidate for this award because he has not restrained his mentorship to the confines of our project. Rather he has taken his role to include my life question: how to become a physicist.  He has worked to answer it in unique ways by including me in intellectual spaces in which I can develop and in situations where I can discover myself.”

Dr. Mahmoud Abou Alaiwa - Department of Internal Medicine

Nominated by Chris Cozzolino

Dr. Alaiwa is an Assistant Professor in the Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Occupational Medicine group in Internal Medicine.  He was nominated by his student Chris Cozzolino, a senior Biochemistry major researching cystic fibrosis with Dr. Alaiwa.  In the nomination, Chris wrote “I think that the main difference between Mahmoud and other mentors is that Mahmoud actively loves to learn, but takes it a step further by bringing me along for the ride. He is such an effective mentor because he will sit there with me in the room and teach me while he is learning new material himself, so that we could both move forward with the same knowledge base.  That is such a powerful way as a student to learn material.  Mahmoud has not only gained my loyalty and respect, but has made me want to provide that same experience to my future mentees.”


Larissa Samuelson Department of Psychology 

Nominated by Jordan Mattis and Daniel Plebanek

Jordan says of working with Dr. Samuelson, “she has taught me more about research than any class or other professor would have. As I write my own honors thesis, I am learning just how difficult research is, and I do not know how she makes it look so easy. No mentor is as happily committed to the mentoring process than Dr. Samuelson and I consider the time I’ve spent working with her to be the most important and influential experience I have had as an undergraduate.”

In his nomination letter, Dan wrote, “The key quality that sets Larissa apart is her dedication and investment to the advancement of her students - a win for us is a win for her too.  My involvement with Larissa has been one of the defining experiences of my undergraduate career.  She allowed me to take control of my own education. She is fully responsible for the young scientist that I have become over the past three years and I cannot thank her enough for the enormous impact she has made on my life.”


Brandon Davies - Department of Biochemistry

Nominated by Hannah Shows and Emily Britt

In support of Dr. Davie’s nomination, Hannah wrote “Dr. Davies has always made undergraduate student success a priority.  Science is very important to me and being part of the Davies Lab is always the best part of my week. Our environment is collaborative, demonstrative, didactic, and supportive. He goes out of his way to provide a balance of independence and guidance and to make sure we are getting the most out of our experience.”

In her letter, Emily said, “Dr. Davies engages my thinking by asking questions that expanded from my previous knowledge. In our weekly lab meeting everyone is encouraged to ask questions. This has been influential for me because it would be easy to sit back and be overwhelmed by the quantity of new information.  Instead, I have to engage with the material and formulate questions. I am greatly appreciative of Dr. Davies for developing me into a qualified undergraduate researcher.”



Madeline Shea

Department of Biochemistry

"Dr. Shea encourages the integration of independent thought and collaborative effort, preparing her students for dynamic careers in industrial, academic and medical environments.  In her classroom and laboratory teaching, Dr. Shea demonstrates unlimited patience and pedagogical care for every one of her researchers and students.  Our decisions to pursue research careers in biochemistry and biophysics have both been shaped by the experiences we have had working with Dr. Shea and we could not have asked for a better mentor to help us begin our careers."

-Nominated by Liam Hovey and Dagan Marx


Tori Forbes

Department of Chemistry

"Dr. Tori Forbes should absolutely be recognized as an ICRU Distinguished Mentor because without her altruistic guidance I would not be a determined chemist, I would not have developed my lab techniques, I would not have had the extraordinary research practicum, and I would not have made the decision to attend graduate school to further my chemistry education.  As my research advisor, my instructor, my backbone and my friend, Dr. Tori Forbes has continuously gone above and beyond her obligatory tasks and I am extremely grateful and forever indebted to her."

- Nominated by Madeline Basile


Charles Frohman

Department of Mathematics

"I can confidently say that Charles Frohman has influenced my education here at the University of Iowa more than any other single individual. This impact would best be described as helping me through the transition from a student of mathematics to a junior researcher and prepared me for graduate school in ways that taking classes alone would not.  Charlie has  shown me what the job of an academic mathematician entails and his teaching philosophy, one of always being available to his students, is one that I will carry with me for the rest of my career." 

- Nominated by Wade Bloomquist




Renita Schmidt

Department of Education

 "Dr. Schmidt has taught me how to ask questions and gather research independently. She made me feel like an equal, rather than another student for her to take care of. Nita deserves to be recognized because of her enthusiasm for helping others, her dedication to her students, and her willingness to let her pupils take control of their own learning experience. I could not have asked for a better mentor."

- Nominated by Kristin Wirtz





Adam Ward

Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences 

"Dr. Ward’s support goes above and beyond research projects. He has mentored us on our future interests in undergraduate theses, the possibility of graduate school, and other postgraduate career options available in our fields of study. He is committed to helping students achieve their goals in completing quality research. Dr. Ward sincerely cares about his students and wants to see us excel to the best of our ability."

- Nominated by Vincent Schrock, Joseph Honings, and Jane Wilch

*Dr. Ward accepted a new position for Fall 2014 as an Assistant Professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at the University of Indiana - Bloomington.  Best of luck, Dr. Ward!






Sarit Smolikove

Department of Biology

"Dr. Sarit Smolikove is a truly exceptional mentor because she demonstrates commitment and enthusiasm towards the scientific training of undergraduate students and towards the growth of their independence in the laboratory. She continuously fosters their development as active thinkers equipped with the tools to design, conduct and communicate their research in a variety of professional settings.  She is a thorough and excellent teacher because she not only clarifies the technical material of protocols but also takes time to explain the methodology behind protocols.  Her commitment to the initial and continuing research education of undergraduate students is exceptional.  

Dr. Smolikove has furnished me with the tools of dedication, critical thinking, communication and enthusiasm for research that I will need for success in graduate school and my future endeavors.  Sarit has also become the type of scientist I now strive to be—a brilliant thinker, exceptional teacher, and a genuine mentor. She has greatly enriched the experience of undergraduate education and has inspired her students to enjoy the research atmosphere of Iowa."

- Nominated by Bhavatharini (Rini) Kasinathan


John Finamore

Department of Philosophy

"Professor Finamore is a widely respected scholar of ancient philosophy, and doing a semester of research with him allowed me to see him at work.  I noted his strategies for approaching a text, considering a problem, and consulting secondary literature and textual apparatuses.  But my research experience was much more valuable than any observations could be alone.  He managed to strike a perfect balance between instructor and research partner, never failing to seize a teaching moment, but always encouraging and expecting substantive contributions from me.  My experience last semester was very much an apprenticeship in the methods and materials of professional research in the classics, and I think much of the value of undergraduate research lies in exactly that kind of directed, hands-on practice."

- Nominated by Kyle Oskvig


Natalie Denberg

Department of Neurology and Neuroscience

"Dr. Denburg deserves recognition as a distinguished mentor because she strives to bring the opportunity to conduct research to any student with an interest in the field. I have repeatedly witnessed her do the same for other undergraduates seeking to learn more about her work. In addition to her large breadth of knowledge and interests within the field of cognitive neuropsychology and normal aging, Dr. Denburg constantly pushes her students – both graduate and undergraduate – to contribute to her research by openly voicing their questions, comments, and concerns. This makes her lab a breeding ground of research ideas, in which anyone is welcome to contribute new hypotheses and pursue independent projects. Being part of her lab not only teaches undergraduates how to conduct a research study from question formulation to data analysis, but also instills in them the necessary confidence to present and defend their work amongst their peers, advisors, and future colleagues."  

-Nominated by Meghan Dehning, Bhuvaneswari Durairaj, Jaclyn Kamradt, Whitney Strong, Shu Teo, Angeleah Whitlach


Alan Sener

Department of Dance

"Alan is my faculty advisor in my performance based honors project in dance.  Like most mentor/mentee relationships, it is the sharing of knowledge, gentle honesty, and firm challenges that resonate deeper than the final product produced. It is Alan’s passion, honesty and innate ability to guide his students that allows him to have such a profound effect as a professor and as an artist."

-Nominated by Stephanie Baer


Ryan Flynn

Department of Biomedical Engineering

"I feel that Dr. Flynn is deserving of this recognition because as a mentor he not only helped further my research and knowledge, but he was extraordinarily supportive.  I could tell that he was more concerned with my development and understanding than the state of the project.  He was always available for meetings when I had questions or needed advice. He encouraged me to write about the project and pointed out opportunities to present my research. The thing that makes Dr. Flynn stand out the most as a mentor is that he really cares.  He cares about my development as a researcher, and my understanding as a student."

-Nominted by Adam Schwertner


James Enloe

Department of Anthropology

Dr. Enloe deserves this award not just for how directly he has contributed to my own progress as a researcher and a scholar, but because he embodies what it means to be a Distinguished Mentor. He has taken me under his wing, made me a coauthor on several of his publications, and jump started my academic and research career. This award would give him the recognition he deserves, and allow him to take in a new undergraduate as a mentee, giving someone else a chance to have the amazing experiences and opportunities I had and am eternally grateful for.

-Nominated by Neal MacDonald


Chun-Fang Wu

Department of Biology

"Prof Wu has an unwavering commitment to the development of his students. He employs several undergraduate students all of whom undertake some sort of research project. These projects are tailored to the student’s interests and address basic biological questions. Although not all of the undergraduates in the lab will pursue graduate study in this field, their experiences in the lab and the critical thinking skills they acquire will undoubtedly benefit them. Though Prof. Wu has several other duties, he is always willing to discuss the science “behind” a project, and constructively critique the results of an experiment with an undergrad. Often the results of undergraduate research projects will compliment other techniques and result in a much deeper insight on the biology of a process. His incorporation of undergraduate research not only directly benefits the students by allowing them to develop critical thinking and other skills necessary to succeed, but the scientific output of the lab, and this is what distinguishes Prof. Wu’s mentorship."

-Nominated by Altuya Iyengar


Dee Morris

Department of English

"Prof Morris was always curious and encouraging, even if these projects meant more assessment time from her. Prof Morris' comments on every project illustrated the fine level of detail she was giving each one. Prof Morris took me in, encouraged and challenged me, found ways to increase my exposure to class material that pushed my own research forward. I frequently receive e-mails from Prof Morris detailing new avenues of new media poetry or providing me a new web site to explore, even while she may be away from the campus at a conference. It is clear that those whom Prof Morris mentors are always on her mind, and she is constantly looking for ways to help us succeed."

-Nominted by Leighton Christiansen