This academic year, the Office of Graduate Education honors quality mentoring through shout-outs. Mentorship is a key component of academic science, and it comes in many forms. In addition to “official” mentors, we receive mentorship from peers, labmates, course instructors, dissertation committee members, and so many others. To celebrate mentorship in our community at UNC, this year’s mentoring awards were open to all nominees – faculty, grad students, postdocs, staff, postbacs, and anyone else.

Mentoring takes many different forms, and we asked nominators to select one (or more) of these types of mentorship that their nominee exemplifies.

  • Coach: helps you to create plans, set goals, evaluate your progress, and stay accountable
  • Advocate: speaks on your behalf with others, helps you navigate power dynamics or UNC policies
  • Connector: fosters your professional and personal networks, introduces you to other scientists and people with careers of interest
  • Role Model: someone who displays skills or qualities that you want to emulate (you may not even work with them directly)
  • Technique Teacher: your go-to person to learn a new technique and troubleshoot
  • Identity Champion: validates your intersectional identities, shows curiosity, provides equitable opportunities
  • General Mentoring: any other mentoring that doesn’t fit the above categories

Most Praise

Jonathan Schisler, PhD
Assistant Professor, Dept. of Pharmacology & McAllister Heart Institute

24 students, staff, and faculty submitted nominations to celebrate Jonathan as an advocate, coach, role model, connector, identity champion, and technique teacher.

“Dr. Schisler was the first one willing to take a chance on me, and his level of confidence in me encourages me to have faith in myself (if someone who is as intelligent and cool as he is trusts me with all of that fancy science equipment, I figured I must not be as dumb as I thought).”

“He is the PI who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. In fact, on days when I had dissections running late into the evening, he would roll his sleeves up, sit down, and help me process the tissues so that I could go home earlier. He’s a busy guy, but he’s never too busy to lend a hand.”

“Dr. Schisler has helped me through a difficult time within the lab by explaining my options and allowing me to express my needs. He is such a kind person who can get along with anyone and find common ground.”

“Jonathan also fosters an environment of impressive peer-to-peer mentoring, which provides his more advanced students with training in mentorship and their own experience mentoring others that they can use to ‘pay it forward’ as their careers advance.”



Elizabeth Gurysh, PhD
Research Scientist, School of Pharmacy, Division of Pharmacoengineering & Molecular Pharmaceutics

“Many of the graduate students within our lab and on our floor look up to her for her scientific expertise, managerial skills, and kind character… In modeling work-life balance, she shows us that we can do intense and demanding science while still catering to our personal life goals and needs.”

Laura Raffield, PhD
Assistant Professor, Genetics Dept.

“Laura is a better mentor than I ever imagined possible… She always knows what’s best to prioritize and reminds me of tasks on separate projects that I had completely forgotten about. I joke that I don’t know how I’ll ever be able to have another boss after Laura because she’s been so great!”

Shehzad Sheikh, MD, PhD
Professor, Dept. of Medicine

“I leave every single meeting with him feeling so much better about my project. He does an incredible job of taking a bunch of ideas and creating a plan.”

Matthew C. Wolfgang, PhD
Associate Professor, Microbiology & Immunology Dept. and Marsico Lung Institute

“He gave me enough freedom to decide what I want to learn during grad school based on what I am likely going to need in my future career. Whenever I needed to learn something that was far from his own skill set, he will personally find somebody from a different lab and even from a different university to train me on that.”



Michael Love, PhD
Associate Professor, Genetics and Biostatistics Depts.

“He exemplifies scientific excellence, integrity, and transparency, and pushes for acceptance and equality for all scientists. He is constantly educating himself on best practices, providing educational resources for his students about their projects and how scientists can do better to benefit society and our peers.”



Timothy Elston, PhD
Professor, Dept. of Pharmacology

“Tim’s commitment to foster an environment of collaboration and networking has had a profound impact on his students.”

Baggio Evangelista, PhD
Postdoctoral Research Associate, Neurology Dept.
UNC Alum, Cell Biology & Physiology Program

“His extraordinary creativity has fostered the development of innovative research directions that would not otherwise exist. By passing these thoughts and techniques on to others he serves as an outstanding role model for innovative research.”


Role Model

Jeanne-Marie, McPherson
PhD Candidate, Genetics & Molecular Biology Program

“She is intentional and proactive about setting clear expectations and establishing how/when to communicate with her mentees. She also exhibits incredible work ethic that other students, including her undergrads, should strive to attain.”

Anna Salvador, PhD, RD, LDN
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Center for Gastrointestinal Biology & Disease

“Always willing to answer questions about science, grad school or life in general… I am just in constant awe of her and how much she accomplishes!”

Gavin Schmitz, PhD
MD-PhD Student, Pharmacology Program

“I have always known Gavin to be extremely generous with his time; he will never turn down the opportunity to help.”

“His dedication and excitement for the science has pervaded the lab culture and makes me excited to go in every day.”

“It truly feels like he cares not only for my academic progress, but overall professional wellbeing and general happiness… His mentorship makes me want to pursue research more.”

Sandra Zarmer
PhD Student, Pharmacology Program

“Sandy frequently talks with me and our other labmates about our projects. She suggests thoughtful experiments and asks insightful questions that have ended up changing the direction of my research on more than one occasion.”


Technique Teacher

Alex Bastian, PhD
Postdoctoral Scholar, Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center

“He has a real passion for teaching. He is patient and thoughtful in his approach, targeting his teaching style to each individual learner. He spends the time to make sure everyone understands the material.”

Ian McCabe
PhD Student, Cell Biology & Physiology Program

“Ian is absolutely fearless about trying something new. He will read about a technique or protocol, and think ‘might as well try it’… If you are chatting about your project and next steps, he will suggest an experiment or a new technique to try, or he will suggest that you talk to a specific graduate student that he knows has experience in what you’re thinking about doing.”

Jesse Niehaus, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow, Neuroscience Center
UNC Alum, Neuroscience Program

“Jesse dedicated significant time to ensure my understanding of new topics. His profound scientific enthusiasm for tackling complex questions were truly inspiring… He has made sure to keep me updated on project progress and has offered advice on scientific questions as well as help with deciding on a dissertation lab.”


General Mentoring

Jeremy Cohen, PhD
Senior Research Scientist, Neuroscience Center

“Jeremy provides mentorship and guidance in methodology, experimentation, troubleshooting, and analysis. His expertise, attention to detail, and systematic approach are extremely valuable.

Cole Martin
PhD Candidate, Pharmacology Program

“Not only does he help troubleshoot experiments positively and teach techniques in an understandable way, but he approaches his mentees with open curiosity in how they think about experiments and then builds off of their ideas to collectively form a plan for rigorous science. Cole treats everyone with the same amount of respect and assumes everyone, regardless of background, has something valuable to add to the conversation.

Meghan E. Rebuli, PhD
Assistant Professor, Pediatrics Dept.
Director of Graduate Studies, Curriculum in Toxicology & Environmental Medicine

“She is an incredible mentor, and such a great help in calming the anxieties involved in navigating grad school.

Erin Steinbach, MD, PhD
Assistant Professor, Dept. of Medicine, Division of Rheumatology, Allergy, and Immunology

“She is my go to person for learning bench top techniques, always helping problem solve experiments… She is an incredible role model, providing a great example of a successful woman in STEM. I truly would not be surviving grad school without Erin’s support and patience.

Sam Wolff, PhD
Assistant Professor, Genetics & Computational Medicine Program
UNC Alum, Neuroscience Program

“He is patient when students make mistakes, and always encourages them to learn something from them… He sets a good example for students by taking on projects that he is less familiar with and breaking down the new technique into small steps. Sam is also very attentive to how students are doing personally and offers an approachable and listening ear.