We are pleased to recognize two dedicated postdoctoral mentors who received Honorable Mentions for the 2021 Excellence in Postdoctoral Mentoring Award!
Dr. Erika Hamden, an Assistant Professor in Astronomy and the Steward Observatory, was nominated for being, “an active advocate for increasing diversity and equity within Steward Observatory and the overarching Astronomy community.”
Dr. Hamden encourages her research team, most of whom are people of color, to express and embrace their racial identity within their academic environments and communities. She regularly connects with her postdocs by holding meetings with them to track their progress and listen to their concerns.
Dr. Hamden provides leadership roles to her junior postdocs in her large NASA space mission concept, Hyperion. This has offered them extremely rare and valuable experiences in the development of space hardware, as well as confidence in their career aspirations. Inspired by Dr. Hamden, two of her postdoc mentees created their own NASA SmallSat mission concept and submitted it to the 2020 NASA Astrophysics Pioneers call ($20M). A postdoc-led space mission of this scale is unprecedented.
Dr. Robin B. Harris, a Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, was nominated because she ”has led our program skillfully, compassionately, and successfully.”
Dr. Harris is the type of leader and mentor who, in the midst of her powerful career trajectory, turns and looks behind her, extending a hand to those coming up. She supports and values her postdocs while remaining sensitive to the many power differentials present in society and inherent within the mentor-mentee relationship. She creates empowering and safe spaces for personal development and growth for her postdocs.
In the words of her nominators “Robin embodies both intellect and leadership because she prioritizes mentoring and supporting the research of postdoctoral fellows despite having multiple research and administrative roles.” She is also an active advocate and constantly seeks additional resources to support trainees and ensure they have the research, administrative, and material support needed to be successful. She has encouraged her postdocs to develop productive external research collaborations, and has effectively mentored multiple trainees in the submission of National Institutes of Health F32, K99R00, and K01 proposals.