Biology Professor Given National Mentoring Award
Dr. Maryann Herman, associate professor of biology at St. John Fisher College, has been awarded a Mid-Career Mentor Award from the Biology Division of the Council on Undergraduate Research. This national award honors biology mentors for their sustained efforts in supervising undergraduate research students.
“The award committee recognizes the extraordinary accomplishments of Dr. Herman and her clear dedication to engaging undergraduate students in the creation of new biological knowledge,” said Dr. Janet Morrison, a member of the award committee. “We were also impressed by Dr. Herman’s dedication to actively pursuing professional development opportunities to maximize her potential as a strong research mentor, and also to learn how to best create an equitable, inclusive, lab environment for her students.”
In her 13 years at the College, Herman has mentored 64 undergraduate researchers. Seventy percent of her mentees have presented at least once at a local, regional, or national scientific meeting and more than 75 percent are in graduate programs or have earned an advanced degree.
Behind those impressive statistics are the relationships Herman has been able to build while working side-by-side with students on their research efforts. Recent graduate Liga Kalnina ’20 began working with Herman as a sophomore, exploring the connection between fungi and runners. When Kalnina was unable to return to campus due to COVID restrictions, she said Herman went “above and beyond” and performed the lab bench work needed to complete the research and worked with her via Zoom to ensure she was included in the work.
“Without her dedication to be creative to mentoring in COVID times, we would not have been able to conclude our final research experiments and submit our manuscript,” Kalnina wrote in a letter nominating Herman for the award. “Dr. Herman embodies everything an exceptional mentor should. She inspires, teaches, provides opportunities, and models success for her students.”
As a researcher in her own right, Herman investigates interactions between plants, microbes, and the environment. One focus is on using plants and microbes to remediate lead-contaminated soils in Rochester. She also has projects that explore the prevalence of antibiotic resistance bacteria in local lakes and rivers.
This past year, Herman was chosen to serve as the dedicated departmental advisor to biology Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP) scholars. These students are underrepresented minority and/or economically disadvantaged STEM undergraduates who are given monetary support and greater exposure to research experiences and professional development opportunities. As a ‘pre-research mentor,’ Herman works with students earlier in their academic journey to help them establish connections with research mentors and peers, explore community opportunities, and serve as a source of encouragement.
“This experience has been eye opening as I’m gaining a great understanding of the enormity of barriers that many students face but rarely discuss with professors,” she said. “I am using this opportunity to better appreciate and advocate for practices that meet the needs of our student mentees.”
Herman holds a bachelor’s degree from Allegheny College and a doctoral degree from Cornell University.