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K. Barbara Schowen Research Mentor Award

The K. Barbara Schowen Undergraduate Research Mentor Award is an annual award that honors the contribution of faculty who mentor undergraduate researchers to their students' development and to their own discipline.

Nominations Due: Nominations for 2024 are now closed. | Nominee Forms Due: April 5th, 2024 | Letters of Recommendation Due: April 19th, 2024

Research mentors are nominated through the following process: students, faculty, or staff submit recommendations for a mentor to be considered for the award, the nominated mentor fills out the nominee form and provides student names to write letters of support, students submit letters, and CUR assembles the application packet. Faculty are free to nominate themselves. The nomination, application, and award process takes place each spring. 

The award recipient must be a KU Lawrence Campus tenure-track or tenured faculty member.  Faculty in any department are eligible, but past recipients of this award cannot be nominated again. 

Note: non-tenure-track faculty members, instructors, staff members, postdoctoral researchers, and graduate students are not eligible for this award, and should instead be nominated for the Undergraduate Research Mentor Award.

Though they may not meet all of the criteria listed below, these awardees typically:

  • establish expectations clearly
  • actively and effectively guide students' research, creative projects, and development, helping them to move from directed toward independent research and creative work
  • maintain high standards for undergraduate performance
  • encourage students to share the results of their work as appropriate to the discipline (e.g., meetings, conferences, exhibits, performances, publications)
  • actively prepare students for success in applications to future careers and/or graduate and professional schools
  • actively encourage and support the participation of students from underrepresented backgrounds in undergraduate research
  • go above and beyond the average mentoring expectations for people in that department or at that stage in their career
  • actively support departmental efforts to encourage undergraduate research

If you are nominated for the K. Barbara Schowen Undergraduate Research Mentor Award, you will receive an email from the Center for Undergraduate Research with a link to the Nominee Form. The Nominee Form deadline is April 5, 2024, 11:59PM.

Filling out the Nominee Form:

The Nominee Form includes a list of all undergraduates mentored, the names of three students who could write letters of support (two are required for consideration, but we will reach out to three), a brief statement of mentorship, and a few other questions. After the Nominee Form is submitted, the Center for Undergraduate Research will reach out to the three students you named to solicit letters of support.

If you wish to add additional letters of support from students, faculty peers, staff, or supervisors you may do so, but only two additional letters will be considered. Please have additional letters emailed to with the subject line Schowen Letter (Last Name of Nomineeby April 19, 2024, 11:59PM.

Writing a letter:

If your mentor nominates/names you to write a full letter of support (also referred to as a letter of recommendation) for their nomination packet, the Center for Undergraduate Research will contact you. Letters from students should be emailed to (or ewolfram@ku.eduwith the subject line Schowen Letter (Last Name of Nomineewith the deadline April 19, 2024, 11:59PM.

These recommendation letters are typically 1-2 pages. Here are some tips to make your recommendation letter stand out: 

Be specific:

Recommendation letters tend to have a lot of broad sentences along the lines of "this mentor cares about their students."  Being specific and providing examples can help your letter stand out.  Show your reader how your mentor excels rather than just stating that they do.  For example, writing something along the lines of "my mentor always asks about my family at our meetings, they texted me to make sure that I was okay when I was out sick for an entire week, and they always stop by to say hello when they see me in the lab" provides a much clearer picture of what your mentor actually does to show that they care about their students. Really strong letters give clear glimpses into how the mentor interacts with their students on a day-to-day level and help the committee "see" the work of mentoring through specific examples.

Address the evaluation criteria: 

The review committee is looking for examples of specific things when they read the nomination packet.  A good starting point for your letter would be to look at the evaluation criteria listed on this website and write down any examples of these criteria from your interactions with your mentor.  When you write the draft of your letter, it can help to use the same or similar language in your letter to make sure the review committee makes a connection between your example and the evaluation criteria.

YearNameHome Department
2024Cindy BerrieChemistry
2024Laura KirkTheatre & Dance
2023Maggie WagnerEcology and Evolutionary Biology & Kansas Biological Survey
2022Lena HilemanEcology and Evolutionary Biology
2021James BlakemoreChemistry
2021Jiakun Jack ZhangPolitical Science
2020Jennifer GleasonEcology and Evolutionary Biology
2019Deanna Hanson-AbromeitMusic Therapy
2018Derek ReedApplied Behavioral Science
2018Kapila SilvaArchitecture
2017Audrey LambMolecular Biosciences
2017Lorie VanchenaGermanic Languages & Literatures
2016Evangelia ChrysikouPsychology
2016Shannon PortilloPublic Affairs & Administration
2015Joy WardEcology & Evolutionary Biology
2015Paula FiteClinical Child Psychology
2014Kostas KokkinakisSpeech Language Hearing
2013Cima KatzVisual Art
2013Adrian MelottPhysics & Astronomy
2012Michael RubinChemistry
2011Rob WardMolecular Biosciences
2010Patricia HawleyPsychology
2009Dave BessonPhysics and Astronomy
2008William PickingMolecular Biosciences
2007Holly StorkelSpeech Language Hearing


The K. Barbara Schowen Undergraduate Research Mentor Award is named after long-time KU professor of Chemistry Barbara Schowen.  After completing her graduate work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1964, Schowen was a faculty member at Baker University in Baldwin City, Kansas before coming to KU.  In 1995 she was promoted to Full Professor and Associate Chair for Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Chemistry. In these capacities, she was responsible for overseeing the undergraduate educational mission of the Department as well as teaching courses in general and organic chemistry. She worked to establish honors sections in general and organic chemistry, to create and teach a senior-level undergraduate seminar course, and for the general improvement of laboratory instruction and instrumentation, as well as to encourage and facilitate the involvement of chemistry majors in research. 

In August 1996, Barbara Schowen was named Director of the University of Kansas’ University Honors Program,  a program designed to provide honors courses and specialized advising for the most promising and motivated of the University’s undergraduates.  While as director, she started the Undergraduate Research Symposium for KU students to present their research on the KU Campus. Dr. Schowen retired from the University in 2003.

At a National Level

Dr. Schowen has been recognized nationally for her leadership role in publicizing the educational importance of undergraduate research for science majors and for her efforts in providing opportunities for science majors to engage in genuine research experiences during their undergraduate years. She was the co-PI for an NSF-sponsored national Workshop on Research in the Undergraduate Curriculum in 1990, co-organizer of a Symposium on Undergraduate Research held at the 1992 San Francisco National Meeting of the American Chemical Society, and, in September of 1997, an invited speaker at a workshop devoted to assessing the value of research held at the National Academy of Science in Washington, DC.  At the University of Kansas, she was the coordinator of more than eighteen years of highly successful funded summer undergraduate research participation programs in Chemistry, including NSF-URP and NSF-REU Site projects. The REU Site has been in continuous operation since 1988.  In 1996 she received the first Midwest Award for Mentoring Undergraduate Research sponsored by the Sioux Valley Section of the American Chemical Society. Since 1988, she has presented papers dealing with undergraduate education at 20 regional or national meetings and symposia (13 invited).  She was elected in 1988 to the Kansas Women's Hall of Fame and has received recognition from various student groups for excellence in teaching.  In August of 1997, she received a Kemper Fellowship from the Kansas City-based Kemper Foundation and the University of Kansas for excellence in undergraduate teaching and advising.