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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: TBD

Research mentors are nominated through a two-part process: students, faculty, or staff submit recommendations for a mentor to be considered for the award, then home departments select one nominee and submit an application packet.

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

Writing a letter:

If your mentor's academic department selects your mentor as the departmental nominee, they will contact you to write a full letter of recommendation for the nomination packet.  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.

Each department can nominate one faculty member for the K. Barbara Schowen Mentor Award per year.  Follow the guidelines below to nominate someone:

1. Decide which faculty member your department will nominate. 

The Center for Undergraduate Research has collected student recommendations for faculty mentors to be considered and, as of February 22, 2021, has forwarded these to the department chairs and/or directors of undergraduate studies in the faculty member's home department. After this, departments will need to decide on one faculty member to nominate for the award.  Departments can nominate any member of their faculty, regardless of whether that person was officially recommended through our online form.

2.Compile an application packet. 

Nomination packets should include:

  • a letter of nomination from the academic department that addresses how the nominee fulfills the evaluation criteria
  • a list of undergraduates mentored by the faculty member, along with a brief (1-3 sentences) description of the research/creative accomplishments of each student (e.g. completion of a thesis, presentations, juried art exhibitions, awards, etc.)
  • at least one letter of support from a current or former undergraduate student
    • Additionally, departments can choose to include letters of support from alumni or faculty members, as well as any other materials that document the mentor's commitment to undergraduate research.
    • The person who is assembling the nomination packet for a department typically contacts the nominee to let them know that they are being nominated and to get relevant information.

3. Submit your nomination. 

Email a single nomination packet in PDF form to cur@ku.edu by March 23rd, 2021 at 11:59 pm.

YearNameHome Department
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

At KU

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.