CONTACT: Brittney Van Der Werff, firstname.lastname@example.org
New Mexico — Two New Mexico professors have been selected for this year’s NM EPSCoR Mentor Award — Dr. Olga Lavrova and Dr. Ali Bidram. Nominated by their mentees, both recipients stand out for their exceptional efforts to build strong professional and interpersonal relationships with students; advance their mentees’ academic, research, and professional goals; and create inclusive environments for diverse students.
Dr. Lavrova, an Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at New Mexico State University (NMSU) and co-lead of one of the NM EPSCoR SMART Grid Center research teams, was nominated for her seemingly inexhaustible generosity as a mentor and teacher.
“During my studies, I am certain other students and I visited Dr. Lavrova’s office over a hundred times, in which we were always greeted with a smile,” her nominator wrote. “She always responds quickly to emails and takes a personal interest in the growth of all her students. She’s patient when clarification of concepts is needed, and excited when concepts are mastered. I feel that much of my academic success would have been impossible without Dr. Lavrova creating such a fun and engaging climate for learning.”
As a female in the male-dominated field of engineering, Dr. Lavrova understands the obstacles women face while pursuing a career in STEM and has adopted a mentorship philosophy dedicated to making her field more culturally, ethnically, and gender diverse. “My goal is to increase the participation of under-represented groups in renewable energy, focusing particularly on women in STEM, Native American, Hispanic and African American students,” Dr. Lavrova writes in her mentorship statement.
In addition to mentoring numerous students from these groups, Dr. Lavrova intentionally structures her coursework to promote inclusion through engagement. “By being Included in hands-on projects, [students] are transformed from observers to learners,” Dr. Lavrova says, explaining that such experiences are critical to combatting the perpetuation of imposter syndrome among individuals traditionally under-represented in STEM fields.
Dr. Bidram, an Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of New Mexico (UNM) and co-lead of two NM SMART Grid Center research teams was nominated separately by multiple mentees for his inclusive personality and compelling instructional style.
“His lectures, talks, and discussion are always informational and motivational. He is always interested in understanding a student’s culture and always [creates] an inclusive environment for every student. His ability to listen to students empathically and be there for them has developed a sense of ownership in me, which has eventually made me more mature and responsible at my work and decision-making level,” wrote one mentee.
Another student nominated Dr. Bidram because, “He is so patient, knowledgeable, accessible, supportive, and reliable. His mentees always feel [comfortable] to contact him to share their concerns in each stage of their study. As a mentor, he respects all his mentees regardless of their race, age, gender, culture, etc. To be honest, I can always express my opinion and feelings to Dr. Bidram without any concern [of] misunderstanding. He works hard to advance his students’ knowledge and experience to reach their goals.”
“I learned from my PhD advisor that ‘students come first,’” explains Dr. Bidram, who attributes his own success to the support of mentors throughout his career. “If I have been successful in my professional career so far this is because of the vision I have got from my mentors. [They] envisioned a bright future for me in which I could flourish and show my capabilities.”
Now, Dr. Bidram strives to do the same for his mentees, guided by a mentorship style that empowers students to recognize their value and encourages them to imagine a future in STEM where they earn a graduate degree, pursue a successful technical career, or become a leader in their field.
New Mexico EPSCoR is funded by the National Science Foundation to build the state’s capacity to conduct scientific research while cultivating a diverse, well-qualified STEM workforce. The current NM EPSCoR NSF-funded project, the NM SMART Grid Center, is addressing design, operational, data, and security challenges of next generation electric power production and delivery. Visit www.nmepscor.org to learn more.