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April 15, 2014

Undergraduate Research Faculty Mentor of the Year Award winners named

Natalie Phillips, assistant professor in English, and Christopher Waters, assistant professor in microbiology and molecular genetics, were both recent recipients of the annual Undergraduate Research Faculty Mentor of the Year Award.

Two awards are given each year – one to a faculty member representing science and engineering, which was given to Waters, and one to a faculty member representing the social sciences and humanities, which was given to Phillips.

Katherine Grimes, an undergraduate student in the College of Arts and Letters Department of Writing, Rhetoric and American Cultures and one of Phillips’ mentees, was one of six students who nominated Phillips for the award.

“Natalie’s commitment to her students, both in the lab and the classroom, is unmatched,” Grimes said. “She is willing to aid any student who asks for her assistance, helping them accomplish personal academic goals by sacrificing what little free time she has for individual meetings. This is evident by the growing number of students that she mentors. She takes a genuine interest in these students’ potential to succeed beyond the lab as well as within it.”

Jennifer Nyberg, an undergraduate student in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics and one of Waters’ mentees, was one of four students who nominated Waters for the award.

“Chris is a great teacher because he likes to challenge the undergrads and try to get us to figure out the next step in the research process and figure out any problems ourselves,” Nyberg said. “He acts as a guide, steering us in the right direction but not giving us exact answers. He is always respectful if I am having trouble grasping a concept and immediately explains it another way to help me understand. Chris always maintains a professional, but fun and inviting atmosphere in the lab, making it enjoyable to learn new techniques.”

This award recognizes MSU faculty members who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to mentoring undergraduate researchers. The award is completely student-driven, as only undergraduate researchers can submit nominations and the University’s Undergraduate Research Ambassadors review and select the finalists.

“These awards are truly special because they are determined by our undergraduate researchers, based upon their personal experience with faculty members,” Korine Wawrzynski, assistant dean of Academic Initiatives & director of Undergraduate Research, said. “It gives our students an opportunity to publicly thank their mentors for the assistance they have provided them.”

The awards were presented during the annual University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum on April 4, 2014.

For more information about undergraduate research at MSU, visit