Faculty Mentor Awards presented to Larsen, Ludy

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Undergraduate researchers and the faculty who inspired them were honored May 2 following the April 22 Undergraduate Research Symposium. Hosted by the Center for Undergraduate Research and Scholarship, this year’s event had 30 percent more participants than last year’s and included 137 presentations (110 posters and 27 oral presentations).

“I was so impressed again with the quality of the student presentations at this year’s symposium,” said Dr. Cordula Mora, CURS director. “One could have easily forgotten that these were all undergraduate students, who are just starting out with their careers. Just imagine what they will be capable of accomplishing in the future! Presenting at the symposium is an important steppingstone for these students. It allows them to develop the skills needed to showcase their outstanding work for their career development.” 

In addition to the student winners, two faculty members, Dr. Raymond Larsen, biological sciences, and Dr. Mary-Jon Ludy, food and nutrition, were recognized for their mentorship of undergraduates. Each received an original glass award.

Larsen is a longtime advocate for undergraduate research. He enthusiastically involves students in numerous research projects and says he “appreciates the opportunity to have undergraduates in the laboratory; their zest and engagement drives a lab community that fosters creativity and diversity of thought. While every member of the community does some lab work, imagination and critical thinking are not confined to the bench.” 

The Larsen laboratory focuses on the mechanisms of energy transfer between bacterial membranes, with current projects addressing the contributions of membrane energization to the susceptibility of bacteria to viruses, the transport of toxins, and resistance to antimicrobial agents. More than 40 undergraduate members of the Larsen lab have completed independent research projects, resulting in presentations at regional and national meetings and in publications.  

“Dr. Larsen goes above any expectation one might have for a faculty mentor and is genuinely interested in how our experience in his lab will benefit us for our future endeavors,” said an undergraduate.

His students praise his dedication, his teaching style and his commitment to their success.

“Dr. Larsen is undoubtedly the epitome of an ideal faculty mentor,” according to one of his students. “He is beyond gracious with his time, the research opportunities and experiences has provided. Dr. Larsen makes each of us feel as though we are a priority and that our research is as important as those vying for the master’s or Ph.D. I wish that everyone could have the opportunity to work with such a motivating, kind, and intelligent faculty mentor so that they too could find enjoyment and interest in research.”

Said another, “Dr. Larsen has made microbiology particularly interesting, because he uses a hands-on approach with a project that is unique to me.”

Honors projects in his lab have considered a range of topics, including “Dental Hygiene Correlates to Risk Behavior in College Students,” “Tuberculosis as an Iconic Theme in 19th Century Literature,” and “Political Ideology and Health Care in the Caribbean.”     

Larsen earned his Ph.D. in microbiology at the University of Montana in 1986, then served as a National Institutes of Health postdoctoral fellow and subsequently as a senior research associate at Washington State University before joining the faculty at BGSU in the biology department in 2002.  

 Also honored was Ludy. Since joining the BGSU faculty in 2011, she has provided many students with their initial immersion into research. Her undergraduate research team has presented its work at regional), national and international conferences and published manuscripts in peer-reviewed journals.

“She not only demonstrates excellence teaching her nutrition courses by actively engaging students, but conducts a multitude of student-run research projects,” an undergraduate wrote.

Ludy is the founding director of the Health, Wellness, and You Academic Learning Community, where first-year students (with the guidance of upperclassmen, graduate students, and faculty mentors) become researchers on their own health patterns and learn strategies for improving their self-care. The learning community dovetails with her own overall research focus in energy balance through dietary manipulation. She is guided by a desire to conduct research that has practical application in real-life situations and involves students in the research process.

Ludy’s hope is that, “by promoting an early interest, understanding, and appreciation of research among future nutrition professionals, a ripple effect will occur – BGSU will be stronger, students’ lives will be richer, and the field will move forward.”

One of her mentees wrote, “Her outstanding mentorship led to me completing my Honors project as well as presenting my poster at several conferences. Without her help, I would not have had these experiences. She deserves recognition for everything she has done, not only for me, but also for all the other students she has taken under her wing.”

In addition to teaching, she is recognized by student for her effective advising. “She continually went above and beyond her role as advisor,” wrote one of her advisees. ”Dr. Ludy has encouraged me to be ambitious and active in the field of dietetics, which has made a huge impact on my life.”

Ludy brings a wealth of experience outside academia to her teaching. She graduated from BGSU with a Bachelor of Science in dietetics in 2002. She earned a Master of Science in clinical nutrition from Tufts University, interned with a vitamin A program in Nepal, conducted HIV research in Thailand, taught community development in Costa Rica, worked as an outpatient dietitian in Boston, and earned a Ph.D. from Purdue University. 

“Dr. Ludy is an amazing mentor, advisor and teacher,” summed up one of her many appreciative students.

Student winners were chosen in two categories. In the oral presentation category, the three winners were Micah Haseman, a physics major advised by Dr. Farida Selim, for “Atomic Layer Deposition of Oxide Thin-Films for Optoelectronic and Solar Applications”; Tabitha DiBacco, a psychology and communication major advised by Dr. Dara Musher-Eisenman, for “College Students' Perceptions of Abuse,” and Kandann Coleman, a nutrition and chemistry major advised by Tracy Tabaczynski, TRIO/McNair Scholars programs, for “Secure Your Bobby Pins and Secure Your Job: The Relationship between Natural Hair and Job Security.” Coleman also won an earlier award for her presentation at the CURS Undergraduate Symposium on Diversity.

In the poster presentation category, Allison Humber, a biochemistry and biology major advised by Dr. Jill Zeilstra-Ryalls, had two posters that scored equally high in third place: “The Role of Acetylation in Rhodobacter sphaeroides Photosynthesis” and “Determination of the Bacterial Source of RsaI.” Also winning were chemistry major Nicholas Bischoff, advised by Dr. Bob Midden, for “Evaluation of Wastewater Treatment to Reduce Nutrient Transport,” and dietetics major Tiffany Smith, advised by Ludy, for “Class-Based Mentoring for Undergraduate Dietetics Students.”