Dr. Amanda Duffus, Gordon State College professor of biology has been named the 2023 recipient of the Mentor Award (Mid-Career) by the Biology Division of the Council on Undergraduate Research. This national award honors biology mentors for their sustained efforts in supervising undergraduate research students.
In announcing her selection, the Award Committee acknowledged the extraordinary accomplishments of Duffus and her dedication to engaging undergraduate students in the creation of new biological knowledge. “The professional dedication and sacrifice that Duffus has made to ensure all students have an opportunity to participate in meaningful UR is commendable,” said Dr. Jessica K. Clark, committee chair. Duffus’ work has resulted in nine peer-reviewed publications with undergraduate co-authors and over 80 conference presentations.
Duffus found it hard to name a particular memory that stood out from all of these experiences.
“Every mentee has impacted me, a lot of the time in ways that I didn’t expect,” Duffus said. “Projects don’t always go as expected, things don’t necessarily work right the first time (or sometimes ever!), sometimes things in life pop up and derail things too. But overcoming these challenges is where the real work goes in and where we all learn about science and ourselves.”
Clark also noted Duffus’ commitment to increasing research opportunities for non-traditional students. In a letter supporting her nomination, a student remarked, “It can be difficult for the non-trads, who have jobs, families, and responsibilities that keep them away from campus during events, to feel included in the extracurricular research activities on-campus. Dr. Duffus targets those non-traditional students who miss out on occasions and helps them to find novel ways to engage with their education.”
Duffus said non-traditional students are often overlooked when it comes to UR experiences and emphasized the importance of giving these students the same opportunities as others.
“Giving [non-traditional students] a chance to work in the lab often just requires a bit of schedule tweaking and flexibility. A lot of my projects recently have been genetics based, so the mentee can work at their own pace on or off campus. This flexibility is a good thing for non-trad students who are usually highly motivated,” Duffus said.
Duffus’ goal in mentorship is to expand and grow the GSC Undergraduate Research Symposium.
“We have a lot of excellent faculty mentors who volunteer to work with students every year, but the students, especially post COVID-19, don’t seem as interested as they once were,” Duffus said. “Faculty know the value of these experiences, so we just need to get better at reaching out to students who would also benefit.”
Duffus’ 12.5 years of experience qualifies her as mid-career scientist, mentoring undergraduate researchers. Even with all that she has accomplished in this area, Duffus said she is still “really surprised” of her national award win.
“The time I spend with my undergraduate mentees is at the core of what I am most passionate about, teaching through research. It is also something that I enjoy tremendously. It is an honor to receive this award, as it means that GSC is making a splash on the national stage as well,” Duffus said.