Three University of Minnesota faculty members were honored for their outstanding mentorship at the CTSI Translational Science Symposium and Poster Session on Sept. 20, 2023.
These awards honor outstanding research mentors within CTSI’s many training programs for students, fellows, and early-career faculty. Mentees nominate the mentors, and submissions include letters from at least one additional mentee and one of the mentor's colleagues. Faculty are selected for these awards based on the research guidance they provide, their interpersonal and motivational skills, their promotion of mentees’ career development, and their mentor training record.
This year's outstanding mentors include:
- Mentor of the Year: Dr. Jeffrey Wozniak
- Junior Mentor of the Year: Dr. Forum Kamdar
- Biostatistician/Informatician Mentor of the Year: Dr. Erich Kummerfeld
Mentor of the Year: Dr. Jeffrey Wozniak
Jeffrey Wozniak, PhD, LP, is a professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Director of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Research. He is a mentor for the K12 Scholars Career Development Program.
His primary research interest is in Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD), and he directs the University's FASD Research Program. He is also interested in psychometrics and has been involved in the development of several neuropsychological instruments, including infant development and visual-perceptual processing measures.
Excerpts from letters nominating Dr. Wozniak:
“Since I joined the faculty at the University of Minnesota as an Assistant Professor, Jeff has been a consistently outstanding mentor, exceptional role model, and supportive colleague.”
“Despite the fact that he has extraordinary demands on his own time as a clinician, educator, and accomplished research investigator, it is clear that Jeff is passionate about helping others develop their careers and attain their goals. His mentoring efforts are far-reaching across students and mentees at many levels.”
“Dr. Wozniak regularly conveys, not just in his words but also in his actions, that he truly believes in his mentees. To have someone who believes in you throughout your career growth is an incredible gift. It’s a gift he gives generously to many people.”
“My experiences working within Dr. Wozniak’s research team have been some of the most meaningful and important of my professional career. He continuously seeks to promote the independence of trainees by encouraging curiosity, providing close supervision and guidance whenever needed, and stimulating educational discussions about research methodology and best practices.”
This excerpt from Dr. Wozniak’s Mentoring Philosophy Statement captures the essence of what makes him such a highly valued and successful mentor:
“I thrive when I can help someone obtain a grant, initiate a project, navigate a challenge, or earn a promotion. A philosophy of service keeps me humble and naturally orients my approach to mentees in the direction of collegiality as opposed to a more hierarchical approach. I look for opportunities to be generous with my time, advice, and resources, and I feel strongly that helping young researchers to forge a path, acquire skills and confidence, and develop a sustainable set of research interests is critical to the health of the University of Minnesota.”
Junior Mentor of the Year: Dr. Forum Kamdar
Forum Kamdar, MD, PhD, FACC, is assistant professor of Medicine in the Cardiovascular Division of the Department of Medicine. Her clinical and research interests focus on cardiomyopathy associated with neuromuscular disorders, such as muscular dystrophies, and clinical and translational research in mechanical circulatory support.
Excerpts from letters nominating Dr. Kamdar:
“Forum demonstrates her commitment to mentorship and sponsorship through promotion of my career and other trainees' career development. She has championed my authorship on manuscripts based on my contributions in addition to helping develop these manuscripts. I meet with her regularly and she maintains an open dialogue and elicits my input on projects and collaborations. She also asks for feedback on mentoring and how else she can support my career to ensure a collaborative atmosphere.”
“Dr. Kamdar is a role model as a physician and scientist through her accountability, leadership, and commitment to mentorship. She leads by example and consistently demonstrates accountability towards me and all lab members.”
“Forum has promoted her trainees through publications and by supporting their research presentations at local and national meetings. She is a strong advocate for young physician-scientists and precepts MSTP [Medical Scientist Training Program] students in her neuromuscular cardiomyopathy clinic. She is now also significantly involved in recruiting applicants for PSTP [Physician-Scientist Training Program] who are interested in pursuing a career in cardiology.”
Biostatistician/Informatician Mentor of the Year Award: Dr. Erich Kummerfeld
Erich Kummerfeld, PhD, is a research assistant professor in the Institute for Health Informatics. His expertise includes causal discovery analysis techniques. He has special expertise with cutting-edge exploratory statistical analysis methods for discovering and investigating unmeasured (latent) variables.
Excerpts from letters nominating Dr. Kummerfeld:
“His mentoring approach emphasizes genuine scientific curiosity, breadth of methodological expertise, and a commitment to meaningful science over numerical metrics, a stance that is truly refreshing in today's academia.”
“Dr. Kummerfeld has been an incredibly kind, supportive, and effective mentor. It would be difficult to overstate the degree to which his mentorship has transformed my research interests and positively changed the trajectory of my career.”
“To thrive in academia, I believe it is paramount to have mentors to challenge, guide, and inspire you. Dr. Kummerfeld exemplifies all these qualities and continues to be a great source of motivation and guidance to his mentees and students, all while pursuing cutting-edge research of his own. Dr. Kummerfeld’s dedication to mentorship goes far beyond the expected, creating an environment that nurtures not only academic excellence but also personal growth and confidence in his students. His ability to communicate and share his love and enthusiasm about research sets him apart.”
CTSI and its partners offer training to help University of Minnesota faculty members improve their research mentorship skills. This ultimately prepares them to support budding student, trainee, and faculty researchers. Find more information on the CTSI website.