Mentoring Award: Wheatley

On April 12, 2012 by Grad Forum

On Tuesday, April 10th, Dartmouth’s Graduate Student Council (GSC) announced the recipients of the 2012 Faculty Mentor Awards at the Graduate Poster Session. Established in 2005, the award recognizes and highlights the outstanding graduate mentoring activities that are undertaken by Dartmouth faculty advisors. In addition to publicly recognizing each recipient’s contributions to the school’s graduate community, the GSC also credits $500 dollars to each faculty member’s Dartmouth account to encourage further mentoring. This year, Dean Madden of Molecular and Cellular Biology (MCB) and Thalia Wheatley of Psychological and Brain Sciences (PBS) were selected for the award.

Each year, students from all of Dartmouth’s Arts and Sciences graduate programs submit letters of recommendation to the Graduate Studies Office for faculty members who they feel exhibit excellent mentoring qualities. All nominated faculty members are then asked to email their curriculum vitae to the award’s selection committee—a panel of student volunteers from the GSC’s Executive Board—who then review all of the letters of recommendation submitted for each nominee before selecting the award’s recipients. 

Professor Thalia Wheatley of Psychological and Brain Sciences (PBS) was selected as one of this year’s award recipients. A Dartmouth faculty member since 2006, Wheatley’s lab is currently comprised of three graduate students and five research assistants. The primary research focus of Wheatley’s lab is how humans understand and react to other individuals, and how the human brain has evolved to handle the computations underlying this social intelligence.

Thalia Wheatley was chosen as a recipient of this year’s Faculty Mentor Award by the Graduate Student Council because of her dedication to graduate mentorship at Dartmouth, and her ability to advise graduate students with varying research interests. As explained by Oliva Kang, a member of Wheatley’s lab who also works with an advisor from Digital Musics, “in addition to the three graduate students in her lab, Dr. Wheatley also mentors two graduates of Dartmouth’s Digital Musics department, and has many collaborators both in and outside of the department.”

Two years ago, the research of Professor Wheatley’s advisees took Thalia and two of her graduate students to rural Cambodia to study how non-Western cultures perceived both emotion and biological movement in music. “We traveled through rough territory in an off-road vehicle for 2 hours in each direction every day to work long hours… and assimilated to the norms of a foreign culture. Because of Thalia’s patience and unwavering dedication, [the trip] was ultimately a scientific success,” said Beau Sievers, a recent graduate from Digital Musics.

In addition, several students spoke of Wheatley’s ability to promote self-guided research that builds upon the academic strengths of her students. “[Thalia] has the uncanny ability to understand and play to people’s strengths while appreciating and educating their weakness,” wrote Christine Looser, a fifth-year PhD candidate in Wheatley’s lab. [She] encourages each of her students to think critically, question assumptions, and do high-quality work…By allowing her students to develop ownership of their research she has made each of us more thoughtful, inspired, and harder-working scientists.”

Congratulations, Professor Wheatley! The Graduate Student Council thanks you for all of your contributions to Dartmouth’s graduate community.

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