Faculty Mentoring Award: Kathryn Cottingham and Robert Hawley
This year’s recipients of the Graduate Faculty Mentoring Award are Professor Kathryn Cottingham and Professor Robert Hawley. Each year the Graduate Student Council (GSC) gives out two Graduate Faculty Mentoring Awards to recognize the exceptional mentoring activities of faculty advisors at Dartmouth. Award recipients are honored for their commitment to fostering the academic and professional pursuits of graduate students and receive $500 to support further mentoring activities. This year the selection committee consisted of Julia Bradley-Cook, the president of GSC, Rich Lopez, the academic chair, and Daniel Durcan, the activities coordinator. President Carol Folt announced this year’s recipients on Wednesday, April 10, at the Graduate Poster Session.
Professor Kathryn Cottingham
Professor Kathryn Cottingham is a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB) program. She joined Dartmouth faculty in 1998 and currently mentors two graduate students. Her research focuses on aquatic ecology, in particular the reasons for and results of cyanobacterial blooms in lakes and factors affecting the accumulation of mercury by fish and invertebrates in streams. Her lab has also been involved in examining dietary exposure to arsenic in pregnant women and infants.
In nominating her for this award, graduate students observed that Cottingham plays an important role as a mentor in her department as a whole. A member of the Cottingham lab observed that when she interviewed at Dartmouth “the most common response I received from other graduate students about the Cottingham Lab, was that Kathy may be the ‘official advisor’ to her own graduate students, but she ‘unofficially’ advises all the graduate students.”
Another aspect of Cottingham’s mentoring style that her graduate students appreciated was her ability to balance letting her students work independently, while also providing enough support and guidance to facilitate success in their research. One of Cottingham’s current students observed that her mentoring style “strikes a nice balance between letting me work independently to the extent that I want to” while always being available “to help troubleshoot, design experiments, and address any problems that arise.” Discussing the importance of building research skills in graduate school, several students expressed their appreciation of Cottingham’s guidance in data analysis and in improving their writing skills. One student explained, “I especially appreciate how her mentoring with me has changed through time as I have developed as a scientist, and has focused on everything from scientific writing, how to work in groups, [and] data analysis.”
Professor Robert Hawley
Professor Robert Hawley is an assistant professor of Earth Sciences. He came to Dartmouth in 2008. Hawley leads the Glaciology Research Group at Dartmouth, mentoring five graduate students and a postdoctoral researcher. The group studies the formation and make-up of polar ice sheets to explore issues related to sea level rise and climate change. Hawley developed a new technique for studying polar firn, called Borehole Optical Stratigraphy, which involves lowering a video camera into a borehole in the ice. The camera records patterns of light and dark in the walls of the borehole, which reflect differences in ice grain size and density and facilitate the studying of annual layers.
In their nominations, Professor Hawley’s students expressed an appreciation for his enthusiasm and patience. They observed that his excitement and creativity in his research were inspiring, and these were balanced with his calm and practical approach to problem solving and project management. One of Hawley’s students explained that Hawley’s “ability to bring both perspective and calm is incredible. I cannot recall a challenging ‘moment’ or issue that I could not bring to [his] attention.”
As well as developing his mentees’ skills in academic and proposal writing and teaching techniques, Hawley also encouraged students to engage in service. A member of the Glaciology Research Group wrote, “With regard to citizen-science, [Hawley’s] work with outreach (e.g., Science Pubs at Salt hill) has been an example that I hope to emulate in my own work.” In addition, Hawley encouraged his students to pursue outside learning opportunities, such as participation in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) Divide Ice Core Project. Finally, Hawley’s students also appreciated his willingness to prioritize their ideas and goals. A student described him as “an undeniable exemplification of a masterful mentor-extraordinaire.”
Reflecting on the process of choosing this year’s recipients, Bradley-Cook observed, “We had an impressive collection of nominees—faculty who go above and beyond to challenge, support, and motivate graduate students. Professors Cottingham and Hawley are inspiring role models with mentoring styles that genuinely support graduate students. We are grateful for the opportunity to acknowledge their extraordinary mentorship.”
The Graduate Studies Office congratulates Professors Cottingham and Hawley on their receipt of this award and thanks them for their dedication to supporting graduate students at Dartmouth.