Mentor Awards

The Center for Undergraduate Research and Academic Engagement is keenly aware of how much time and energy our faculty contribute to undergraduate research at FSU, and we are glad to be able to recognize that hard work and dedication. In addition to the Honors Thesis Mentor Awards made available by the University Honors Program, the Center for Undergraduate Research and Academic Engagement offers one Undergraduate Research Mentor Award each year reserved for a faculty research mentor participating in the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP). The $2,000 award is funded by the FSU Office of Research and presented at the annual FSU faculty awards dinner.

One graduate student and one postdoctoral researcher is also selected for a $500 annual award for recognition of excellence in undergraduate research mentoring.

In order to be eligible to receive the Undergraduate Research Mentor award, mentors must have signed the UROP research assistantship contract with the nominating student.

Winners of the award are ineligible for nomination for three years following the receipt of the award.



Undergraduate Faculty Research Mentor Award


The Undergraduate Faculty Research Mentor Award for 2024 was presented to Dr. Irene Zanini-Cordi.

Read more about Dr. Irene Zanini-Cordi

The Undergraduate Faculty Research Mentor Award for 2024 was presented to Dr. Irene Zanini-Cordi for mentoring UROP student Angelina Dobbs in research on the Culture, Conversations, and Social Networks in 18th- & 19th- Century Italy.

Dr. Irene Zanini-Cordi
"Working with UROP students has always been a delight. Usually, I am the first professor with whom they establish a personal relationship since they have taken mostly large, general education classes. They are eager to learn, and I gain a lot from their enthusiasm and the fresh eyes they bring to my projects (not to mention the tech and social media know-how!) This year is proving to be a particularly exciting experience. I needed only one student for my project “Culture, Conversations, and Social Networks in 18th- & 19th- Century Italy,” but the applicants’ enthusiasm for my interdisciplinary research on salons culture and women writing carried me away, so I decided to build a team of 4 students with majors in Political Science, French, English, and Editing and Writing. I then turned what I had conceived as a “simple” editing position (to help revise my book manuscript) into a full-blown “hands on” team project, with the goal to offer students as many learning opportunities as possible, and to create the matrix for a future undergraduate course in English."

— Dr. Irene Zanini-Cordi, from her mentoring statement

“Regarding my UROP project, I drew on Dr. Zanini-Cordi's vast knowledge of Italian history and intimate experience with primary texts to develop a solid idea for my project. I struggled to pick a topic and align my interests in Psychology and Literature, but she helped me connect the dots and find a primary text to research. She has gone beyond the scope of my project, indulging my curiosities about publication and niche Italian culture. The cool historical facts and exciting stories she tells have enriched my understanding of the context of the time. Under her guidance, I have developed critical thinking on gender and class and the implications of both controversial topics throughout history. I have also become more confident in conducting research and asking necessary questions."

— Angelina Dobbs, UROP student 2023-2024, from her nomination letter


Post-Doc Undergraduate Research Mentor Award

Dr. Olivia Cook

The Post-Doc Undergraduate Research Mentor Award for 2024 was presented to Dr. Olivia Cook. 

Read more about Dr. Olivia Cook

The Post-Doc Undergraduate Research Mentor Award for 2023 was presented to Dr. Olivia Cook. Dr. Cook mentored UROP student Chapel Forte on Parents’ Mental Math Strategies, Attitudes, and Engagement with Educators Predicting Children’s Math Achievement

Dr. Olivia Cook

"My approach to directing and advising undergraduate research is driven by my philosophy towards life-long learning, as I view the collaboration between faculty and students as the primary drivers of new ideas and lines of inquiry for the field of developmental science. In order to nurture these collaborative relationships, my approach towards mentoring students is rooted in tenets of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Fostering meaningful relationships, trust, and community with my mentees is necessary in order for creativity and critical thinking to flourish. In doing so, I view the ideas of my mentees as authentic and key to moving the research forward – as they are the ones who have been transcribing conversations, observing behaviors, and developing an expertise as scientists."

—Dr. Cook from her mentoring statement

"Dr. Cook has encouraged me to apply what she has taught me about research in thinking outside of her project. After I compiled a list of topic/career aspects that interested me, she helped me explore different organizations and paths. She connected me with friends and colleagues who had experience in these fields and encouraged me to reach out to some of these organizations. As we have continued to dedicate weekly hours to the UROP project and my researchdevelopment, we have also brainstormed ways to continue my development after UROP. Dr. Cook helped me apply for an IDEA Grant and agreed to supervise my project if I am awarded funding."

—Chapel ForteUROP student 2023-2024, from her nomination letter


Graduate Student Undergraduate Research Mentor Award

Sierra Morandi

The Graduate Student Undergraduate Research Mentor Award for 2024 was presented to Sierra Morandi.

Read more about Sierra Morandi

The Graduate Student Undergraduate Research Mentor Award for 2024 was presented to Sierra Morandi. Sierra mentored Thersendie Belizaire during their work on Exploring Differential Instruction Strategies to Foster Students’ Sensemaking in Science Classroom.

Sierra Morandi

"As a mentor, I am committed to supporting and fostering students holistically as they develop and pursue their interests within our context, whether this be in the classroom or through a research project. Being a teen mom my approach to guiding and supporting mentees will always be rooted in empathy, resilience, and the understanding that everyone is doing the best they can on their way to figuring out who they are and what they want to be. My mentoring philosophy revolves around the belief that effective communication is not only essential for success but also for fostering a safe environment where a mentee can be and develop their own whole selves.  "

—Sierra Morandi, from her mentoring statement

"Sierra is an outstanding mentor. She is always there with words of encouragement, ready to support and uplift her mentees. Her optimistic attitude and contagious energy create an atmosphere that is driven and enthusiastic. Sierra has demonstrated her unrelenting devotion and dedication to our research endeavor by working nonstop to make sure we get the tools and assistance we need to be successful.  

Sierra's ability to stimulate critical thinking is one of her strongest suits. She pushes us to think creatively and to experiment with different ideas and methods. She gives us direction and encouragement at every turn while letting us think on our own. Sierra fosters our curiosity and gives us the confidence to go further into our studies, pose questions, and expand our understanding." 

Thersendie Belizaire, UROP student 2023-2024, from her nomination letter


Graduate Student Undergraduate Research Mentor Award

Alex Kallen

The Graduate Student Undergraduate Research Mentor Award for 2024 was presented to Alex Kallen.

Read more about Alex Kallen

The Graduate Student Undergraduate Research Mentor Award for 2024 was presented to Alex Kallen. Alex mentored Morgan Brown and Valerie Johnstone on their project: Interactions Between Anxiety and Alcohol Sensitivity: Alterations in Brain Response to Monetary Loss.

Alex Kallen

"While this was my first year as an Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) mentor, I have been advising students at FSU for about seven years. Broadly, my mentorship philosophy is to foster curiosity in a safe, collaborative environment where my mentees feel comfortable, motivated, and encouraged to ask questions. In other words, I hope to provide mentees with a foundation for coming up with their own ideas, in a context where they know I am available, caring, and dedicated to helping them have greater confidence to reach their academic goals as well as develop a sound framework for accomplishing complex tasks. To this end, my primary objectives for mentoring are: a) establish a sound understanding of the particular topic, with focus on how it applies to my mentees’ interests; b) emphasize the importance of being inclusive, having respect and consideration for the unique aspects of each individual; and c) maintain a comfortable environment with ongoing collective learning and consistent support to my mentees. This philosophy has been directly shaped by my own experiences as a mentee. Put briefly, my mentors over the years could be categorized as either elusive and minimally helpful, insensitive with difficult feedback, or collaborative, motivating and insightful; the last of which serves as a guide for the following objectives and strategies."

—Alex Kallen, from his mentoring statement

"Coming to Florida State, one of my largest goals was to work in a research lab learning the topics that excite me the most and through UROP, I had the ability to do exactly that. In the weeks where we were tasked with finding our perfect fit, I remained confident whichever lab I would join would provide me with the best experiences and further my passion for research and I am proud to say my experiences have far exceeded expectations.  

My mentor is one of the kindest and more caring people I have met and he truly takes the time to understand any difficulties I may be having and address it in an eloquent manner. Since the beginning, he has been thorough in his teachings and has conveyed his knowledge in a simple to understand manner. Diving into a complex research project, I was hesitant at first I would not be able to understand what was going on but Alex made sure I felt confident at every step. He constantly asked how he could improve and always took the time to listen to suggestions which further demonstrates his unique passion for teaching and mentorship."  

—Valerie Johnstone, UROP student 2023-2024, from her nomination letter


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