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Vanderbilt's Keivan Stassun Wins 2018 AAAS Mentor Award

Friday, February 16, 2018 - 09:59

This post is adapted from a press release issued by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS):

Keivan StassunKeivan Stassun, the Stevenson Professor of Physics and Astronomy and senior associate dean for graduate education and research at Vanderbilt University's College of Arts and Science, has been chosen as the winner of the 2018 AAAS Mentor Award. Stassun was selected for personally mentoring dozens of underrepresented minority students and for building "innovative mentoring models that bridge critical attrition points in the development of underrepresented minority physicists and astronomers."

In award materials, AAAS noted that Stassun maintains "a strong dedication to his mentees' growth as scientists," and further noted that the extent of his mentoring influence is "wide and truly remarkable."

From 2003 to 2015, Stassun co-directed a partnership between Vanderbilt University and Fisk University, which aims to reach talented, underrepresented minority students who are interested in pursuing a PhD. Students attending Fisk University, a historically black institution, are mentored as they take classes and conduct research before eventually entering PhD programs at Vanderbilt University and beyond. As of spring 2017, the Fisk-Vanderbilt Master's-to-PhD Bridge Program, now co-directed by Stassun's colleague, astrophysicist Kelly Holley-Bockelmann, had produced 27 PhD graduates in physics, astronomy, materials science, chemistry, and biology. The program's participants have included Jedidah Isler, the first African American woman to graduate with a PhD in astrophysics from Yale University.

Stassun earned his bachelor's degree in physics and astronomy from the University of California, Berkeley, and completed his PhD in astronomy at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 2000. He has previously been honored with the Research Corporation for Science Advancement SEED Award and the American Physical Society Nicholson Medal for Human Outreach, as well as the Vanderbilt Affirmative Action and Diversity Initiatives Award and the National Science Foundation CAREER Award.

The AAAS Mentor Award honors AAAS members who have mentored significant numbers of underrepresented students, including women, minorities, and persons with disabilities, pursuing PhDs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and who have demonstrated scholarship, activism, and community building on behalf of underrepresented groups in STEM fields. The award includes a $5,000 prize, a commemorative plaque, and complimentary registration to the AAAS Annual Meeting as well as reimbursement for expenses to attend the meeting.

The award will be bestowed upon Stassun during the 184th AAAS Annual Meeting in Austin, Texas, on 18 February 2018.

Richard Tresch Fienberg
Press Officer
American Astronomical Society (AAS)
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