Earlier this month, Dr. Jessica Larsen was selected as the recipient for the 2020 Bradley Faculty Award for Mentoring in Creative Inquiry. She is the first receipt in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering in the 13 years of the award. When asked to describe her mentoring style, Larsen described it as “radical vulnerability”.
“I am open and honest with my students about my expectations of them and will admit when I fall short of their expectations of me. Because of this, students feel safe to be open and honest with me, calling themselves out when they fall short of expectations and letting me know when I may not be the best version of myself. On day one, I let my students know that I am also capable of making mistakes, and it is our job to work together as a team where members all have equal value. We have created a mutual, safe space for our team.”
Larsen understands that mistakes happen and believes that they should be treated as learning opportunities, not as identifying characteristics of the students. As a team, Larsen and her students focus on the value of the mistake in their meetings and take steps to move forward together.
Currently, Larsen and her CI students are working on several different projects, such as the identification of potential noninvasive biomarkers for GM1 gangliosidosis and using Polymersomes to Deliver Gold Nanoparticles to Enhance CT Imaging Applications in the brain. In general, their lab works to understand, treat, and diagnose brain diseases, using polymeric materials to respond to pathological stimuli that occur in each disease. The team’s end goal is to bring next-generation nanomedicine to the clinic, developing treatments for currently untreatable disease.
Larsen believes that her students are driven to make progress because they can see that the work they are doing is extremely important and could have a positive impact on society. There is a clear goal that her team is working towards together.
One of the most important impacts that Larsen has been able to deliver is the strong and constant belief that her researchers are capable of “so much greatness,” especially when her team works together and are able to identify the talents of each individual. Larsen ensures to tailor projects towards the individual passion of her students. She believes that this improves the synergy of their lab and the evidence is shown in the confidence that she extends to her students.
“I cannot thank you enough for the positivity you have in our meetings,” a student shared with her. “It genuinely makes my day and has really helped me build my confidence when it comes to looking into graduate programs. Having your vote of confidence has given me such a boost of energy and has made me more confident in my ability to do research”.
It is obvious that Dr. Jessica Larsen is a well-deserved recipient of 2020 Bradley Faculty Award for Mentoring. We are proud to have her as a member of our department and extend our congratulations!