Three IPiB Grad Students Earn Awards for Exceptional Mentorship and Teaching

On Monday, June 10, students from the Integrated Program in Biochemistry (IPiB) gathered at the annual IPiB Summer Reception. At the event, the IPiB community celebrated the graduate students being recognized for excellence in mentorship. Learn more about the mentorship awards and this year’s recipients below.

Denton Award for Graduate Student Excellence in Teaching and Mentoring

The Denton Award for Graduate Student Excellence in Teaching and Mentoring honors IPiB students who provide exceptional commitment, guidance, and scientific training in mentoring and teaching undergraduate students. The award is made possible by the generosity of Arnold E. and Catherine M. Denton. Christine Hustmyer and Max Rector are this year’s Denton Award winners.

Christine Hustmyer
Christine Hustmyer

Hustmyer, who defended her doctoral work in the Landick Lab earlier this month, studies the roles the bacterial chromatin protein H-NS plays in gene silencing and cell behavior. Hustmyer identified early in her time in graduate school that teaching and mentorship would be essential to her future career. “There’s such a joy in watching undergraduate students that I’ve mentored develop over time. It has been the most important part of graduate school for me,” reflects Hustmyer.

In addition to mentoring undergraduate students, Hustmyer further expanded her tools for teaching and mentoring through the Delta Program in Research, Teaching, and Learning, which offers development opportunities in evidence-based teaching practices.

“I am very proud to have won an award that recognizes my dedication to teaching and helping others,” says Hustmyer. “I am surrounded by wonderful mentors, teachers, and mentees in the IPiB and Delta programs who have all taught me that sometimes the best service we can provide to another person is simply our time and encouragement. I plan on a career where I can encourage undergraduates to find their own fulfilling future careers.”

Hustmyer will continue to develop her teaching and mentorship skills as a biological sciences lecturer at UW–Madison and a postdoctoral researcher in the Landick Lab before pursuing a career in teaching, mentoring, and research at a primarily undergraduate institution.

Photo of Max Rector
Max Rector

Rector is a graduate student in the Record Lab. His research interprets changes in orientation and rates at which the enzyme RNA polymerase incorporates nucleotides to create build strands of RNA in order to ascertain structural information about the enzyme at key steps during the process.

When Rector was an undergraduate student at University of Texas, he worked as both a researcher and a peer tutor; he discovered he had a love for both. During his time in IPiB, Rector has served as a teaching assistant for multiple biochemistry and physical chemistry courses and as a mentor for undergraduate and high school students in the Record Lab. His own experiences as an undergraduate researcher shaped his mentorship style during graduate school.

“I try to emulate the mentors who have helped me and who always treated me with respect,” says Rector. “I have more experience than the undergraduate students I work with, but I’m no better than them. We are all learning together. It’s just so heartwarming to receive this award. It means a lot to know that I had an impact on students who are now moving on and finding success.”

Sigrid Leirmo Memorial Award in Biochemistry

The Sigrid Leirmo Memorial Award in Biochemistry honors graduate students or postdoctoral researchers exemplifying the spirit of Sigrid Leirmo, who received her Ph.D. from the Department of Biochemistry in 1989. Leirmo was widely recognized among her peers and colleagues as a devoted researcher, friend, and mentor.

Rachel Cueny
Rachel Cueny

Rachel Cueny, a graduate student in the Keck Lab, is the winner of this year’s Leirmo Award. Her research focuses on the roles of a secondary structure in DNA and RNA known as a G-quadruplex. She defended her dissertation in May.

“Mentoring undergraduate and high school students in the Lab has been really meaningful and I’ve enjoyed it a lot,” says Cueny. “It’s just a lot of fun to show someone how to do a new experiment or to see someone really understand a piece of data for the first time.”

Cueny plans to continue prioritizing mentorship through her pursuit of a career in academia. “I have been so fortunate during my time in IPiB to work with and get help from so many incredible people,” says Cueny. “I hope that I have also been able to make a positive impact on others during my time in IPiB. I am incredibly grateful to receive the Leirmo Award, named after a great scientist who was so dedicated to helping others.”

Written by Renata Solan.