News: News Archives
2007 AAAS Mentor Award Goes to Carlos Castillo Chavez of Arizona State University
Carlos Castillo Chavez, a professor of mathematics, statistics and life sciences at Arizona State University, has been honored by AAAS for his efforts to help underrepresented students earn doctoral degrees in the sciences.
Chavez will receive the 2007 AAAS Mentor Award during a 16 February 2008 ceremony at the 2008 AAAS Annual Meeting in Boston.
He served as dissertation adviser for four Hispanic Americans who earned their doctorates in mathematics or the biological sciences. Another 11 Hispanic Americans whom he mentored in an undergraduate research program have gone on to earn doctorates in the biological sciences, mathematics, statistics or bioinformatics at various institutions.
For more than a decade, Chavez also has raised money for and run a summer research program -- the Mathematical and Theoretical Biology Institute -- aimed at encouraging Hispanic American and Native American undergraduate students to enter Ph.D. programs with an emphasis on mathematical or computational biology. As a result of his summer research program, 59 Hispanic Americans and Native Americans have gone on to graduate programs. As the recommendation from the award selection committee notes, Chavez's work "has the potential to change the face of Ph.D.[-level] scientists who are researchers in the mathematics and computational biology area."
Chavez earned his doctorate from the University of Wisconsin and spent 18 years at Cornell University before joining the faculty at Arizona State in 2004. He has published nearly 160 scientific articles and has authored or co-authored nine books.
In a letter supporting Chavez's nomination for the mentor award, Simon Levin, Moffett Professor of Biology at Princeton University, said that Chavez has been a national leader in mentoring students. "They are all fiercely loyal to Carlos and appreciative of what he has done for them," Levin wrote. "But perhaps more importantly, they are as exciting and excited a group of young scientists as I have ever met. Carlos has managed to transfer much of his own enthusiasm for science and mathematics to them, and it is impressive indeed."
Several students who studied under Chavez submitted letters in support of his nomination for the award, including one from a Hispanic American woman who said his summer program for undergraduates had changed her life. "I am the first one in my family to get an education beyond high school," she wrote. She said Chavez "gave me the confidence needed not only to dream big but also to achieve those big dreams through hard work and dedication." She mentioned two other students in the program who benefited from Chavez's constant encouragement: a young man who grew up in one of the most violent neighborhoods in Puerto Rico and went on to receive a Ph.D. degree from Cornell University; and a Hispanic American woman, the oldest of eight children, who had to work throughout her undergraduate years and spent four hours commuting to class each day. She went on to graduate school.
The AAAS Mentor Award honors those who have mentored and guided significant numbers of underrepresented students to earn a Ph.D. degree in the sciences, as well as scholarship, activism and community-building on behalf of underrepresented groups. Groups traditionally underrepresented in the sciences include women of all racial or ethnic groups; African-American, Native-American, and Hispanic men; and people with disabilities. This award is directed toward individuals in the early or mid-career stage who have mentored students for less than 25 years. The recipient receives $5,000 and a commemorative plaque.
15 February 2008