AAAS Mentor Award
2012 Award Recipient
Cato Thomas Laurencin
Throughout his distinguished career, Dr. Laurencin has taken significant steps to ensure that the impact of his pioneering work in biomaterials and tissue engineering is felt not only within the research community, but also by the future generations of scientists and engineers that he personally mentors.
Cato Thomas Laurencin
His track record as an advocate for and mentor to underrepresented minority students, teachers, and faculty is exemplary. He has supported programs like the Minority Introduction to Engineering & Science program, in which high-school minority students from around the country spend a summer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) learning about careers in the basic sciences, and Research Experiences for Undergraduates, in which underrepresented minority undergraduates spend time in laboratories gaining exposure to biomedical engineering (BME) and research in other fields. He has also shown keen support of Research Experiences for Teachers, a program that promotes the active involvement of K-12 teachers and community college faculty in engineering research so that they can bring first-hand knowledge of engineering and innovation into their classrooms.
His commitment to including students from underrepresented groups also extends to the conduct of his own research: In the 22 years that Dr. Laurencin’s laboratory has been in operation (five years at MIT, eight years at Drexel University School of Medicine, five years at University of Virginia, and four years at the University of Connecticut), more than 90 minority students at the undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate levels have undertaken research projects in his labs.
An integral part of his mentoring activities is the inclusion of underrepresented minority students at the undergraduate and graduate levels as well as post-doctorate scholars and faculty across a wide spectrum of disciplines. Within the last five years, Dr. Laurencin has mentored seven individuals who now hold tenure faculty positions in BME, including four underrepresented minorities (one woman and three African-Americans). Considering that only a handful of African-Americans hold tenure-track appointments in BME nationally, it is difficult to overstate the impact Dr. Laurencin has had on diversity in the field. Indeed, among the six African-American individuals with tenure-track appointments in BME, Dr. Laurencin mentored three, including the only two tenured associate professors in BME.
Dr. Laurencin’s record attests to his long-standing commitment to advanced STEM education, mentoring, and outreach to underrepresented groups.
The AAAS Mentor Award, established in 1996, honors AAAS members who have mentored significant numbers of students from underrepresented groups or who have changed the climate of a department, college, or institution to significantly increase the diversity of students pursuing and completing doctoral studies in the sciences. 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.