The 2013 AAAS Mentor Award will be bestowed upon Paul B. Tchounwou "for his transformative impact and contributions towards the production of African American doctorates in the field of environmental sciences."
Tchounwou, associate dean of graduate studies and international programs in the College of Science, Engineering and Technology at Jackson State University in Jackson, Miss., will receive his award during a 14 February ceremony at the 2014 AAAS Annual Meeting in Chicago, Ill.
At Jackson State, where he is a Presidential Distinguished Professor, Tchounwou also serves as director of the doctoral program in environmental health sciences. For more than 16 years, he has mentored African American students in environmental sciences. He has directly overseen 25 doctoral dissertations and also has served on the dissertation committee for 28 other students and as an external examiner for a dozen more dissertations. He has mentored and provided research training to more than 50 undergraduate students and to 100 K-12 students.
"Over the course of his illustrious career as a teacher, scientist and administrator, Tchounwou has earned recognition for his work in recruiting, training and mentoring students, post-doctoral research associates and junior faculty throughout the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) pipeline," Abdul K. Mohamed, dean emeritus of Jackson State's College of Science, Engineering & Technology, wrote in nominating Tchounwou for the award.
He said Tchounwou "has significantly contributed to academic growth and the overall increase in research productivity" that led to the recent designation of Jackson State as a comprehensive "high research activity institution" under the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. In 2011, Tchounwou obtained a $3.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to establish a Center of Excellence in STEM Education at Jackson State. He also has established linkages with major research institutions such as NASA and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
Tchounwou is director of Jackson State's Center for Environmental Health, one of the Research Centers in Minority Institutions (RCMI) that are funded by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, an arm of the National Institutes of Health. In 2013, the Jackson State center received a $10.7 million, five-year grant to enhance its infrastructure and support research that addresses environmental and public health issues affecting vulnerable and underserved communities.
"I feel very privileged to have had Dr. Tchounwou as a mentor since 1998," wrote Waneene C. Dorsey, endowed professor and director of the Water Quality Resource Program at Grambling State University and a 2002 graduate of the Jackson State University doctoral program in environmental science. In a letter of support for the award, Dorsey added: "Through his mentorship, I was able to develop and strengthen my research as well as my writing and presentation skills. With me and other students who worked in the lab during my time, he always maintained an excellent mentoring relationship based on trust and mutual respect and understanding."
Tchounwou received his bachelor's degree in biological sciences and his master's degree in biochemistry from the University of Yaoundé, Cameroon. He received a master's degree in public health and a doctorate in environmental toxicology from Tulane University in New Orleans. He serves as an adjunct professor at Tulane's Health Sciences Center.
Tchounwou's previous awards include the 2003 Millennium Award for excellence in research at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, conferred by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; and the 2001 National Role Model Award for exemplary achievements in mentoring, counseling and guiding others, conferred by Minority Access, Inc.
Established by the AAAS Board of Directors in 1996, the Mentor Award honors AAAS members who have mentored significant numbers of underrepresented students (women, minorities, and persons with disabilities) toward a Ph.D. degree in the sciences, as well as scholarship, activism, and community-building on behalf of underrepresented groups in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields. The award is directed towards individuals in the mid-stage of their careers, defined by roughly 25 years or less of mentoring experience. It includes a monetary prize of $5,000, a commemorative plaque, and complimentary registration to the AAAS Annual Meeting.
Each year, the AAAS Board of Directors also bestows a Lifetime Mentor Award, in addition to the Mentor Award. The Lifetime Mentor Award this year will go to Andrew Tsin, professor of biology and director of the Center for Research and Training in the Sciences at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Tsin was honored for "facilitating dramatic education and research changes at his institution, leading to a significant production of Hispanic American doctorates in the biological sciences."
The AAAS Mentor Award will be bestowed upon Tchounwou during the 180th AAAS Annual Meeting in Chicago, Ill., 13-17 February 2014. A ceremony and reception will be held in the Rouge Room of the Fairmont Chicago Hotel on Friday, 14 February at 6:15 p.m.