Newswise — It no secret that students with professors who are truly passionate about their subject have a more memorable experience—one that often lasts well beyond the classroom. Two such professors, John Gupton and Paula Dehn, have shared their unwavering love of their subjects with their respective students, and, because of that, many of their students have gone on to pursue science careers. Both Dr. Dehn and Dr. Gupton have demonstrated outstanding dedication and commitment to undergraduate research. Therefore, the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) selected Dr. Gupton and Dr. Dehn for the CUR Fellows Award.
The CUR Fellows Award honors professors for their devotion to education and research. Every two years, CUR presents the award to two individuals that have made outstanding contributions to the undergraduate research community. CUR Fellows are leading researchers and outstanding educators. Further, CUR Fellows have institutionalized nationally recognized research programs. The CUR Fellows Award, sponsored by LiCOR Biosciences, Inc., is presented at the CUR National Conference.
Awardees are chosen on the basis their long-term involvement of undergraduates in research, active involvement in CUR and support for its mission, the admission of their students to graduate programs, and the incorporation of research and research experiences into undergraduate courses.
Dr. Dehn is currently vice president for academic affairs at Kentucky Wesleyan College. She was Department Chair and Professor of Biology at Canisius College when she was selected for the CUR Fellows Award. She earned a B.A, with honors, in Zoology in 1973 from DePauw University, as well as a M.A in the same field, also from DePauw University. In 1980, she obtained a PhD in Biology from the University of South Florida. Dr. Dehn previously taught at the University of Texas at San Antonio and Hillsborough Community College.
Dr. Dehn's research area is environmental toxicology, a topic that covers aspects of cell biology, physiology, ecology, and analytical chemistry. She has been involved in undergraduate research since early in her career, saying: "I first mentored an undergraduate student during the second year of my doctoral program. She now has a Ph.D. and directs the Environmental Science Program at E. Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania." From there, Dr. Dehn only went on to expand her research career, particularly her work with undergraduate students.
What keeps Dr. Dehn going is "seeing the light bulb go off" in her students. Being able to witness her students make the connection, and become excited about the subject they're studying is the defining point of her research and teaching career. Because of the excitement that the students feel in the laboratory, many have gone on to continue their career in the field.
She says, "of the 39 students from my research group who have finished their undergraduate degrees, 15 have gone on to Medical School, 17 into graduate programs across the U.S in many areas of biology (10 M.S., 7 PhD), 1 into an M.D./PhD. program after completing his Fullbright Fellowship, and 6 into relevant work environments." After graduation, Dr. Dehn's students remain in touch with her, often sending baby pictures and updates on their personal and professional lives.
However, research of this nature cannot go on without funding of some sort.
Dr. Dehn has received funding and grants from the National Science Foundation, NASA, National Institute of Health, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and from private donors totaling over four million dollars.
Like Dr. Dehn, John Gupton has devoted much time and energy to research and teaching. Dr. Gupton is currently a professor and chair of Chemistry at the University of Richmond. He earned a B.S in Chemistry from Virginia Military Institute in 1967. Dr. Gupton then went on to earn a M.A and PhD in Chemistry from Georgia Institute of Technology in 1969 and 1975, respectively. He has worked at University of Richmond since 1999, having previously worked at University of North Carolina at Asheville and University of Central Florida.
Dr. Gupton says that his research concentrates on "developing new synthetic organic reactions and strategies that utilize vinylogous iminium salts for the preparation of biologically important molecules." He has been engaging students in this research for the last 29 years. During that time, Dr. Gupton says that they have been "funded by a variety of federal and private agencies as well as chemical companies, and this has resulted in support in excess of $2.5 million."
Over his research career, Dr. Gupton has mentored 109 students, the majority of which have gone on to higher education in Chemistry. His students have nothing but praise for him. One notes: "I believe I had a truly outstanding undergraduate research experience that have me opportunities many don't see unless they attend graduate school." Another says: "I was fortunate enough to experience Dr. Gupton's fervor for undergraduate research firsthand during two years of research at the University of Richmond, during which I was tasked with the synthesis of marine natural product Rigdin."
Dr. Gupton says that the best part of his job is seeing the growth and understanding of his students. He states: "To grow and see them be successful " that builds a kind of self confidence." Because of Dr. Gupton's devotion to his students " and for them to make that all-important connection " it is no surprise that their research has been critically important, not just within their lab, but also in the outside environment.
Arguably, the most outstanding result of Dr. Gupton and his students' research is what came of it. He says: "As a result of these collaborations, a compound has emerged from the Gupton group, which shows significant promise as an anti-tumor agent for breast and prostate cancer, and this compound has undergone a successful testing in a mouse model." Major pharmaceutical companies in the manufacturing of their products have used Dr. Gupton and his students' research.
Because of their devotion not just to their research, but also to their students' growth inside and outside of the lab, Dr. Gupton and Dr. Dehn have clearly met and exceeded the definition of the CUR Fellows award.