Newswise — The Biology Division of the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) has selected the 2019 recipients of its Mentor Award, which honors biology mentors for their long-term efforts in supervising undergraduate research students:

  • Jessica Malisch (assistant professor of physiology, St. Mary’s College of MD, early-career awardee)
  • Marina Cetkovic-Cvrlje (professor of biology, St. Cloud State University, mid-career awardee)
  • Amelia Ahern-Rindell (associate professor of biology, University of Portland, advanced career awardee)

Jessica Malisch earned her BS degree from the University of North Carolina, Wilmington and her PhD from the University of California, Riverside. She conducts research on avian endocrinology and metabolism, with projects focused on stress responses in white-crowned sparrows near Yosemite National Park and in white-throated sparrows and juncos in southern Maryland. Undergraduate students work closely with her at both sites, resulting in seven papers coauthored with students, eight presentations at national conferences with students as lead authors, and numerous student research awards. Malisch also brings her strong research focus into the classroom, where she incorporates real research experiences starting in her first-year seminar, right through mentoring students in the capstone research experience the St. Mary’s Project. Her students deeply appreciate her commitment and passion for research. As one student wrote, “Overall, Dr. Malisch is a passionate, dedicated, and motivated professor whose guidance has allowed many students to grow as scientists and intellectuals. She goes way beyond the call of duty as a professor because she makes it her job that we succeed.”

Marina Cetkovic-Cvrlje earned MD and PhD degrees from the Medical School University of Zagreb in Croatia. She has consistently pursued her research interests in the biology of Type I diabetes in collaboration with 118 diverse undergraduate students, with very strong outcomes. Her “research kids” have been awarded 54 grants, made 87 presentations (including 20 award winners), and coauthored five peer-reviewed papers. These numbers are impressive and are built on a foundation of deep commitment to students as researchers. As her department chair noted, she has had an impact “on every one of those individuals” based on her conviction about the “power of undergraduate research to help students develop as scientists, students, and as human beings”---including beyond graduation. Indeed, her student letters mirror this enthusiastic endorsement of her as a mentor. Cetkovic-Cvrlje’s commitment to undergraduate research extends well beyond her own lab group. For example, she organized the Minnesota State Undergraduate Research Conference, facilitated a faculty learning community on undergraduate research on her campus, and has made numerous presentations about undergraduate research as professional conferences.  

Amelia Ahern-Rindell earned her BS degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and her MS and PhD degrees from Washington State University. Trained as a geneticist and cell biologist, Ahern-Rindell pursues a long-standing research program on lysosomal storage disorders, with extensive involvement of undergraduate researchers. Over a 27-year career as a professor at primarily undergraduate institutions, she has mentored more than 100 undergraduate students in research, with the majority pursuing projects related to her own research program and resulting in fourth-year or honors theses and conference presentations. She also has published peer-reviewed papers and conference abstracts with many undergraduate coauthors, including on a second research interest, the teacher-scholar model and ethics in mentoring undergraduate research. A focus on learning through inquiry and research drives Ahern-Rindell’s teaching practice as well as her lab research. She was an early developer of student-centered, inquiry-based approaches in the teaching lab and classroom, with NSF-funded initiatives as early as 1994.  Ahern-Rindell has shared her expertise in the collaborative mentoring of undergraduate research both in the lab and classroom nationally, through years of service to the Council on Undergraduate Research. Her student recommendation reflects her thoughtful mentoring practice of the whole person: “As a professor, advisor, and research mentor, … Dr. AR prioritizes students’ personal growth as much as she does their performance and productivity. She works tirelessly to make lasting impacts in her students’ lives that will go beyond a given course or research experience. She doesn’t simply teach ‘science’; she teaches how to be a good scientist.”


The Council on Undergraduate Research supports faculty development for high-quality undergraduate student-faculty collaborative research and scholarship. More than 700 institutions and more than 10,000 individuals belong to CUR. CUR believes that the best way to capture student interest and create enthusiasm for a discipline is through research in close collaboration with faculty members.