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Psychology professor receives outstanding doctoral mentor award

Associate Professor Leah Doane is an expert on adolescent development and stress

Leah Doane

Associate Professor and Developmental Psychology Area Head Leah Doane. Photo by Robert Ewing

March 01, 2021

Arizona State University Associate Professor and Developmental Psychology Area Head Leah Doane was recently selected by the ASU Graduate College as the 2020–21 Outstanding Doctoral Mentor.

Doane has published over 60 papers and received funding from the William T. Grant Foundation, Helios Education Foundation, National Institutes of Health, and the Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences. Yet, her proudest moments come from being a mentor.

Doane was nominated for the award by three of her current graduate students, Jeri Sasser, Emma Lecarie and Michaela Gusman, with support from current student HyeJung Park and former graduate students Michael Sladek and Reagan Breitenstein.

Each of the nominators expressed how important Doane’s mentorship and support were to their academic careers and journey.

“Dr. Doane has been a supportive and present mentor since I first accepted the offer to join the clinical psychology program at ASU," said Lecarie, a third-year clinical psychology graduate student. "Once she takes a student on as her own, she is completely committed to mentoring them through the program and getting that student to reach their ultimate goals. Her mentorship is special because she prioritizes the well-being of her graduate students above all else.”

“Dr. Doane is a phenomenal mentor that walks the walk with her mentees and, of course, each of us are walking different paths," said Park, a Tillman Scholar and developmental psychology graduate student. "She is not only an academic mentor but also a compassionate coach, always providing responsive guidance and creating opportunities that best suit our growth.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic completely shut down saliva collection, which is a key component of Doane’s stress research, and removed in-home visits from the Arizona Twin Project, Doane and her graduate students adapted the research to be virtual. This pivot included retraining over 50 undergraduate research assistants who work in teams with her graduate students on how to conduct remote “in-home” visits.

“We had to shift to remote research in the middle of the semester when I was scheduled to defend my master's thesis,” Lecarie said. “It was definitely stressful and I'm so thankful to have had Dr. Doane's mentorship to guide me through. Leah is a mentor who shows consistent care for the well-being of her students and this was exemplified even more after the start of the pandemic. Leah's mentorship was a strong constant and genuine support while research labs quickly worked to get their projects onto virtual platforms.”

Mentor selection is one of the most crucial parts of deciding which graduate school to attend. While students are applying for a specific program, they are also applying to work with this faculty mentor for the next four to six years.

Doane is the principal researcher of the Adolescent Stress and Emotion Lab and is also a contributing principal investigator on the Arizona Twin Project, a longitudinal research study trying to understand the influence of genetic and environmental factors on physical health, emotional development, and the development of resilience in a sample of twins.

Across her many projects, Doane’s research centers on the everyday stressful experiences in childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood and measuring physiological stress markers such as cortisol and levels of sleep.

Under her tutelage, Doane’s graduate students have conducted award-winning research on transitions and stress, the impact of bedtime media on sleep and the socioeconomic disparities in sleep, and have received Tillman Scholar awards and NSF Graduate Research Fellowships.

The mentor’s role is to train the graduate student on particular methods, ideas or theories and also to support the graduate student while they conduct an extremely rigorous journey through graduate school. Oftentimes, this includes figuring out what each student specifically needs for guidance and training.

“Being a mentor is my favorite part of the job. Watching my students grow and learn is one of the most fun things I get to do,” Doane said. “To watch their careers blossom, and see their excitement for our projects just makes my day.”

Doane’s students aren’t the only ones who benefit from her support, however: The relationship is reciprocal.

“I am invigorated by mentoring my students — they inspire me to apply for that next grant, to ask the next question, to conduct better research. I really think that being a mentor is part of what motivates me every day,” said Doane.

“My students are like my family. At work, we are a community, we lift each other up, and I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to mentor my amazing and wonderful students.”

Doane joins previous Department of Psychology recipients Linda Luecken, Dave McKinnon, Douglas Kenrick, Steve Neuberg, Stephen West, Laurie Chassin, Manuel Barrera and Leona Aiken as a recipient of this honor.

“The ASU Department of Psychology has a proud history of effective mentorship," said Neuberg, Foundation Professor and chair. "By bringing graduate students into our psychology family, we assume a special responsibility and commitment to them — we are promising we will do our best to help them reach their potential. I’m thrilled to see Dr. Doane win this award, but am not surprised. Her mentoring is as exemplary as her important research discoveries.”

Video courtesy ASU Department of Psychology

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