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Attention to students nets Marshall ASU honors


May 22, 2008

Pamela Marshall, an assistant professor in Arizona State University’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, has won the Faculty Achievement Award for Excellence in Student Mentoring for doing what she says is the “hallmark” of her teaching focus – mentoring students in her research lab, treating students as individuals, and developing the next generation of critical thinkers in the science field.

The award is presented annually by ASU Provost and Executive Vice President Elizabeth D. Capaldi. Faculty nominations are judged by Regents’ Professors in each of 11 categories.

“We are proud of the many achievements of our faculty,” says Capaldi. “This award was conceived as a way of celebrating the top intellectual contributions at ASU annually.

“Pamela’s work with her students is a wonderful and meaningful reflection of this university’s commitment to its students. Her mentoring is tailored to the interests and academic strengths of her individual students and is the direct result of the countless hours she spends in the individualized mastery-learning environment she has created to bring out the best in each of her students.”

Marshall came to ASU in fall 2003. She received her Ph.D. in biomedical sciences from the University of Texas Southwest Medical Center in 1996 after receiving her bachelor’s in biological sciences from Southern Methodist University in 1991. A member of the New College’s Department of Integrated Natural Sciences, Marshall’s research focuses on the biogenesis and functions of the vacuole of the budding yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

“Undergraduate mentoring is the hallmark of my research endeavor and the focus of ASU’s West campus life sciences major,” says Marshall.

“My overall goal is to develop the next generation of critical thinkers in science fields. I pride myself on always asking the question, ‘What is in the best interest of the students?’ and developing research projects best suited for their needs.

“Through one-on-one interactions with undergraduate researchers, I am able to place my thumbprint on their soul.”

One of those touched by Marshall is senior life sciences major Belinda Miguel. Miguel has had the benefit of Marshall’s attention in a genetics class as well as a Bridges to Biomedical Careers course, the latter a program that championed diversity through the recruitment of minority community college students to engage them in research projects at ASU. Miguel is now an undergraduate researcher with the MARC program (NIH-funded Minority Access to Research Careers Program).

“Her greatest strength is her understanding of her students,” notes Miguel, who says Marshall has taught her to not give up in her educational career and to follow her dreams. “When you have someone as understanding as Dr. Marshall, it makes your educational career a little bit easier, because unexpected things can occur.

“She has always been there for her students to listen to their concerns, both personal and educational. She takes the time out of her busy schedule to assist her students in any way possible.”

Marshall, who has contributed to such renowned industry publications as Cell Biology International, Journal of Microscopy, The Journal of Cell Biology, and Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education, says the interdisciplinarity of her research and teaching is critical to an overall understanding of any project. One of her many grants is well-known and has been widely covered by the media – the so-called “DINS Lizard Project” successfully integrates life sciences undergraduate curriculum using a thematic organism – the common tree lizard – and developing, implementing and assessing inquiry-based lab exercises in the major.

“We felt this type of lab curriculum would serve our students well,” she says. Many of them are not able to perform undergraduate research, and these labs give all undergrad majors valuable experiences in hypothesis testing, extended research projects, and authentic laboratory experiences.

“Students must use chemistry and physics to perform much of the research in our lab. There is no real differentiation in the sciences and math, and there is a seamless need for biology, chemistry and math in order to study any biological problem.”

In the end, what makes Marshall’s mentoring skills worthy of such university recognition is her own time-tested formula.

“I try to develop independence in each research student by a combination of hands-on guidance, a well-defined research plan, and allowing them to work unassisted to learn their own strengths and weaknesses to ultimately guide them to autonomy.

“I hope that my students will become the scientific leaders of tomorrow.”