Newswise — The Chemistry Division of the Council on Undergraduate Research has announced the inaugural recipients of its Outstanding Mentorship Award, which recognizes excellence in mentoring of undergraduate researchers in chemistry:

  • Maryam Foroozesh (Xavier University of Louisiana, New Orleans, LA)
  • Yuanbing Mao (University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Edinburg, TX)
  • Ipsita Banerjee (Fordham University, Bronx, NY)

Foroozesh (Margaret W. Kelly Endowed Professor in Chemistry and chair, Division of Mathematical and Physical Sciences; chair, Division of Biological and Applied Health Sciences, and head, Department of Chemistry, at Xavier University of Louisiana) was honored for her acumen in mentor-led chemistry research projects and her work utilizing diversity and inclusion best practices in undergraduate education. She has mentored more than 90 undergraduates in research, many of whom are from groups underrepresented in science. Undergraduate students are frequently coauthors on her 60 publications and more than 85 percent of her students have continued their education in scientific and medicinal fields. Foroozesh has been a leader in enhancing the mentoring and undergraduate research experiences for Xavier students, catalyzed by the Research Institute for Scientific Advancement (RISE) and Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity (BUILD) programs, both funded by the National Institutes of Health. She also has been an active mentor of the National Research Mentoring Network and has mentored a number of early-career faculty members, research associates, and postbaccalaureate technicians. Additionally, Foroozesh has served in numerous leadership positions at her institution, establishing an inclusive environment for excellence that encourages professional development, fosters meaningful dialogue, and cultivates ethical conduct in research. Foroozesh earned a BS in chemistry magna cum laude from Louisiana State University and a PhD in organic/bio-organic chemistry from Tulane University.
Mao (associate professor in the School of Earth, Environmental, and Marine Sciences and the Department of Chemistry at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley) was recognized for his efforts in mentor-led chemistry research projects and his work utilizing diversity and inclusion best practices in undergraduate education. Mao has mentored more than 60 undergraduates to date from diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds to jump-start their scientific careers. He has published more than 85 peer-reviewed publications with one-third of these coauthored with undergraduate researchers. Mao actively participates in outreach and mentoring programs to ensure inclusion of minority and female students. His work with the Integrating Food Science/Engineering and Education Network consortium (IFSEEN), which he funded with a $2-million US Department of Agriculture grant, has created an educational linkage for four Hispanic-serving institutions in Texas and New Mexico that has successfully engaged middle school and high school students in cross-disciplinary food science research. In addition to the USDA-funded program, Mao has enhanced the research opportunities for undergraduate students at his institution with total awards of more than $7 million from external agencies as a principal investigator or co-principal investigator. Mao earned a BS in chemistry from Xiangtan University, an MS in chemistry from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and a PhD from Stony Brook University-SUNY.

Banerjee (professor and chair, Department of Chemistry, at Fordham University) was honored for her achievements in mentor-led chemistry research projects and her efforts utilizing diversity and inclusion best practices in undergraduate education. Effectively leveraging grant resources, she has mentored more than 50 undergraduate students in research projects, leading to 80 publications, 65 of them including undergraduate coauthors. All of Banerjee's past research students who have graduated are working in STEM or health-related fields. She is a dedicated adviser and mentor, helping her students learn to write. Her patience and ability to mentor students drives her students to take a lead on writing up their research papers, with her students often as the first author. Her students have won numerous awards at national and regional conferences as well as fellowships for graduate school, a tribute to her transformative mentoring. Banerjee's timely and effective advising of fourth-year chemistry majors provides guidance on career selection as well as dedicated feedback on personal statements, resumes, graduate applications, and interview preparation. As the leading female scientist on her campus, she generously contributes her time and expertise to undergraduate research initiatives and committees that oversee STEM curriculum development. Banerjee earned a first-class BS in chemistry from the University of Bombay, a first-class MS in organic chemistry from the University of Bombay, and a PhD in chemistry from the University of Connecticut Storrs.

The Outstanding Mentorship Awards of CUR's Chemistry Division honor exceptional mentoring and advising by higher education faculty across all subdisciplines of chemistry. Each award consists of a $500 cash prize to the recipient, a certificate of recognition, a one-year individual membership to CUR funded by the Chemistry Division, and a letter of commendation from CUR sent to the recipient’s institution.


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.