Dr. Loretta Jackson-Hayes, the James H. Daughdrill Professor in the Natural Sciences, is a 2021 recipient of the Outstanding Mentorship Award from the Council on Undergraduate Research’s (CUR) Chemistry Division. The division recognizes transformative mentoring and advising by higher education faculty across all subdivisions of chemistry. Each includes a cash prize and a certificate of recognition.
“It is my sincere desire to open doors for students and faculty, as so many doors were graciously opened for me by my mentors and supporters,” says Loretta Jackson-Hayes. “I am truly humbled to be recognized for these efforts.”
Since joining Rhodes in 2003, Jackson-Hayes not only has been committed to mentoring undergraduate researchers, but also to contributing to curricular development that includes research experiences for students and establishing programs that support and mentor faculty who are working with undergraduates doing publishable research.
In addition, Jackson-Hayes serves as chair of Rhodes’ chemistry department and holds a position in academic affairs leadership as director for scholarly and creative activity mentoring. Her scholarly work includes research on genes required for fungal cell wall synthesis and maintenance during development. She has published and presented talks on STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) education in the liberal arts environment, emphasizing that students become better scientists when they draw from other disciplines.
Jackson-Hayes holds a Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center at Memphis and a B.S. from Tougaloo College, and she has made a concerted effort to engage students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) on her research team.
“By my count, Loretta has been the sole or principal research mentor to 33 different students while at Rhodes, the great majority of whom worked with her for multiple semesters and summers,” says Dr. Terry Hill, professor of biology at Rhodes and a 2020 recipient of CUR’s Advanced Career Mentor Award in the Biology Division. “The effectiveness of Loretta’s work with all these students can be seen in a number of ways. One is that of the 27 students who have already graduated, 16 have been listed as co-authors on the papers originating in her lab. Loretta has a high threshold for student authorship, expecting not just that a student will have made a meaningful technical contribution, but also that the student will have gained genuine intellectual ownership of some part of the project.
“We see effectiveness as well in the fact that of her 27 lab alums, seven have gone on to Ph.D. programs in the sciences, including two students from our HBCU connections, and another very recent HBCU student has just started in a master’s degree and is expected to transition to the Ph.D. Some students of Loretta’s program have gone on to M.D. D.D.S., or nursing programs, and the rest have gone on to Master of Public Health (MPH) programs or to research technology positions. In other words, every one of Loretta’s research students is now in a position where they directly benefit from what they gained while in her lab.”
Hill adds that Jackson-Hayes remains in contact with lab alumni, getting updates on degrees earned, presentations made, and positions obtained.
Founded in 1978, CUR is an organization of individual, institutional, and affiliate members from around the world. Its mission is to support and promote high-quality mentored undergraduate research, scholarship, and creative inquiry.
Dr. Marsha Walton, professor of psychology at Rhodes, received a 2020 Excellence in Mentoring Undergraduate Research in the Social Sciences Award presented by CUR’s Social Sciences Division. Dr. Shana Stoddard, assistant professor of chemistry, is a 2021 recipient of the Mentor Award (Early Career) presented by CUR’s Health Sciences Division.