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2010 Dean’s Award: Jayme M. Johnson

February 23, 2010
Jayme M. Johnson

Dean’s Award for Excellence in Mentoring

Jayme M. Johnson, a doctoral student in the University Program in Genetics and Genomics, received a B.A. degree, magna cum laude, in Biology from Carleton College in 2006. Her research explores the establishment and maintenance of cell polarity in budding yeast, S. cerevisae. Jayme’s nominations demonstrate her ability to support and guide students in a challenging and creative manner that teaches them how to think critically, develop an understanding of necessary content and skills, and blossom and develop as scientists. She has not only influenced the students she mentors, but has also provided the stewardship that has inspired graduate students to think about effective mentoring. She has developed a program that identifies best practices for improving student-on-student mentoring.

I think one of Jayme's strongest points when it comes to mentoring is that she is always pushing and encouraging me to think critically. For example, when Jayme and I read through papers together, rather than asking me what the paper says, she asks me what it SHOWS, and whether or not that data actually provide evidence for what they claim. She really emphasizes making that connection. She helps me to understand the content, but more importantly, she helps me develop the mental skills to interpret it for myself. As we do this, it also helps me to see how scientists go about forming hypotheses, and the many different approaches they can take to prove them.

Jayme Johnson is by far the most engaged and accomplished student mentor I have met in my 15 years at Duke. She has not only had a positive impact on students in the lab, but has also influenced the mentoring skills of her colleagues in the University Program in Genetics and Genomics. She is constantly evaluating her own performance as well, and getting even better. I cannot imagine anyone better suited to receive this award.

By asking me the questions rather than just telling me what the answers would have been, she shows she cares about what I understand, as well as my thought process getting to that understanding. Since it's more a discussion, not a lesson, this also helps to foster mutual respect. Further, she always asks for feedback regarding the effectiveness of her teaching methods, and is always seeking to grow in this area.

She is a tremendously energetic, intelligent, and enthusiastic individual with twin passions for research and for teaching. In my lab, she has directly mentored two undergraduates, as well as rotation students and fellow graduate students. She tutors high-school students, has served as a very effective TA for undergraduates, and yet maintains a successful bench research program.

Ensuring that she takes advantage of every opportunity to hone her own teaching skills, Jayme effectively guides and teaches both her colleagues and the students she mentors.