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2011 Dean’s Award: Terry Jackson

Dean’s Award for Excellence in Mentoring

Terry Jackson, a Ph.D. candidate in the University Program in Genetics and Genomics, received a B.S. in Biology, cum laude, from Virginia State University in 2003. Terry engaged in post-baccalaureate research in the Duke University Center for Human Genetics before starting his graduate studies. Terry's doctoral research focuses on the physiological and transcriptional stress response of Arabidopsis thaliana roots under low sulphur conditions. Terry is strongly motivated to assist in the development of his fellow students, and fosters mutual respect with those he mentors, who find him to be approachable, accessible, and encouraging.

Terry's collaborative nature and his ability to connect with others are seen by his nominators as among his strongest assets, who note that "Terry's greatest strength is his ability to create strong connections with those around him." They say that he is "one of those people that you can immediately connect with" that "truly cherishes engaging in the development of his fellow students," and enjoys participating in the success of others. His enjoyment extends to the daily routines of work, according to one student who describes that "In the workplace, Terry is a great boss and makes it very difficult to call work work. He gives us all a good understanding of what we're doing, how we're contributing, and makes us feel like an essential part of his research." He also endeavors to help others gain in-depth understanding as well as to convey the larger picture that the research addresses, according to one nominator "He goes above and beyond to ensure that I genuinely understand and appreciate the importance of each task and how it influences or relates to the broader research project and to science as a whole." 

Terry's approachability and accessibility are also key to his connection with students, who say that he is never too busy to provide assistance, as one observed, "I was able to contact him by phone or e-mail most hours of the day, and he always responded promptly." He provides individual attention to those who need it, offering them in-depth guidance and follow-up, acccording to one nominator who says that "He took time to sit down with me and lead me through every procedure step by step to make sure I would be as proficient as possible. He continued to pay close attention to my work and offered constructive criticism when it was necessary."  Terry is also quick to nurture those who are less experienced: "Terry welcomed me my first day and although I was rather inexperienced in the field of genetics and genomics, he adopted me into the laboratory setting immediately." The confidence Terry exhibits for the abilities of the students he mentors is reflected in their response to it, as one undergraduate said, "As a sophomore, this position was my first exposure to the world of scientific research, and Mr. Jackson let me dive into it with confidence and fervor."

Terry also models and promotes diversity both within and outside the lab, as one student says, "His passion for diversity is reflected in the group of students working with him." It is also evident through his support of multi-cultural student organizations, and demonstrated by his involvement as a graduate mentor for Duke's Summer Research Opportunity Program (SROP), a ten-week training program designed to give students hands-on experience in graduate-level biomedical research. This devotion to diversity is considered by students to have long-lasting effects, and a sense that "He has provided us with an opportunity that certainly will make a very significant contribution towards our future and towards our development as persons and scientists."