Skip to main

Eleanor M. Caves

Picture of Eleanor Caves holding a goldfish bowl.

Dean's Award for Excellence in Mentoring

Faculty Adviser: Sönke Johnsen


After receiving the James B. Duke Fellowship from The Graduate School, Eleanor M. Caves came to Duke in 2013 to pursue her Ph.D. in biology. Soon after coming to Duke, Caves ran a graduate student reading and discussion group called BLeRG, which helps with editing and reviews of unfinished work. This group has been enormously successful, leading to three NSF pre-doctoral fellowships, four major research grants, and a number of publications. She is also a founding member of a non-profit called SciREN Triangle, which helps researchers from across North Carolina turn their research in to classroom ready lesson plans that meet North Carolina and federal Education Standards.

In addition to her outreach, Caves is a head graduate mentor for the Melinda French Gates University Scholars Program, a role that involves coordinating mentoring for nearly 100 undergraduates, graduate students, and professional students. She has personally mentored three undergraduates through the University Scholars Program, in addition to mentoring four undergraduates as their supervisor on independent study projects in the Biology Department.


“Especially in science, you have to be given opportunities to try things and for them to not work, but for that to be ok.”

The Importance of Chatter
Making It Ok to Fail
Getting Mentees Out of Their Comfort Zone


Excerpts from Caves's Nominations

“Eleanor is able to step back, start from wherever the mentee may be standing, and move along the full path with them. Again, she does not drag you along, but truly travels the road with you.”

“She impressed me from the very beginning, by showing an interest in me that I hadn’t experienced before from other mentors …. As a direct result of Eleanor’s mentorship, I not only learned more about science and the nature of conducting science, but I also realized that I could be a scientist myself.”

“She is genuinely interested in not only your scientific progress, but in you as a person: from your hobbies to your philosophy of life and your favorite restaurant. These details may seem trite, but they are the basis of trust and collaboration.”

“She always took the time to meet with me whenever I felt stuck, talking through conceptual problems with me, and helping me design and troubleshoot experiments …. Eleanor read and carefully edited reports that I wrote at the end of every semester. She proofread my application for the Duke [Dean’s Undergraduate Summer Research] Fellowship, and even applications for other pursuits that did not affect her, such as summer programs and graduate school.”