January 08, 2018 3:30PM
Ashleigh Elbert, a graduate student, hopes future generations will benefit from what she and classmates are researching.
Both are among the many enrolled in PSU's premedical program who look to Virginia Rider, a University Professor in the Department of Biology since 2000, as a mentor.
Listening to her students speak about her impact on them, it's no wonder Rider was chosen as the recipient of the Joan S. Hunt Distinguished Mentoring Award, an award she will be given this weekend at a symposium founded by Hunt in 2001.
Rider pushes them to be their best, her students say.
She earned her Ph.D. from Arizona State, and continued her research training as a postdoctoral fellow in Cambridge, England, and at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. She also taught at Tufts University, where she developed an independent research program investigating the hormonal control of uterine cell proliferation and differentiation.
Rider looked to Hunt, a reproductive biologist, as a model researcher and teacher. Hunt, one of the world's foremost scientists in the area of reproductive immunology, has held many titles at KU Medical Center, including Vice Chancellor for Research and President of the Research Institute. She also founded the K-INBRE statewide symposium — a symposium Rider has attended ever since with colleagues and students.
"Her area was implantation and the immunology of pregnancy," Rider said. "How does the endocrine system talk with the immune system in the establishment of pregnancy?"
One of her students, for example, is studying proteins involved in embryo implantation in hopes that understanding the process will help women who want to have children someday.
"Some of the best discoveries in the lab have come from undergraduate students working there. They don't even know how significant their observations are, often times," she said.
Rider, meanwhile, said she enjoys their successes more than her own.
"It has to be that way. If you want to mentor students, that's a critical part of it. You have to be just as excited — maybe more so — for them as you are for yourself," she said.
Hunt's passion for mentoring also was evident throughout her prominent career. Spanning many years as a researcher, administrator and as Principal Investigator of the K-INBRE, she served as a valued mentor to numerous emerging scientists throughout Kansas, as well as internationally. Today, Rider is mentoring her students in those research topics, taking up where Hunt left off.
Nominated by colleagues, Rider is the first from PSU to receive the award. It will be presented at the K-INBRE Symposium in Overland Park, Kansas. There to see her receive it will be a contingent of more than 40 PSU biology and chemistry students, all chosen by a committee to present their research at K-INBRE this year, as well as faculty members from Biology and Chemistry, PSU President Steve Scott, Vice President Howard Smith, and deans Mary Carol Pomatto and Pawan Kahol.
The honor included a $5,000 financial award to be used for research and/or mentoring activities.
K-INBRE is a project funded by the National Institutes of Health that includes nine academic institutions in Kansas, including PSU. One of the goals of the K-INBRE program is to identify and recruit promising undergraduate science students into careers in biomedical research in Kansas.
Partnering Institutions: University of Kansas Medical Center (lead institution), University of Kansas-Lawrence (scientific partner), Kansas State University (scientific partner), Emporia State University, Fort Hays State University, Haskell Indian Nations University, Langston University, Pittsburg State University, Washburn University, Wichita State University.