In the School of Arts & Sciences, faculty play a vital role in Richmond’s undergraduate research program, sharing their expertise and guiding students through their projects. The role of a faculty mentor requires a large commitment of time, and A&S is grateful to each of the 118 faculty members who has mentored a student research project this past year. Many faculty mentors go above and beyond in supporting student researchers, and two of them were recognized with the Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award. 

The first faculty honoree is physics professor Jack Singal, who joined our faculty in the fall of 2013 and immediately began working with undergraduate researchers. He has mentored 11 students over the past five years, several of whom have gone on to competitive graduate programs and jobs in consulting and software engineering. 

Jack received a National Science Foundation grant to host an international astrophysics conference on campus this past summer and involved two of his research students as presenters, the only undergraduates who participated in the event. He has also taken students to the American Astronomical Society meeting to present their work, and has helped them publish their research in top journals in the field.

In his nomination of Dr. Singal, Jibran Haider, ’19, described Singal as a skilled teacher and mentor who is also approachable and devoted to his students. Jibran went on to say, “If it weren’t for Dr. Singal’s efforts in helping me submit my applications and secure funding, I would not be able to take advantage of a research position I have been offered at the world-renowned Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics this summer.” 

Evan Jones, ’18, also submitted a letter of support for Dr. Singal and stated, “I can confidently say that my relationship with Dr. Singal has been the single greatest factor in my academic development and achievement during my time at Richmond.”

The second faculty mentor honoree was Maja White, Associate Professor of Lighting and Sound in the Department of Theatre and Dance. Maja has mentored 17 undergraduate students over the past eight years and, in addition, has advised the Production Studies III capstone course and student choreographers as they prepare their performances.

Several of the students Maja has mentored have gone on to successful careers in professional technical theater, working at Woolly Mammoth, Roundhouse Theatre, and Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., and studying in graduate programs at New York University and University of Virginia.

Maja has been recognized by the student theater fraternity Alpha Psi Omega as an excellent mentor, and was recently asked to serve as the group’s Faculty Advisor, along with advising the student theater group, the University Players. 

In nominating Maja for this award, Megan Wirtz, ’19, described how Maja would give her free reign over a project or task, and then ask her to present a solution a few days later, so they could discuss it together. Megan said, “Her interpersonal style of mentor created a relationship in which I didn’t feel self-conscious or nervous in presenting a design choice to her, but rather I would feel secure knowing that I would walk out of her office feeling like I had a design that is not only approved by a professional lighting designer, but one I am able to justify to other members of my team.”

Megan went on to say, “Maja has imbued a sense of confidence, strength, and passion in me in my three years at Richmond that I cannot begin to put into words.”

Congratulations to Jack and Maja, and thank you for your work with our students.