Doctoral Students Honored for Commitment to Outstanding Mentorship

April 17, 2020

Mentorship award.

Doctoral students Jaime Castrellon (Psychology & Neuroscience) and Amanda Lazarus (Art, Art History & Visual Studies) are the winners of the 2020 Bass Connections Award for Outstanding Mentorship. This award recognizes the vital role graduate students and postdoctoral scholars play in mentoring students on Bass Connections project teams. Castrellon and Lazarus will each receive a cash prize.

Among many strong nominations, those for Castrellon and Lazarus rose to the top. Nominations from their fellow team members and leaders described the essential role that both individuals played in setting an inspiring vision for their team, guiding students through new research material and cultivating a supportive and inclusive team environment.

In addition to Castrellon and Lazarus, finalists for this year’s award included:

Jaime Castrellon

Ph.D. student, Psychology & Neuroscience
Bass Connections Project Team: Using Neuroscience to Optimize Digital Health Interventions across Adulthood

Castrellon is a third-year doctoral candidate in the Department of Psychology & Neuroscience. His research studies how the brain supports motived behaviors like self-control over desires and cost-benefit decisions. His current research as a Bass Connections team leader seeks to identify whether brain activity patterns can predict the influence of motivational text messages on changes in daily physical activity.

Jaime Castrellon
Jaime Castrellon (third from right) and team members pose at a conference in 2019.

Jaime is incredibly passionate about teaching and mentoring…[and] is deeply invested in mentoring students from backgrounds under-represented in science…Students who have worked directly with Jaime in the lab have received excellent training. Jaime spends significant time meeting with students one-on-one to go over the basics of experimental design and data analysis. He is committed to making sure that everyone he mentors develops confidence as a researcher and doesn’t just feel like a good helper. He seriously engages every student in data analysis and pushes them to read the literature and creatively make sense of results. –Gregory Samanez-Larkin, Team Leader

When I first came into the Motivated Cognition and Aging Brain (MCAB) Lab, I was incredibly nervous, this being my first research position and first opportunity to experience the true application of neuroscience (my newly declared major.) Jaime’s gentle, firm mentorship helped me feel secure in my ability to perform and provided ample room for my mistakes. Over our time together, he has helped to cultivate my understanding of neuroscience and the proper methods of research. –Undergraduate Team Member

Jaime was a great mentor. I came in knowing very little about neuroscience or how to do the work necessary for the project we were working on. He was patient with me and encouraged me to ask questions even if they were basic…He pushed me and my group outside of our comfort zone and prepared us well enough to present as the only undergraduates at a well-established conference. Most importantly, he gave us the skills we needed and made us feel confident enough in ourselves to represent and present on behalf of him. –Undergraduate Team Member

Amanda Lazarus

Ph.D. student, Art, Art History & Visual Studies
Bass Connections Project Team: Building Duke: The Architectural History of Duke Campus from 1924 to the Present

Lazarus is a doctoral candidate in Art, Art History & Visual Studies, where she specializes in Greek and Roman sculpture and Classical archaeology. She has served as the lead graduate student and project manager for her Bass Connections team, a three-year effort to examine the history of the conception, design and construction of Duke’s campus.

I have had the privilege of working with excellent graduate students…but Amanda is extraordinary…While working alongside her on Building Duke, I have developed new pedagogical strategies due to conversations we have had about how best to help students develop critical thinking, analytical and presentation skills, as well as specific suggestions for how to improve student learning while working in Duke's archives. –Kristin L. Huffman, Team Leader

Since day one, Amanda has embraced her many roles – as a researcher, a program manager, an educator and a mentor – with great enthusiasm and genuine interest. During our first visit to the archives…Amanda took the time to explain the humanities research process, introduce us to the art of “mining for evidence” and taught us how to navigate the tremendous amount of archival material in front of us. I noticed that some of the first- and second-year students were overwhelmed… Amanda immediately took note of the situation, and elaborated on points of confusion thoroughly, efficiently and respectfully. She contextualized the minutiae of the project within the larger research direction, while sharing her own challenges in her research experience. This attention to detail and level of care allowed her to earn deep and sustained trust with the team. –Andrew G. Lin ’19, Team Member

Amanda is an exemplary mentor to undergraduate and graduate students alike. As first-year Ph.D. students…we have come to know Amanda as new members of the Building Duke team. Amanda has not only facilitated our entrance into the Building Duke community but has also been generous with her guidance as we navigate a new department and university. What sets Amanda apart is the care she shows for the whole person: she is attentive to students’ well-being, as well as their scholarly development. –Dana Hogan and Brittany Forniotis (Ph.D. students in Art, Art History & Visual Studies), Team Members

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