Two Graduate Students Honored for Their Outstanding Mentorship

April 5, 2021

Jin Zhou and Bridget Eklund.

Jin Zhou (Ph.D. Student, Electrical and Computer Engineering) and Bridget Eklund (J.D. Student) are the winners of the 2021 Bass Connections Award for Outstanding Mentorship. This annual award recognizes the crucial leadership and mentorship roles that graduate students and postdocs play on Bass Connections teams. Zhou and Eklund will each receive a cash prize.

Among the strong nominations received, those for Zhou and Eklund rose to the top. Nominations from their fellow team members and leaders described the essential role that both individuals played in promoting the success of the team’s work, guiding students through new material, and fostering an inclusive and supportive team environment.

In addition to Zhou and Eklund, finalists for this year’s award included:

Jin Zhou

Ph.D. Student, Electrical and Computer Engineering

Bass Connections Project Team: Smart Toilet: A Disruptive Technology to Improve Health and Wellness

Zhou is a second-year doctoral student in Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Pratt School of Engineering. Zhou’s research focuses on the intersection of machine learning and health data science. In his role on the Smart Toilet team, Zhou has been working with several undergraduate students to develop integrated inline sensors for real-time categorization of bowel movements as well as further leveraging the Smart Sampling Toilet platform, a noninvasive source of individualized biological data.

Jin has shown consistent commitment to his role of mentor and supervisor of his team of undergraduates. He has given tutorial lectures and created code scripts to practice techniques that were new to them … Jin has created an exceptionally good relationship with the undergraduates and a positive environment for learning and inquiries. [He is] sensitive to the mentees’ growth interests and has connected them with information relevant to class selection and resources. –Sonia Grego, team leader

Both offline and online, Jin’s dedication, attitude, and mentorship has been one of the largest assets to our project and my professional and academic development … Routinely, Jin notices what [my teammate] and I would like to learn or are interested in, both technical and professional, and will connect us and encourage us to learn. Specifically, over our winter break ... he tailored the material [of a topic that was central to our work] to develop his own course for what we were interested in and met with us weekly over break to run through coursework and material like a normal (virtual) class … Jin has been a phenomenal model because of his inexorable dedication, contagious attitude and rich mentorship. –Undergraduate team member

Throughout our time working together, I know that if I ever have any questions or need help, I can always go to Jin, even if it was a very simple task. I was able to understand the doctoral process and the different avenues post-Doc through Jin and his experiences … I do not know where I would be in my research without the help and guidance of Jin. –Undergraduate team member

Bridget Eklund

J.D. Student, Duke University School of Law

Bass Connections Project Team: Regenerative Grazing to Mitigate Climate Change

Eklund is a third-year law student studying the legal aspects of sustainable food systems, equitable management of land and climate change. She serves as the project manager for the Regenerative Grazing team, a multiyear effort to facilitate a dramatic expansion in the adoption and success of regenerative grazing systems in North Carolina and the Southeast.

This past year, Bridget has gone out of her way to welcome undergraduate students from other institutions … onto the team. It is one thing to talk about building an interdisciplinary, inter-institutional team of students, and quite another to make such a team function and eventually thrive … [T]here is no substitute for the kind of peer-to-peer advising and mentorship that Bridget exemplifies … Behind the scenes, Bridget has done the million little things that keep the project on track and keep the students engaged despite the challenges of remote learning … She has, on several occasions, served as a conduit for student concerns, bridging the inevitable power dynamic between faculty and undergraduates … with grace and aplomb. In that sense, she has mentored us as well as her fellow students. –Lee Miller, team leader

Bridget has made my Bass Connections experience more fulfilling than I could have expected when I first joined the team last fall. She leads by example, and exceeds all expectations with both large and small tasks … She is approachable and demonstrates a maturity that is contagious. She is considerate, timely and is always precise during interactions with our stakeholders. With Bridget, your time feels valuable and respected. Her actions inspire me to uplift others and become a stronger team member. –Undergraduate team member

Throughout her time on the team, Bridget has always gone above and beyond to ensure the success of our project. Always the first to volunteer to help, she takes the lead in planning field trips and organizing team building opportunities. She has also used her role as founder of the Duke Food Law Society to host film screenings for agriculture focused … These screenings highlight our mission to the broader Duke community and have helped more community members become interested in our project. –Undergraduate team member

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