Alyssa Meyers, Ph.D., a postdoctoral research associate in the Sarah A. Hamer Laboratory at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), has been awarded the 2019 Ethel Ashworth-Tsutsui Memorial Award for Mentoring by the Texas A&M organization Women in Science and Engineering (WISE).
This annual award recognizes women on campus who encourage and support Texas A&M women graduate students. Meyers was nominated by Dr. Sarah Hamer, CVM associate professor and director of the Schubot Center for Avian Health, and past mentee Megan Ellis, a fourth-year veterinary student at the Colorado State College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
Hamer, who has worked with Meyers since 2015, noted Meyers’ long history of mentoring, including volunteering to teach science to rural high school students in Ethiopia and formally mentoring 10 students, nine of whom were female, at Texas A&M.
“The daily tasks of an undergrad in the lab may involve simple pipetting of DNA samples into new tubes, but Alyssa makes the undergrads feel appreciated and become passionate about the bigger research questions, and how their laboratory work was one small step in a bigger plan to improve human and animal health,” Hamer said.
“Alyssa worked long hours with several of her mentees to help them create abstracts to be accepted into an NIH-funded summer program, develop research proposals, analyze data, and develop both poster and oral presentations,” she said. “Some of her proudest moments are when her mentees were recognized for their research excellence.”
Meyers has also found a non-traditional way to provide mentorship through a panel she organizes to assist students planning to apply to the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program. Having received this award herself, she uses her experience to educate and prepare others.
“In all aspects of her work, Alyssa took deliberate steps to seek out mentees and provide others with meaningful experiences and guidance, through both formal mentoring programs and informal initiatives she started,” Hamer said.
In addition, Hamer praises Meyers’ ability to serve as a role model while balancing her career and her family after the birth of her son in Jan. 2019.
“As a postdoctoral associate, Alyssa now balances her baby’s needs and her research obligations to maintain a high level of productivity, continuing to prioritize mentoring every step of the way,” Hamer said. “Balancing academic and family demands has further immersed Alyssa as a role model to the many undergraduates and veterinary students we mentor as the next generation of female scientists.”
Ellis worked under Meyers in the Hamer Lab during the summer of 2017 as part of the Veterinary Medical Student Research Training Program (VMSRTP) to study the epidemiology of Chagas Disease.
“I have had other mentors since and before then, but Alyssa’s mentorship has been the most unique and strong of any I have experienced thus far,” Ellis said. “She leads by example with her passion for research, skill in the field and in the lab, and ability as a strong communicator. She allows her mentees space to attempt and succeed at new skills, and in the event of a failure or an unexpected complication, she is always helpful and treats it as a learning experience, rather than a catastrophe.
“Whenever I have questions about my path, about any obstacles I have encountered, or about how to move forward, I have always felt that I could reach out to Alyssa for advice and help,” she said. “In my eyes, that is one of the most unique and compelling aspects of Alyssa’s mentorship: that she remains connected to and invested in the success of her mentees. She is a strong example of how one can use mentorship to truly empower and strengthen others.”
In the Hamer Lab, Meyers has made great contributions to the study of Chagas Disease by determining the impact that this disease can have on the U.S. government’s working dogs in south Texas. Her seven published papers will be beneficial to the management of Chagas Disease in both veterinary and human medicine.
Meyers received $500, a certificate, and a plaque at the 2020 Ethel Ashworth-Tsutsui Memorial Lecture and Awards Ceremony on Jan. 17.
The Ethel Ashworth-Tsutsui Memorial Awards for Research and Mentoring honor Dr. Ethel Ashworth-Tsutsui, a longtime faculty member of Texas A&M’s Biochemistry Department who was a founding member of WISE and cared deeply about the retention and recognition of women in graduate programs.
WISE is an organization of graduate students, staff, and faculty from various science and engineering backgrounds created to address specific problems faced by women in non-traditional fields.
Contact Information: Jennifer Gauntt, Director of Communications, Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences; email@example.com; 979-862-4216