Photo of Olav Rueppell

Dr. Olav Rueppell

Biology Professor Dr. Olav Rueppell has mentored 56 undergraduate students in his social insects lab since coming to UNCG in 2003, and the Council of Undergraduate Research (CUR) has recognized him for his successful efforts. Rueppell won the 2015 Mid-Career Mentoring Award from the organization’s Biology Division.

“Mentoring young, aspiring researchers is probably the most rewarding experience, especially when you can observe the transformation in the individual students,” Rueppell said. “I consider mentored undergraduate research across many disciplines one key strength of UNCG that we can be very proud of.”

Rueppell typically has about eight undergraduate students working in his lab on a variety of projects, including computer analyses of genomes, laboratory tests of honey bee diseases, and behavioral and demographic studies with live honey bees. Those students often stay with him for several years and engage in numerous projects.

“Only a small part of a university education consists of classroom learning of facts. Mentored undergraduate research is a very intensive experience that teaches students many critical skills, most of which are directly applicable to situations in professional careers,” Rueppell said. “It fosters their natural curiosity and gives their studies meaning, particularly when they can connect their research project to class material.”

Mentored research allows undergraduate students to gain a deeper understanding of the scientific process, develop confidence and communication skills, work on problem solving skills and mature as a scientist.

“The experience can have profound consequences for the students’ career choices,” Rueppell said. “Many of my undergraduate mentees have gone on to graduate or professional school for an advanced career in the life sciences.”

Students aren’t the only ones who benefit from mentored research, however.

“I also enjoy research itself of course and gaining new insights into the biological principles that I study,” Rueppell continued. “Undergraduates are an invaluable part of my lab and help me make important discoveries.”

Rueppell has been instrumental in creating collaborative research opportunities by partnering with faculty from other departments to acquire funding from the National Science Foundation. Rueppell and his colleagues have used this funding to expand undergraduate research across the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines.

“Olav Rueppell is dedicated to providing high quality research experiences to a large number of undergraduates in his lab,” said Dr. Stanley Faeth, head of UNCG’s biology department. “Many of the undergraduates in his lab have successful careers as scientists and medical professionals. Olav is very deserving of the 2015 Mid-Career Mentoring Award from the Biology Division of the Council of Undergraduate Research.”

CUR is a national organization that supports including undergraduate students in collaborative research. The Biology Division’s mid-career mentorship award is awarded annually to a professor with seven to 15 years of experience mentoring undergraduate research students.


Story by Jeanie Groh, University Relations