PNI members awarded for outstanding mentoring and teaching

PNI faculty members, Lindy McBride and Jesse Gomez, along with graduate student Jessica Ye (Buschman lab), honored with awards for outstanding mentoring (McBride) and teaching (Gomez and Ye).

Lindy McBride receives Graduate Mentoring Award

Lindy McBride, assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and neuroscience, was named a recipient of the annual Graduate Mentoring Award by the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning and the Graduate School. The award recognizes Princeton faculty members who are exemplary in supporting the development of their graduate students as teachers, scholars, and professionals. One faculty member in each academic division (humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and engineering) is selected to receive this honor, with recipients officially recognized at the Graduate School's Hooding Ceremony. Graduate students nominate faculty members for the award, and they serve on the committee that selects the winners along with faculty members and senior staff from the McGraw Center and the Graduate School. The award includes a $1,000 prize and a commemorative gift. 

McBride, who joined Princeton in 2014, holds a joint position in the PNI and the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Her lab studies natural mosquito populations to examine the genomic, molecular and neural basis of evolutionary adaptation to human hosts. One student cited McBride’s “unhesitating encouragement and support”, describing her as a “very supportive, hands-on mentor, who is actively involved in my research”, adding that “I've definitely avoided a lot of potential pitfalls and lost time because of her involvement”. McBride’s mentees also commended the collaborative and collegial work environment she fosters in the lab, noting that “she is quick to address issues before they become points of argument or conflict”. “Dr. McBride encourages the students to develop themselves professionally outside the lab and give back to the community,” said one student, who appreciated her enthusiasm when he expressed an interest in mentoring first-generation, low-income undergraduates. “Lindy is both a phenomenal mentor and a wonderfully compassionate person,” added another student. “She has made it clear she will continue to be a staunchprofessional ally for the rest of my career.”

Jesse Gomez receives President’s Award for Distinguished Teaching

Jesse Gomez, assistant professor of neuroscience, received the President’s Award for Distinguished Teaching at Commencement ceremonies Tuesday, May 30. The awards were established in 1990 through a gift by Princeton alumni Lloyd Cotsen of the Class of 1950 and John Sherrerd of the Class of 1952 to recognize excellence in undergraduate teaching by Princeton faculty members. Each winner receives a cash prize of $5,000, and their departments each receive $3,000 for the purchase of new books. 

A committee of faculty, academic administrators, undergraduates and graduate students selected the winners from nominations by students, faculty colleagues and alumni.

Gomez, who joined the PNI faculty in 2020, studies human cognitive neuroscience and brain development. Since he began teaching “Introduction to Cognitive Neuroscience” and redesigned the curriculum in 2021, its enrollment has nearly doubled, and about 15% of all Princeton students now take the course.

“Jesse’s creative lectures and discussions were incredibly well received amongst the undergraduates, so much so that we have seen a sizable spike in the number of undergraduate concentrators in neuroscience,” said a colleague. “Jesse has played an instrumental role in engaging not only with the undergraduate population, but also helping to foster a more inclusive and dynamic training environment for our graduate students.”

One mentee pointed out Gomez's ability to “disintegrate a complex problem into digestible chunks so that students that are still in a learning process can make meaningful progress even on extremely challenging scientific endeavors, that at first may seem out of reach”, while another described Gomez as “a model of inclusive leadership, compassionate teaching and joy for the sciences.” He regularly recruits students through Princeton’s ReMatch program and PNI’s summer internship program as part of his mission to train first-generation students from underrepresented backgrounds and ensure their continued success in STEM.

Jessica Ye receives Graduate School Teaching Award 

Jessica Ye, a second year graduate student and member of PNI associate professor Tim Buschman’s lab, was also recognized for her excellence in teaching and awarded the annual Graduate School Teaching Award. Ye was among 10 Princeton University graduate students selected by a committee chaired by Lisa Schreyer, deputy dean of the Graduate School, and composed of the academic affairs deans and staff from the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning. The nominations were made by academic departments and programs and each winner received $1,000.

Jessica served as an AI for “Fundamentals of Neuroscience,” taught by PNI faculty member Lisa Boulanger, who described Ye as “a standout” preceptor because she was an innovator, adding that “she thought of creative approaches to engage students while enhancing their learning, like playing ‘Neuroscience Jeopardy’,” and that “her precepts were so exceptional, I asked her if we could record them on Zoom.” Boulanger also commended the exceptional level of compassion that Ye brought into her work as an instructor, describing how “she [Ye] checked in with students and created a space where they felt welcome and comfortable asking questions”. Emphasizing the importance of teaching experience for graduate school students, Boulanger added that “in a world where academia often prioritizes research and publications, the significance of teaching can sometimes be overshadowed. However, for PhD candidates, teaching is not just a requirement, it is a fundamental part of the graduate school experience. It provides students with a unique opportunity to cultivate skills that are relevant to a variety of post-graduate career paths, including critical thinking skills, effective communication of complex ideas, and fostering an inclusive and engaging learning environment. Teaching well is both an art and a science. It was a pleasure to work with Jessica and see her shine.”

Describing her own teaching philosophy, Ye said she aims “to make [the] material as simple and salient as possible so that students can have fun learning it”, and pointed out that it was her students’ dedication  and participation that “made it possible for the classroom to be the lively and engaging space that I strived to create”. She wished to thank her students “for being the gems that they were”, and professor Lisa Boulanger for nominating her for the award.

The PNI community proudly congratulates Lindy, Jessica and Jesse on their well-deserved recognition, and looks forward to witnessing their continued contributions and achievements. 

by Nadav Amir