Ph.D. chemistry student receives MSU Mentor of the Year Award

  • Mar 9, 2020
  • Melanie Cooper

Keenan Noyes, a doctoral chemistry student, has been selected to receive Michigan State University’s 2020 Undergraduate Research Supervisor Mentor of the Year Award.

Presented annually, the award honors research supervisors who mentor undergraduate student researchers and demonstrate a commitment to undergraduate research, have strong professional mentoring relationships with students and are role models in their field.

Noyes is the first graduate student recipient of this award and the first awardee from the Department of Chemistry in the MSU College of Natural Science (NatSci).

“It's very special to be recognized as a mentor and to receive this award,” Noyes said. “When I was an undergraduate here at MSU, my mentors helped me grow both as a researcher and as a person. In graduate school, I've tried my best to provide that same support to the students I work with because I know how formative this experience can be.”

A graduate student in Professor Melanie Cooper’s Research Group – which focuses on improving the teaching and learning outcomes of chemistry at the undergraduate level – Noyes was nominated by undergraduates Robert McKay, an Honors College senior majoring in physical science, and Matthew Neumann, a junior majoring in media and information.

Noyes served as McKay’s research mentor for three years in the Cooper Research Group.

“Keenan displays immense patience with undergrads and gives them opportunities to grapple with ideas and contribute to research projects in a meaningful way,” McKay said. “Keenan consistently makes himself available to work through data with me and to answer my questions.

“Keenan’s continued commitment to my development as both a scientist and an educator has shaped how I, as a future high school science teacher, hope to have an impact on my students,” McKay continued. “He has aided in my development as a thinker, writer and presenter. Whether in a lab meeting or a one-on-one meeting, Keenan always asks others to put ideas in perspective, to think about why something really matters—or doesn’t. From his example, I have learned to be more critical of all ideas while conducting research to test the efficacy of the ideas presented.”

Noyes’s research explores how undergraduate students understand ideas related to forces and energy, specifically in their chemistry and biology classes.

“By understanding how students see these ideas as related (or unrelated!) across these disciplines,”  Noyes said, “I can hopefully improve the ways in which these courses are taught to better support their learning.”

“Keenan is in his third year as a graduate student in our chemistry education research group, and before that he worked with us as an undergraduate research assistant,” said Cooper, who is a Lappan-Phillips Chair of Science Education at MSU. “This experience, in conjunction with his innate patience and understanding, has made him such an effective mentor for the undergraduates who now work in the group. He spends hours each week working with the undergraduates, and this award, coming as it does from a nomination by those undergraduates, shows how much they value and recognize his support. He clearly has a great future as a researcher and teacher, and I am very lucky to have him working with me.”

Finalists for Supervisor Mentor of the Year receive a $500 honorarium that will be awarded at the beginning of the next fiscal year.