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Dec 19, 2013

Professors and the road to success

Mentorship goes beyond labs and classrooms
By Jan Gillis (’07)

Carly Starke and her mentor JMU professor Louise Temple
Carly Starke and JMU professor and mentor Dr. Louise Temple share research interests.

JMU professors are known for taking an active interest in their students' academic careers, using their personal and professional connections to guide students to success beyond graduation.

Starke shares her experience: "I had been working with Dr. Louise Temple as my adviser, and she encouraged her students to apply for the Hillcrest Scholarship. Part of the scholarship proposal work was contacting an agency and finding a suitable project to work on. It meant the agency had to predict what research would be ongoing two years hence," Starke says.

For Carly, undergraduate research is just the beginning.

ISAT Assistant Professor Dr. Stephanie Stockwell, who works with Temple in the JMU lab, facilitated the difficult task. "Dr. Stockwell had done graduate work with Dr. Madushini Dharmasena at the Food and Drug Administration," Starke says. Stockwell helped Starke make a connection to Dharmasena, which resulted in Starke's summer experience at FDA working on the typhoid vaccine.

"My experience was better than what I expected!" Starke says. "Everyday I was excited to get to work, telling myself, 'I can't wait to do this!'"

She says Dharmasena reinforced many of Temple's recommendations as to what direction she might choose for her future: "She gave me advice on the grad school application process, where to apply and programs to look at. She helped me understand all my options by explaining what's out there and where you can go," she says. As a result, "I want a Ph.D., probably in immunology," Starke says, "I'm focusing my selection on three schools."

Mentorship goes beyond labs and classrooms. "Dr. Temple has been there since day one, and the people I met in that class are still my friends today. She has had us over to her house; we've gone to conferences together; she has taken us on hikes," Starke says. "She has done everything to encourage me."

The end of Starke's undergraduate career is looming, but she feels she's made a connection to Temple for life. "I know she's always going to be there even after JMU. I'll be able to call her up and share what I'm doing to get advice," she says.

"She's more than a professor."

Update: Aug. 29, 2014: Starke graduated in May 2014 and is now in a Ph.D. program in Microbiology and Immunology through a joint partnership between the National Institutes of Health and Georgetown University. She says, "I would have never gotten this opportunity without my experiences and mentoring at JMU, especially after winning the Hillcrest Scholarship. My PhD program only accepted three students, and I am so lucky to have been chosen based on my background."