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From left: Drs. Matthew Cabeen, Shelia Kennison and Michael Reichert.

CAS faculty awarded 2024 Excellence in Research Mentoring Award

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Media Contact: Elizabeth Gosney | CAS Marketing and Communications Manager | 405-744-7497 |

Three professors from Oklahoma State University’s College of Arts and Sciences have been awarded the 2024 Excellence in Research Mentoring Award by the Vice President for Research 

Drs. Shelia Kennison, Michael Reichert and Matthew Cabeen were nominated by students and were honored at the 2024 OSU Undergraduate Research Symposium on April 16 for their commitment to mentorship and modeling successful performance.  

Drs. Kennison, Cabeen and Reichert are using their skills and research experiences to prepare the ideal graduate,” said Dr. Camelia Knapp, CAS associate dean for research. “Their exceptional mentorship is preparing students for their future careers. We are grateful for their contributions to making OSU a conducive place to learn and grow.” 

Kennison and her students are researching a range of topics in psychology. She is mentoring students who are studying attitudes toward higher ed among members of the Zomi community in Tulsa, individual differences in second language acquisition, resilience among college students with concussions and gender differences in emoji use on social media. 

When students come to me to join the lab, I try to get a good understanding of their interests and future plans and to come up with a project that interests them,” Kennison said. “Students learn more when they are interested in a research topic as compared to when a mentor assigns them a research topic. I spend a lot of time learning about each student’s academic and personal interest to understand their unique journey." 

As a first-generation graduate, Kennison said that she wouldn’t be a professor today without the support of mentors. 

I see my job as helping students learn more about their own interests and helping them learn how to carve out original research on one of those interests,” Kennison said. “The award is very meaningful to me because I think that my life was immeasurably changed by mentors that I had in the past. Serving as a mentor helps me feel that I am paying it forward.” 

Reichert, an assistant professor in the Department of Integrative Biology, is mentoring 11 undergraduate students who are involved in various levels of research and are working on projects with different programs. Their work ranges from assisting with field work, collecting data from frog calling, cricket aggression, feather color and structure, and the use of photographs to identify individual animals. 

“My goal is to help students achieve their professional goals and advance their education by taking part in research, while at the same time gaining a sense of belonging in science and an appreciation for the importance of scientific research to society,” Reichert said. “I believe in a growth mindset, where I focus on building skills and confidence through personalized mentorship based on the student’s background, goals and interests.  

“Getting involved in research has so many benefits for students, and for Oklahoma State University, and so I do my best to provide those opportunities and to work with students to develop their projects so they can get the most out of the experience.” 

Cabeen has 15 students — both graduate and undergraduate — working alongside him in his lab. The microbiology and molecular genetics associate professor is studying the features and mechanisms of bacterial stress responses, using Bacillus subtilis as a model species and the metabolism and behavior of the opportunistic human pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa, with a special focus on its ability to produce pyocins, phage tail-like intraspecific killing complexes. 

“My philosophy for mentoring is based on mutual respect and a desire to see students succeed both professionally and personally according to their goals,” Cabeen said. "I respect students, never belittling or denigrating them, and I assure them that I am invested in their success, especially when giving constructive criticism. In my own conduct, I try to be a person worthy of imitation." 

Cabeen said he appreciates the nomination as a reminder of the impact he is able to have on students.  

“As professors, we often try to invest substantial time and energy in students, but one satisfying way to know that we are succeeding is that the students themselves recognize and appreciate the investment,” Cabeen said. “The best part of receiving this award is that I have felt very pressed for time this past year — so much so that I felt like I was underserving my students — but they nominated me for this award, which is a confirmation that I was still able to adequately mentor and serve them even while balancing many responsibilities.” 

Learn more about CAS research and opportunities to get involved here 

Story By: Erin Weaver, CAS Communications Coordinator |

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