In nominating Chris Wikle for the Outstanding Undergraduate Research Mentor Award, students used terms such as “trustworthy,” “patient,” “respected by his peers and his students,” and “professional, yet kind and open.” With nominations like that, it is no wonder he was selected for the award.
Wikle views research as fun and rewarding. “To help someone else discover that—or foster it—is an important part of being a university faculty member,” he says. “This award means a great deal to me because it shows that my students have felt that they received something valuable in their undergraduate research opportunity—and maybe, I’ve made a bit of a difference and influenced their trajectory.”
There is a unique opportunity, Wikle says, that comes with working with undergraduate researchers.
“I have always liked worked with graduate students, but they start from a higher level,” Wikle says. “With undergraduates (at least in Statistics), the level of background is typically not sufficient to jump into a research project straight away. To see them make exponential increases in their knowledge and understanding almost on a day-to-day basis, and to know that I had something to do with that, is very rewarding.”
In nominating Wikle for this award, one student said “Dr. Wikle makes undergraduates a priority and by maintaining an active and open dialogue throughout the week, he shows that he cares about my success as an undergraduate.”
A colleague noted in a nomination letter Wikle’s emphasis on the educational journey. “Chris’ philosophy on mentoring undergraduate students in research is centered on individualized education,” the nomination reads. “Each project is tailored to the individual student to ensure the knowledge and expertise gained will further advance the student in his or her career trajectory and goals.”
Wikle acknowledges “most students do not think about Statistics with a great deal of fondness.” That make this award even more special.
“To see students develop a passion for the subject, in particular, for research in a subject that traditionally has not had a lot of undergraduate researchers, is one of the most rewarding components of my job.”