Published: July 1, 2019 By

David Bortz

Associate Professor David Bortz was recently nominated and awarded one of five University wide Outstanding Faculty Mentor Awards in recognition for his graduate mentoring work here in the Department of Applied Mathematics. Joining the Applied Mathematics Department in 2006, Dr. Bortz has since “demonstrated an outstanding commitment to our graduate students ... He has also significantly contributed to the quality of our graduate program since his arrival and this makes him a perfect candidate for this award” (APPM Award Committee).

In his time here at APPM, he has been a very busy mentor, graduating six doctoral students, one master student, and will be in the midst of advising six doctoral students in the fall. The APPM Award Committee stated that, over the last five years, Dr. Bortz’s “PhD students produce an average of four papers each, with a total of 15 published papers where students are first authors (with three more under review). Professor Bortz’s graduate students have also won two NSF-GRFP awards, two NSF-GRFP honorable mentions, one NSF-MSGI award, one DOE-Computational Science Graduate Fellowship award, one DOE-Givens Associateship, one DOD-NDSEG award, one Gates- Cambridge fellowship and one CU Chancellor’s Committee for Women Advocacy Award.” Every doctoral student that Dr. Bortz has graduated is either in a permanent position (AFRL, AF Academy, Matlab) or postdoctoral program (Minnesota, SAMSI, MBI) across the nation.

One of Bortz’s students, Dr. Jay Stotsky, explains in his recommendation letter that Professor Bortz is “an exceptional and supportive advisor who is willing to put in significant thought and effort to ensure the success of his students.”

Dr. Stotsky also notes that a “very helpful aspect of [Dr. Bortz’s] advising is that he organizes a research plan for each of his advisees.” When he began mentoring, Dr. Bortz noted that many students lack an understanding of the graduate school timeline and as a result, helping create a timeline for graduate students is an important factor in being a successful mentor.

Another area of effort that Dr. Bortz’s stresses is his communication with students. His students meet with him every week and John Nardini (another former doctoral student), said: “I came to each research meeting knowing that he had thoroughly read through my research update and would provide a thoughtful perspective on how to approach current and future problems. His constant guidance ... led me to publish three research articles in top tier [applied math] journals as a graduate student.”

A non-research topic of mentoring that Dr. Bortz provides is giving opportunities for his students to become comfortable in speaking and presenting to others in the form of mini-colloquia. The aforementioned Dr. Nardini in regard to the minisymposia: “Before my first major research conference, he encouraged me to reach out to top experts in my field of research about presenting in a minisymposium that I organized. This minisymposium allowed me to present my research to these experts early on in my career."

When asked about why he puts so much effort into mentoring students when he has his own research, is lecturing, and is being a father of a newborn, Dr. Bortz said that he enjoys watching his students grow and thrive as successful applied mathematicians: a true testament to ones ability as a mentor.

“His exemplary mentoring style, which focuses equally on developing intellectual excellence and fostering community, turned me from a timid student into a confident scholar, equipping me to flourish on the world stage in a PhD at the University of Cambridge and in my current position at the Harvard School of Public Health. Now as a mentor myself, it is Prof. Bortz’ voice that rings through mine as I speak with my students. As a scientist, it is his standard of excellence that still marks a job well done.”

-       Dr. Stephen Kissler