Published: Oct. 7, 2016

By Leah Colvin

Postdocs are an integral component of the research enterprise at CU Boulder. Postdocs at CU Boulder not only contribute to their disciplines through scholarly works, but also act as intellectual leaders within their teams and beyond. Postdocs are guided by faculty mentors who advocate for their postdocs’ intellectual and career goals while fostering independence to help postdocs prepare for their future careers.

To recognize the importance of postdoctoral scholarship and mentoring, the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs (OPA) recognized two Outstanding Postdocs and one Outstanding Mentor during the 7th annual National Postdoc Appreciation Week in September. Outstanding Postdocs were selected based on their communication and presentation of their research, curriculum vitae and faculty mentor recommendation, while the Outstanding Mentor was selected based on leadership, creating a supportive training environment suited to the needs of the individual postdoc, advocating for and guiding towards professional independence, and providing regular and constructive feedback to postdocs to develop their independent careers.

VC for Research Terri Fiez, Outstanding Postdoc Award Recipients, and OPA Director Leah Colvin

From left to right: Vice Chancellor for Research Terri Fiez, Outstanding Postdoc Awardees Mohammad Hariri and Francisco Müller-Sánchez, and OPA Director Leah Colvin

Dr. Mohammad Hariri, a postdoc in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering, was awarded an Outstanding Postdoc Award. In his talk, “Safety Assessment of Infrastructures Subjected to Extreme Events,” Dr. Hariri explained how he uses big-data analysis to assess the risk of high hazard dam collapse under the mentorship of Dr. Victor Saouma, Professor, Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering. Dr. Hariri is a leader in his field, and demonstrates a commitment to seeking career development and service opportunities.

Outstanding Postdoc Award recipient Dr. Francisco Müller-Sánchez is a postdoc in the Center for Astrophysics and Space Astronomy. During the Postdoctoral Research Symposium, Dr. Müller-Sánchez presented his work in a talk titled, “The Extraordinary Lives of Supermassive Black Holes.” Dr. Müller-Sánchez has an impressive publication and speaking record, including a feature in PhD Comics, Super Massive Black Holes Explained, with his faculty mentor Dr. Julie Comerford, Assistant Professor, Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences.

Dr. Yuko Munakata, Director of the Cognitive Development Center and Professor in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, received this year’s Outstanding Mentor Award. Dr. Munakata was nominated by her postdoc, Dr. Sabine Doebel, who spoke of Dr. Munakata as a role model for postdoctoral scholars who encourages postdocs toward independence. Dr. Doebel also spoke highly of Dr. Munakata’s communication style and willingness to provide opportunities and support to help postdocs advance their careers.

Yuko Munakata & Sabine Doebel

Outstanding Mentor Awardee Dr. Yuko Munakata and postdoc Sabine Doebel

The OPA would like to extend its congratulations to these award recipients, thank the faculty members who served as judges, and to further recognize all Outstanding Postdoc Award Finalists and Outstanding Mentor Award Nominees:

Outstanding Postdoc Award Finalists
Dr. Matthew Cowan, Departments of Chemical and Biological Engineering and Chemistry and Biochemistry
Dr. Sabine Doebel, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience
Dr. Andrew Gaudet, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience
Dr. John Knowles, Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR)
Dr. Chern-Hooi Lim, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Dr. Beichuan Yan, Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering

Outstanding Mentor Award Nominees
Dr. Nichole Barger; Associate Professor; Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; nominated by Dr. Akasha Faist
Dr. Joost de Gouw; Research Physicist and Adjoint Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), and Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry; nominated by Drs. Matthew Coggon and Bin Yuan, as well as Abigail Koss
Dr. Jennifer Fluri; Associate Professor; Department of Geography; nominated by Dr. Rachel Lehr
Dr. Min Han; HHMI Investigator and Professor; Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology; nominated by Dr. Benjamin Weaver