Congrats to Professor Chiu: 'Distinction in Student Mentoring' Award

Congrats to Professor Chiu: 'Distinction in Student Mentoring' Award

Congratulations to molecular geneticist-physiologist Joanna Chiu, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology!

She's the recipient of the highly competitive "Distinction in Student Mentoring' Award from the Pacific Branch, Entomology Society of America (PBESA).

So well-deserved!

Other PBESA winners announced today are: 

  • C. W. Woodworth Award: Elizabeth Beers, Washington State University (WSU)
  • Distinction in Student Mentoring Award: Joanna Chiu, UC Davis
  • Distinguished Achievement in Extension Award: Wendy Sue Wheeler, WSU
  • Excellence in Integrated Pest Management: David Haviland, UC Cooperative Extension, Kern County
  • Distinguished Achievement in Teaching: Juli Carrillo, University of British Columbia
  • Entomology Team Work Award: Tobin  Northfield and colleagues, WSU
  • Medical, Urban and Veterinary Entomology Award: Monika Gulia-Nuss, University of Nevada
  • Physiology, Biochemistry, and Toxicology Award: Naoki Yamanaka, UC Riverside
  • Plant-Insect Ecosystems Award: Allison Hansen, UC Riverside
  • Systematics, Evolution and Biodiversity: Silas Bossert, WSU
  • Excellence in Early Career Award: Robert Orpet, WSU
  • Dr. Stephen Garczynski Undergraduate Research Scholarship: Grant Wass, Palomar College
  • John Henry Comstock Award: Dave Elmquist, University of Idaho

They be honored at the PBESA meeting, set April 14-17 in the city of Waikoloa Beach, Hawaii. PBESA encompasses 11 Western states, plus parts of Canada and Mexico, and U.S. territories.

Nematologist Steve Nadler, professor and former chair of the department, nominated Professor Chiu for the mentoring award. He praised her as “an incredible mentor, inspirational, dedicated and passionate about helping her students succeed, as exemplified by her receiving the 2022 UC Davis Academic Senate Distinguished Teaching and Mentoring Award for her contributions to graduate student and professional mentoring, and the 2023 Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Mentoring Undergraduate Research.

“Dr. Chiu is noted for providing her trainees, many of whom are from underrepresented groups, with very effective career and academic advising,” he wrote. “For example, many first-generation and underrepresented undergraduate trainees from her lab are now successfully enrolled in prestigious biological PhD programs, including programs at Stanford, Cornell, Columbia, UC Berkeley, UCLA, UC Irvine, UC Davis, and UC San Francisco. Under her tutelage, her students are first authors of publications in prestigious journals. Even after her undergraduate and graduate students leave the university and settle into their careers, she continues to provide guidance and advice to them.”

Community ecologist Louie Yang, professor of entomology, interim vice chair of the department, and recipient of PBESA's 2023 Distinction in Student Mentoring Award, commented: "Joanna is an extraordinarily talented and committed mentor. She is remarkably good at helping students realize their potential. I've seen this over and over again with undergraduates, graduate students and postdocs."

Chiu, who joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology in 2010, co-founded and co-directs the campuswide UC Davis Research Scholars Program in Insect Biology (RSPIB), which she and two other UC Davis entomology faculty members  (UC Davis distinguished professor Jay Rosenheim and Yang) launched in 2011 to provide undergraduates with a closely mentored research experience in biology. The RSPIB scholars typically publish their undergraduate research, and many pursue careers in science.

Fact is, Chiu is legendary for both her mentoring and teaching. 

Chiu lab alumna Katie Freitas of Stanford wrote: “Beyond teaching me practical research skills, Dr. Chiu helped to spark the most important thing a person needs to be a successful scientist: pure joy in the pursuit of knowledge.”

“Throughout all my time in the Chiu lab, Joanna has never failed to amaze me with her kindness, patience, and her consistency and perseverance in helping all students, both in her lab and in other labs, succeed,” wrote Chiu lab alumna Christine Tabuloc, who received her doctorate in 2023 and is now a postdoctoral researcher in the Chiu lab. “What makes her so outstanding is her commitment to helping us improve as scientists and researchers and preparing us for our future career endeavors.”

Nadler concluded that Chiu “offers the tools, guidance, support, empathy, enthusiasm, and feedback that her undergraduate and graduate students need to thrive and succeed. But above all—and this is crucial--she truly cares about her students.

A native of Hong Kong and a first-generation college student, Joanna received her bachelor's degree, magna cum laude, in biology and music from Mount Holyoke College, Massachusetts, and her doctorate in molecular genetics in 2004 from New York University, New York. She trained as a postdoctoral fellow from 2004 to 2010 in molecular chronobiology at the Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine, at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.  Her postdoctoral training was funded by an NIH F32 Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award postdoctoral fellowship and K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award. (See feature story)

Be sure to read our news story, detailing many of her accomplishments in mentoring.