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Feltri honored as distinguished postdoc mentor

Laura Feltri

Laura Feltri has been praised for her ability to strike a balance between providing supervision and encouraging independence in her postdoctoral students.

By SUZANNE KASHUBA

Published August 1, 2013

“I learned that the best strategy for me is a personalized approach.”
M. Laura Feltri, professor of biochemistry
School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

M. Laura Feltri, professor of biochemistry, has been honored with the 2013 Distinguished Postdoc Mentor Award.

Sponsored by the Office of Postdoctoral Scholars in UB’s Graduate School, the award was presented June 13 during the Postdoctoral Research Symposium.

“I am extremely honored by the award,” says Feltri. “I feel it has true meaning because the nomination comes directly from my fellow co-workers.”

Based on nominations from postdoctoral students, “it is clear that Dr. Feltri bestows a nurturing and welcoming environment for postdoctoral fellows to grow scientifically as they develop their professional careers,” says Luis A. Colón, associate dean of the graduate school and chair of the selection committee.

As one of her nominating mentees wrote, “Dr. Feltri welcomed me in her lab, provided guidance to start collaborative projects and gave me the support to produce preliminary data.”

Described as a “caring mentor” and “an exceptional and driven leader in her field,” Feltri was lauded for her ability to strike a balance between providing supervision and encouraging independence.

She admits it can be difficult to find that balance “between promoting progress and letting postdocs and other students make mistakes while they explore their own ideas.” Yet, giving students leeway “is essential for their growth.”

“Over the years, I learned that the best strategy for me is a personalized approach,” she says.

She allows students to earn freedom as they develop competence and become motivated to take on more.

“I give close to complete freedom to the best postdocs. They become the true masters of their projects, they teach me more than I teach them and they have fresh ideas. I just relax and enjoy the ride,” she says.

“Others need more nurturing, especially at the beginning, so they can benefit from their hard work. I try to adjust my mentoring relationship between these two extremes to always have the best possible outcome.”

Among numerous attributes of an outstanding mentor, nominators cited Feltri’s willingness to give of her time.

“Dr. Feltri always finds the time to have discussions with her trainees in individual meetings on a weekly basis,” noted one nominator.

“She also takes the time to introduce mentees to others in the field and give them networking opportunities,” John Ho, vice provost for graduate education and dean of the graduate school, said when presenting the award.

In addition, “she encourages her mentees to become mentors themselves by working with students in her research group,” he added.

Feltri’s lab in the Hunter James Kelly Research Institute focuses on understanding the molecular basis of myelination and myelin-related neurological diseases, such as peripheral neuropathies, multiple sclerosis and Krabbe leucodystrophy.

She involves a diverse team of undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, technicians, senior scientists and international collaborators.

Her team’s work has resulted in six book chapters, more than 70 peer-reviewed publications in scientific journals and numerous invited lectures.

“The mentoring relationship is essential for my research,” Feltri says.

“It is a win-win situation because the process of producing meaningful data goes hand-in-hand with the postdoctoral fellows’ professional growth, benefiting mentors and postdocs alike.”

Before joining the UB faculty in 2011, Feltri held a faculty appointment at the San Raffaele Scientific Institute in Milan, Italy, and was an adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

She earned her medical degree in neurology from the University of Milano, Italy.