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Andreadis, Diver receive grad student mentoring award


Published January 16, 2019


Stelios Andreadis and Steven Diver are the recipients of the 2018-19 Excellence in Graduate Student Mentoring Award, presented by the Graduate School to recognize UB faculty for their support and development of graduate students through their mentoring activities.

The award, established in 2012, is given annually to members of the graduate faculty who have demonstrated “truly outstanding and sustained support and development of graduate students from course completion through research and subsequent career placement.”

Andreadis, SUNY Distinguished Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering, was nominated for the award by Liesl Folks, dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Diver, professor in the Department of Chemistry, was nominated by his department chair, David Watson, professor of chemistry.

Andreadis will be UB’s nominee for the Geoffrey Marshall Mentoring Award sponsored by the Northeastern Association of Graduate Schools (NAGS). The Marshall award will be presented at NAGS’ annual meeting in April.

headshot of Stelios Andreadis.

Stelios Andreadis

In her letter nominating Andreadis for the award, Folks wrote that Andreadis is “an exemplar in the realm of graduate student mentoring.”

“The case for Dr. Andreadis is compelling and is centered around his passion for training his graduate students and his deep commitment to their advancement,” she wrote. “This focus on graduate students has impacted his own many former graduate students in a significant manner, has influenced the culture of mentorship within his department, and at the same time has brought great prestige and recognition to SEAS and UB.”

Folks noted that after reading letters submitted by Andreadis’ colleagues and former graduate students in support of his nomination, “it is evident to me that Dr. Andreadis trains his students effectively and broadly in all of the skills that are needed for them to succeed, as either a faculty member at a first-rate research university or as a researcher in a top-rated laboratory.

“The dedication to his graduate students’ advancement and success is far beyond the norms in the academy, and the outcomes are evident,” Folks wrote. “His students recognize that he is committed to them at a personal level, caring deeply about each one as a member of his research family. He trains them to be excellent scientists and engineers and provides them the skills needed to be impactful after they leave UB.”

A UB faculty member since 1998, Andreadis is an internationally recognized leader in the field of stem cell engineering, especially cardiovascular tissue engineering. His laboratory developed small-diameter, vascular grafts using human stem cells and biomolecule-decorated biomaterials. These tissue-engineered vessels were implanted successfully into the arterial system of a sheep model, where they remained patent, demonstrated functional remodeling and the ability to grow with the animal.

He also discovered that stem cell aging could be reversed using a single pluripotency factor, a discovery with significant implications in the field of aging and the use of stem cells in regenerative medicine.

More recently, his laboratory discovered that human epidermis is a source of neural crest stem cells, which can be coaxed to turn (or differentiate) into neurons, glial cells, melanocytes, muscle, bone and cartilage. This finding may have profound implications for the development of cell therapies for neurogenic diseases.

Andreadis has an exemplary record of continuous, peer-reviewed funding, having received more than $20 million in research support from public and private sources.

He also has received numerous accolades, including being named a fellow of the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) and the College of Fellows of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE). Additionally, he also was named a recipient of a SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Scholarship and Creative Activities in 2014, and received the NSF CAREER Award in 2000 and the Whitaker Foundation Young Investigator Award in 1999.

Headshot of Steven Diver.

Steven Diver

In his letter nominating Diver for the mentoring award, Watson calls his colleague “an exceptionally well-qualified candidate” who has “truly embraced his role as a mentor of budding scientists, both during their tenure in our graduate program and beyond.”

“He unquestionably exemplifies the Graduate School’s selection criterion of outstanding and sustained support of graduate students during their time in UB’s graduate program and beyond.”

Watson noted that Diver’s approach to mentoring is “unusual in that he remains mostly ‘hands-off,’ giving his students freedom to explore and to develop as scientists, while nonetheless making himself maximally available to students for one-on-one discussion and through multiple weekly group meetings of varying formats.”

These weekly meetings, focused on students’ understanding literature articles and writing chemical mechanisms, are not directly related to Diver’s research program, Watson wrote. But the meetings are designed to “foster the growth of students as well-rounded chemists with broad knowledge and marketable skills. That Prof. Diver devotes several hours per week to such meetings is impressive and unusual,” he wrote.

Diver also routinely spends time in the lab, conducting experiments side by side with students, Watson said, noting this is unusual among tenured faculty in research-intensive chemistry departments, “and it speaks to Steve’s passion for experimentation and his leadership skills.”

Watson wrote that until he had read letters from students supporting Diver for the mentoring award, he was unaware of the extent to which his colleague continues to mentor former students long after they gave graduated from UB.

“I was struck by the extent to which Steve remains engaged with former students, the positive impact that he plays throughout their careers, and the extent to which they strive to emulate him as a researcher, teacher and mentor,” he said. “Steve’s life-long commitment to mentoring truly sets him apart, whereas students’ emulation of him speaks volumes about how he has influenced their lives and careers.”

A UB faculty member since 1997, Diver is broadly interested in developing new catalytic methods for the synthesis of organic compounds. New or more efficient methods have the potential to speed up the drug-discovery process and reduce the time needed to develop new medicines.

Diver considers his work stimulating and fundamental, able to influence many different fields of chemistry. His research group has developed ene-yne metathesis as a method to construct small molecules and help understand how this reaction works. Newly developed methods are put to the test in the total synthesis of complex natural products, such as the antitumor antibiotics amphidinolide P and nannocystin A.

His research program has been continuously supported by the National Science Foundation since 2001.

With recent funding from the SUNY Technology Accelerator Fund and the Bruce Holm Catalyst Award, Diver’s research team has developed and patented high-performance metal scavengers.

Chemists use transition-metal catalysts that are composed of expensive “coinage” metals — palladium, platinum and gold — that cannot be recycled at the end of a chemical process. Diver’s patent addresses this problem, helping to remove and recycle a wide variety of metals, while simultaneously cleansing the organic product from toxic metal residue.

Removal of toxic metals is a difficult and costly step in the production of pharmaceuticals, and Diver expects his technology to be helpful to the chemical industry.