Jason Mears recognizes his students come from diverse backgrounds and, as such, have unique needs. To best support them, he works to create a learning environment in which each student can thrive based on where they are in their scientific, academic and personal development.
This value-driven leadership creates a welcoming, supportive and inclusive culture in the classroom and lab, and has earned Mears university recognition. The associate professor in the Department of Pharmacology will receive the 2023 John S. Diekhoff Award for Graduate Mentoring during the School of Graduate Studies’ diploma ceremony Friday, May 19.
Mears strives to help each student establish foundations from which they can grow. He begins by ensuring everyone in the lab understands the experiments’ principles and, instead of micromanaging his students’ work, he gives them the freedom to make mistakes and use the knowledge learned to shape their hypotheses and experiments.
“I have total confidence that Jason’s goal is to make me a better scientist, and I deeply respect his opinions and feedback,” explained one of his nominators.
The success of his mentoring style is evident. As another one of his nominators explained, “He’s built a research group which can tackle everything from mouse studies to steered molecular dynamic simulations.”
“Research is a collaborative endeavor, and I enjoy working with students seeking new discoveries,” said Mears. “I love the excitement of exploring new projects and the pride that comes when students accomplish their goals. Being a mentor allows me to share these wonderful moments with developing scientists.”
As a mentor, Mears is also an advocate for his students, helping them navigate challenges when they arise. And his approach pays off—one student nominator described him as a “harbor in the storm” during an inflection point in their academic career.
Having struggled on a qualifying exam, the student was on the verge of dropping out of the pharmacology program. By addressing the students’ concerns about the exam as a one-size-fits-all measurement focused on fact memorization instead of applied knowledge, Mears helped the student create a plan for success.
“Because of his advocacy, I didn’t quit the program, and the qualifying process was radically improved for future students,” the student shared.
About the award
The Diekhoff Award honors John S. Diekhoff, a distinguished scholar, teacher, mentor and administrator who served Case Western Reserve in several capacities during his tenure from 1956 to 1970: professor of English, chair of the Department of English, dean of Cleveland College, acting dean of the School of Graduate Studies and vice provost of the university.
The Diekhoff Award, established in 1978, recognizes outstanding contributions to the education of graduate students through advising and classroom teaching. The annual award is presented to two faculty members who epitomize what it means to teach graduate students: to connect them with experts in their discipline, engage them academically in a forthright and collegial manner, and actively promote their professional development. In 2009, the Diekhoff Award was expanded to recognize two additional full-time faculty members who excel in the mentoring of graduate students. A committee of graduate studies students reviews the nominations and recommends winners.