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Postdocs honored with achievement awards

From, left, postdocs David Toews, Ana Maria Porras, Elizabeth Day, Tisha Bohr, Susan Cheng and Oliver Bracko.

Six postdocs at Cornell were honored with an inaugural Postdoc Achievement Award Sept. 17 at the Big Red Barn as part of the kickoff to National Postdoc Appreciation Week.

The awards recognize postdoctoral scholars who have made contributions to community and show commitment to promoting inclusion at Cornell and in society. Postdocs were nominated and endorsed by letters from faculty, graduate and undergraduate students in one or more categories. A committee of three people who interact with postdocs regularly reviewed the nominations and made final decisions.

The recipients are: Oliver Bracko (biomedical engineering) and David Toews (laboratory of ornithology), for Excellence in Teaching and Mentoring; Tisha Bohr (molecular medicine) and Susan Cheng (ecology and evolutionary biology), for Excellence in Leadership; and Elizabeth Day (human ecology) and Ana Maria Porras (biomedical engineering), for Excellence in Community Engagement.

“We thought it would be important to recognize what postdocs do on top of their research, in terms of leadership, community engagement and teaching and mentoring,” said Christine Holmes, director of postdoctoral studies. “Postdocs are so important to our research community that it is also great to emphasize other aspects of their contributions to Cornell and the community.”

Sara Xayarath Hernández, Graduate School associate dean for inclusion and student engagement, said recognition and awards available to graduate students have evolved and increased, but a gap existed for Cornell postdoctoral scholars. “We really need to highlight the critical role that postdocs play in research, mentoring, organizations and the community,” she said.

After receiving her award, Bohr reflected on her arrival on campus as a postdoc two years ago, describing the effort it took to become involved in organizations on campus. She said she hopes the acknowledgement provided by the Postdoc Achievement Awards inspires future postdocs to become more involved with Cornell’s community.

“I think it’s incredible to recognize postdocs across campus because there are a lot of postdocs doing a lot of awesome work,” said Day, following the award presentation. “Sometimes postdocs get lost in the shuffle because we’re not students and we’re not faculty, and the Office of Postdoctoral Studies has done a fantastic job of bringing us all together to celebrate our work.”

Chris Schaffer, associate professor of biomedical engineering, attended the event to watch Bracko, a postdoc in his lab, receive the award.

“Postdocs are truly unsung heroes at Cornell University, Schaffer said. “Postdocs conduct some of the most demanding research on campus. They play essential leadership roles in their research labs, where they are frequently the primary day-to-day mentors for graduate students and undergraduate researchers. These awards represent a fantastic way to recognize such contributions.”

Katya Hrichak is a communications assistant in the Graduate School.

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Lindsey Hadlock