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Professor of veterinary anatomy honored with undergraduate research mentoring award

Professor of veterinary anatomy honored with undergraduate research mentoring award

By Mike Jernigan
February 02, 2024 @ 10:28 a.m.
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Ask Satyanarayana Pondugula what is the most important ingredient in good mentorship of undergraduate research and two words stand out in his reply: “real life.”

“I teach research topics in a real-life-oriented way to undergraduate researchers,” he said, when asked about his recent selection as recipient of the Auburn University Provost Award for Faculty Excellence in Undergraduate Research Mentoring. Established in 2012, the award recognizes faculty who demonstrate a strong commitment to undergraduate research and outstanding services to students, and whose efforts support Auburn students interested in careers in research and creative work.

“I believe the real-life application of research fosters critical thinking, encourages active learning and problem-solving strategies and cultivates the acquisition of life-long learning skills," said Pondugula, a professor in the Department of Anatomy, Physiology and Pharmacology in Auburn's College of Veterinary Medicine. "In my experience, undergraduate researchers are always motivated when I explicitly provide implications of their research work and how the outcomes of their research contributions help solve real-life issues.”

That strategy has helped Pondugula — who joined the Auburn faculty in 2011 after completing his postdoctoral work in pharmacology at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital — develop a well-balanced undergraduate research program in the College of Veterinary Medicine. His undergraduate mentees have included students majoring in a wide range of fields, including biomedical sciences, chemistry, biochemistry, cellular and molecular biology and microbiology. 

To date, Pondugula has mentored 34 students who have investigated drug discovery, metabolism and safety and published 19 journal articles and six book chapters. Several of his students have also been speakers at national and even international conferences. Their high output is reflective of his distinctive mentoring philosophy. 

“I am dedicated to ensuring my undergraduate mentees are confident in presenting their research,” he explained. “I encourage their memberships in both local and national scientific organizations. Recognizing the lasting impact of first presentation experiences, I focus on nurturing their presentation skills and self-assurance. These interactions empower my undergraduates to enhance their content and sharpen their presentation skills.” 

Just as important to Pondugula is mentoring students in the steps necessary to getting their research published. “A mentor should motivate the undergraduate mentees to publish their research findings in peer-reviewed journals,” he noted. “I guide my students to publish their research in the Auburn University Journal of Undergraduate Scholarship, a peer-reviewed journal highlighting the research of Auburn undergraduates. Learning to write, seek feedback and revise manuscripts for the local journal has proven beneficial in helping them later produce well-written manuscripts for publication in international peer-reviewed journals.” 

Pondugula is excited to have his mentorship efforts recognized through the Auburn award, but is quick to deflect the real credit to his students and his own mentors. “I am grateful for this award,” he said, “which acknowledges the hard work, dedication, contributions and accomplishments of my students as well as the support of my college, department and colleagues across Auburn University. 

“During my own academic journey, several professors mentored me and instilled me with a passion for teaching, research and mentorship,” he concluded. “Today, I am dedicated to providing similar support to my students while cultivating a research environment that nurtures their growth.”

Satyanarayana Pondugula outdoors

Satyanarayana Pondugula

Categories: Undergraduate Research

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