UNC Pembroke neuroscientist Ben Bahr has received the 2021 Outstanding Mentor Award from the health sciences division of the Council on Undergraduate Research.
The award is a testament to Dr. Bahr’s passion for teaching the next generation of scientists and researchers. The award honors exceptional mentoring and advising by higher education faculty across all subdivisions of health sciences. Bahr joined the UNCP faculty in 2009 as the William C. Friday Distinguished Professor of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry.
“I hope I have been making an impact for preparing the next generation of biomedical researchers who will be needed to face tomorrow’s public health challenges, to guarantee the outlook for healthy living and healthy aging,” Bahr said.
Countless students have had the opportunity to work in the Bahr Lab and discover their enthusiasm for research. He has mentored more than 165 undergraduates. Fifty went on to become fellows of the NIH Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE) Program, four were National Science Foundation (NSF) COMPASS Scholars, two received fellowships from the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, and five were awarded N.C. Space Grant Scholarships.
Many UNCP student researchers have gone on to graduate school, including neuroscience Ph.D. programs at Rutgers University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of South Carolina-Columbia, Wake Forest University, Mississippi State and the University of Tennessee.
Among those Bahr served as a mentor to as an undergraduate researcher at UNCP is Joanna Cooper. Her experience in his lab was a transformative part of her undergraduate education that set the foundation for her later success.
“Dr. Bahr’s mentorship during this time was tremendously influential to my classmates and me,” said Cooper, a 2011 graduate. “He was exceptionally patient and never approached any student’s lack of knowledge with frustration or anger. Rather, he accepted each of us at the level we were at and worked to help us each to grow in our way.”
Bahr encourages his students to compile research papers, attend and present at regional and international conferences and pursue graduate education.
Cooper continued, saying, “His lab provided me with a rare opportunity in an underprivileged region, and the experience I gained from that time has been paramount to my success thus far in science.”
Today, Cooper is a postdoctoral associate at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
Additionally, Bahr’s research has resulted in 156 publications that list 70 undergraduate co-authors–many of which focus on Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.
Bahr is recognized as one of the world’s leading experts on neurodegenerative diseases. His team at the UNCP Biotechnology Center was credited last summer with UNCP receiving its first-ever patent for a method to treat Alzheimer’s and traumatic brain injury patients.
“Exciting studies at UNCP have been making progress identifying potential therapeutics to slow down Alzheimer’s, as well as Parkinson’s disease, frontotemporal dementia, TBI-linked neurological impediments–sadly, the list of frightening disorders is too long to complete here,” he said.
“Our crucial research for understanding how to prevent the numerous disorders requires the careful training of future scientists–people that will be essential to help the fast-growing elderly population.”
Bahr has been previously recognized by the Council on Undergraduate Research biology division for his mentor work in 2012.