The award is presented annually to a faculty member with a distinguished record of mentoring undergraduate researchers. Mitragotri has mentored 46 undergraduate research projects since coming to UC Santa Barbara in 2000 and actively recruits students from various departments to work on their own projects in his lab.
Mitragotri's research is defined as bioengineering, an interdisciplinary approach to utilizing engineering concepts to solve biological and medical problems. Because classroom teaching materials and textbooks in this emerging field are still scarce, "research, the hands-on experience, is an effective mode of teaching an interdisciplinary subject to undergraduate students," said Mitragotri.
At the end of the students' internships, Mitragotri encourages them to give presentations on their work to his research group and to prepare manuscripts for publication. Undergraduate research in his laboratory has led to nine publications with undergraduate students as co-authors. Nearly one-third of Mitragotri's interns go on to pursue advanced degrees in graduate or medical school.
"Although success may be quantified by the number of students and/or publications, the true success is to be measured by the impact that the research experience has had on the students' lives," said David Pine, chair of chemical engineering, who nominated Mitragotri for the award. "His undergraduate research activities have been extremely successful in this regard, and are a proud element of our undergraduate program."
About 25 percent of all undergraduates at UCSB are involved in organized research efforts, working on teams with graduate students and faculty mentors. The campus distributes approximately $200,000 per year in undergraduate research grants.