Stacey Bent honored with Cox Medal for fostering undergraduate research

Stacey Bent (Photo: Linda A. Cicero / Stanford News Service)

During the Commencement award ceremonies of the School of Engineering, STACEY BENT, a professor of chemical engineering, received the 2013 Allan V. Cox Medal for Faculty Excellence Fostering Undergraduate Research.

JAMES PLUMMER, dean of the School of Engineering, presented the Cox Medal to Bent.

The Cox Medal is awarded annually to a faculty member who has established a record of excellence directing undergraduate research over a number of years. It may also go to a faculty member who has done an especially outstanding job with just one or two undergraduates whose work is unusually superior.

For more than a decade, Bent has welcomed two undergraduates each year into her lab. Her mentorship of those students exemplified the ideals of undergraduate research. As one former student, now a professor himself, expressed it, “She expects and motivates hard work, responsibility, ethical and intellectual purity of experimental work, and independent thinking – but does not impose an ‘iron fist,’ nor does she intimidate her students. Rather, Professor Bent offers guidance, assistance and a new perspective when it’s needed.”

Time is a precious commodity for professors, but over and over again, students emphasized that Bent made time to talk with them, to get to know them and to teach them.

Current students highlighted the formative nature of conversations with Bent.

One of them wrote: “The environment that Professor Bent fosters in her group emphasizes equality and creativity. She places equal weight on the ideas of postdocs, graduate students and undergraduates. This gives undergraduates both the incentive and the confidence to take a more active role in determining the direction of their projects.”

Alumni emphasized the ways that Bent’s mentorship has allowed them to succeed after Stanford. She has supported students through doctoral programs in chemical engineering, and also when they seek to apply their knowledge in industry.

The nomination letters use words such as “unique,” “amazing,” “friendly,” “impressive,” “extraordinary,” “wonderful,” “exemplary,” “supportive” and “uncanny.” Bent has played a pivotal role in encouraging and enabling undergraduate research at Stanford, and has acted as a true mentor to student after student.

The medal was established in memory of the late Allan Cox, a former professor of geophysics and dean of the School of Earth Sciences, who was a strong supporter of faculty-student research.