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UAMS’ Craig Forrest, Ph.D., (left), credits his former mentors, Usha Ponnappan, Ph.D., and Xuming Zhang, Ph.D., D.V.M., with his early success.

Mentors Helps Researcher Discover Success

Craig Forrest, Ph.D., recalled the day four years ago when one of his Department of Microbiology and Immunology mentors, Xuming  Zhang, Ph.D., D.V.M., came looking for him.

Forrest had sought input from Zhang and mentor Usha Ponnappan, Ph.D., on his first NIH National Cancer Institute grant application. Zhang found him in a fifth-floor lab of the Biomedical One building. There, standing at the freezer, the two had one of the more consequential mentoring sessions of Forrest’s early career.

“This is all wrong,” Zhang said, presenting his marked-up copy with an outline and arrows showing Forrest how to more effectively make his case.

“He knew exactly what he was doing,” Forrest said.

Ponnappan, who joined UAMS 25 years ago, and Zhang, who joined UAMS 20 years ago, said their approaches to mentoring are grounded in their own experiences as junior faculty.

Zhang, as an early career researcher, recalled his own need for the kind of detailed review he gave Forrest’s application. He loved getting thorough critiques from his mentors and colleagues because it gave him a better chance of being funded. Today, Zhang can bring to bear his expertise in the field and experience as an NIH reviewer to help mentees.

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Seats Still Available for TRI-Sponsored Mentoring Workshop

UAMS researchers are invited to a free, day-long workshop June 22 to help improve their mentoring skills.
The workshop will be 8:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. at the Reynolds Institute on Aging, Room 1190.
Lunch will be provided.
Sponsored by TRI, the mentor training workshop is modeled after the nationally recognized University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for the Improvement of Mentored Experiences in Research (CIMER) curriculum. Facilitators Mary Aitken, M.D., M.P.H., and Beatrice Boateng, Ph.D., have received CIMER certification to offer mentor training at UAMS.
Contact: Donna Mattingly,, or (501) 614-2287.

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