McConnell, Trivedi and Wollen Among 2023 UH Faculty Excellence Award Recipients
May 8 — A trio of UH College of Pharmacy faculty members are among the 2022-23 UH Faculty Excellence Award recipients in teaching and research mentorship presented by the UH Office of the Provost & Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs at the UH Faculty Excellence Awards Ceremony May 3.
Bradley K. McConnell, Ph.D., FAHA, FCVS, was honored with the Graduate Mentor Award, Meghna Trivedi, Pharm.D., Ph.D., BCOP, associate professor, earned the Undergraduate Research Mentor Award, and Joshua Wollen, Pharm.D., clinical assistant professor, was recognized with a Teaching Excellence Award in the Clinical/Instructional category.
Graduate Mentor Award
The 2016 recipient of the UH Undergraduate Research Mentor Award and a member of the 2018 Group Teaching Excellence Award-winning team, McConnell has trained and mentored nine students who have successfully completed their Ph.D. studies with another four currently working under his supervision.
McConnell said his overall goals for his graduate students are to gain mastery of the didactic material taught in class, develop scientific research expertise, refine their writing/presentation skills, and prepare for academic independence. To develop his mentorship skill sets, McConnell has participated in several workshops and training programs offered through the Gulf Coast Consortia, UH and the National Center for Faculty Development & Diversity.
His investment in the research and professional development of his student mentees has paid off, including multiple external competitive travel and presentation awards to his students as well as co-chairing scientific sessions at national conferences alongside them. His graduate students have built impressive first-author credits – along with undergraduate and fellow graduate student coauthors – in high-impact, high-profile peer-reviewed journals, such as the American Journal of Physiology, iScience and the Journal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology.
As program director of American Heart Association-funded UH-Houston Experience for Advancing Research and Training (UH-HEART) program, McConnell not only continues to mentor undergraduate students in gaining early research experience but also helps his graduate students and postdoctoral fellows develop their own mentorship/teaching skills in working with the UH-HEART participants.
"I experience great joy and happiness in training the next generation of scientists – achieved by providing consistent and ongoing guidance – and seeing their success, both during the early stages of their training while in my lab as well as long after they graduate and in their independent careers," McConnell said.
Undergraduate Research Mentor Award
Trivedi has mentored undergraduate students through various funding mechanisms, including the National Cancer Institute-funded Cancer Research Education Program, UH Cougar Initiative to Engage, and other UH early experiential scholarship programs.
By focusing on quality of experiences and customizing their research pathway, Trivedi indicated many of her mentees continue working in her lab for several years – and all her past mentees are now pursuing graduate or professional degree programs.
Trivedi said she and her mentees discuss goals early in the relationship, which includes generating new data toward co-authorship on a publication and presentation at a local or national scientific meeting. In weekly lab meetings, discussions include skill development in areas such as perseverance, logical thinking, problem-solving, resourcefulness, high work ethic, research integrity, and safety.
"To ensure their success, I pair them with high-performing postdoctoral fellows or senior graduate students in the lab," said Trivedi, a Pharm.D./Ph.D. dual program graduate of the college. "This layered mentoring not only building accountability and good work habits but also creates a mentoring network for the undergraduates who can ask career-related questions to their laboratory mentors."
Trivedi said she also helps her mentees through various critical points in their academic and research journey, including writing strong letters of recommendation, reviewing and providing input on their application packets for graduate or professional school, and steering them toward scholarship/fellowship opportunities that not only provide financial support but also strengthen their resume/CV.
Teaching Excellence Award
Originally a community pharmacist after earning his Pharm.D. degree, Wollen was a member of the college’s inaugural class academic pharmacy fellows during which he gained experience in classroom and skills laboratory instruction of UHCOP pharmacy students. He transitioned to a full-time faculty position following completion of the fellowship program, continuing to lecture and instruct students in the skills labs for nonsterile compounding and vaccine administration.
Wollen also provides research mentorship for students, residents and fellows in the development of poster presentations and manuscripts. In addition, Wollen serves as a faculty advisor two student organizations as well as volunteer preceptor for the multidisciplinary student-run H.O.M.E.S. Clinic, which provides health care to Houston’s housing insecure community, and at health fairs.
Wollen described his teaching philosophy as employing “repetitive active learning,” which encourages student investment in the learning process through participation and prevents confusion with intent and structure of questions integrated into both lectures and assessments. Wollen said he also makes a point to present the learning objectives at the beginning of each lecture or laboratory session to aid student preparedness and set expectations.
"Pharmacy education is a lifelong learning experience – be it from mistakes, previously unlearned information, or the emergence of new information," Wollen said. "My goal to educate a successful, competent, caring, and culturally aware next generation of pharmacists is a challenge and an exciting undertaking in which I will give every bit of effort to."