When Dr. Virginia Rider came to Pittsburg State University eight years ago, she brought with her a resume of awards and recognitions reflecting her exemplary career in science education.
But more important to her than the professional kudos was what she was bringing for students: her eagerness to teach, willingness to help, and attitude of student-oriented service.
Dr. Rider is one of many great faculty at PSU, but her recent acceptance of a national award for mentoring gives biology students an extra reason to hope she’ll be their adviser.
“I’ve been at bigger universities and I’ve seen the difference between those places and the kind of environment at PSU,” said Rider, who previously taught at University of Missouri-Kansas City and Tufts University in Boston. “One thing I can honestly tell parents is that they will never regret sending their child to PSU. The students here receive a personalized attention that is unrivaled at other institutions, and I know that because I taught at some of them. That continues to be my reason for teaching at Pittsburg State University.”
This summer, Rider became the first winner of the Sidney A. McNairy, Jr., Mentoring Award through the National Institutes of Health. The award honors Dr. McNairy, director of the Division of Research Infrastructure with the National Center for Research Resources at the NIH, for his insight and leadership in the promotion of biomedical research.
The sole Kansas nominee for her outstanding work in student mentoring, Rider traveled to Washington, D.C., in August to be recognized and to speak at the National IDeA (Institutional Development Awards) Symposium. The award, which will be given to one professor in the nation every two years, honors faculty for their dedication and focus mentoring students.
Rider was nominated by Dr. Joan Hunt, vice chancellor for biomedical infrastructure at the University of Kansas Medical Center and principal investigator of the Kansas Institutional Network of Biomedical Research Excellence, also known as K-INBRE, a grant program within the NIH. Twenty-three states, as well as Puerto Rico, compete for the multimillion dollar INBRE grants, which are used to strengthen biomedical research in traditionally underfunded states.
Rider, the leader of K-INBRE initiatives at PSU, has received approximately $35,000 from the program each year to help support research in the laboratories of faculty who train undergraduates in a variety of research projects.
“Dr. Rider is an outstanding example of the scientists in Kansas who educate students and care deeply about their development,” Hunt said. “We are enormously proud to have her representing outstanding mentorship for the United States.”
Rider’s research focuses on the molecular action of the female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone in normal target cells and in disease. She has received several recognitions throughout her career, including the 2005 Faculty Scholar Award from the Kansas Biomedical Infrastructure Network, the 2003 M. Irene Ferrér Award in gender specific medicine through Columbia University, and the 1991 Smith Kline Beecham Award for Research Excellence, among others.
“My impact on human beings is greater through mentoring students than any research I publish or discoveries in the laboratory,” Rider said. “If you can positively affect young people into productive careers where they’re happy, that’s the best thing you can have happen in your life.”