Guiding Emerging Scientists toward Great Success

Monday, October 21, 2013
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As a professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Biomedical Sciences at the University of New Hampshire (UNH), Paul Tsang has devoted his 24-year career to the success of his students. That’s just one reason why his colleagues nominated him to become the recipient of the 2013 Outstanding Advisor Award from the College of Life Sciences and Agriculture (COLSA) at UNH. “Paul has contributed greatly to the development of many young, emerging scientists in our college directly and to the growth of undergraduate and graduate research at UNH through his many years of service advising students and serving on various research advisory committees,” says Associate Professor of Reproductive Physiology Dave Townson.

In addition to Tsang’s role as professor and academic and research advisor, he has been an active member of the COLSA Undergraduate Research Conference Committee since 1994. Furthermore, Tsang has served as chair of the COLSA Undergraduate Research Conference, a reviewer—and college and departmental liaison—for the Advisory Committee of the Hamel Center for Undergraduate Research, and is currently the director of the Hamel Center for Undergraduate Research. Lastly, Tsang administers two courses, developed by retired director Donna Brown, which provide undergraduates with an opportunity for research experience that has a direct impact on the development of their profession-ready skills.

David Cox ’98 is one of the emerging scientists Tsang has helped along the way. As a high school student, Cox advanced easily through his AP classes, but never learned how to study effectively. When he became an undergraduate at COLSA, he relied on Tsang for support through the transition. “Paul was a wonderful mentor and I probably wouldn’t have stayed in school without him,” says Cox who was so successful in acquiring skills for studying that he completed his core curriculum at a record rate. “In my junior and senior years I had lots of credits, so I gained hands-on experience in the lab. That lab experience helped me to transition directly into a Ph.D. program and enabled me to be autonomous in lab work in the future.” Now a researcher at the Cancer Research Center of Lyon, France, Cox’s achievement illustrates the far-reaching effects of Tsang’s devotion to student success through supportive academic advising.

Chair of the Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Biomedical Sciences, Rick Cote, says that Tsang “exemplifies all of the traits that one hopes for in a faculty academic advisor: knowledgeable, available, generous with his time, and genuinely concerned with each individual he advises.” While Tsang enjoys staying in touch with former students and learning about their progress after graduation, his immediate focus is on ensuring the success of current students. “I most enjoy talking with the students,” says Tsang, “and learning about what they like and don’t like.” His astute listening skills enable Tsang to guide advisees toward making the most appropriate educational choices to facilitate their professional goals. “As they get more into the University program, we’ll talk about their career choices,” says Tsang who typically advises students from their first year through graduation. “I write a lot of letters of recommendation for jobs and schools,” says Tsang who fully embraces his role as an advisor, despite its significant time commitment, in order do the best he can for his students.

Townson is a witness to Tsang’s commitment to student success. “Paul is renowned for asking the thought-provoking, penetrating questions that give students pause, forcing them to self-reflect and self-direct their futures,” says Townson. “In interacting with his advisees, or even my students, Paul always ‘gently’ steers them toward thinking for themselves rather than simply providing the answer. His friendly, caring, and personable demeanor always puts students at ease, but by the same token they learn that he has high expectations.”