Dr. Juchao Yan
Dr. Juchao Yan

Dr. Juchao Yan, professor of chemistry at Eastern New Mexico University, received the 2018 New Mexico Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (NM EPSCoR) Mentoring Award.

NM EPSCoR is funded by the National Science Foundation to build the state's capacity to conduct scientific research by providing research facilities and new education and economic development programs. Dr. Yan was drawn to the program in 2001 when New Mexico became one of the EPSCoR jurisdictions.

dr yan mentoring award
Dr. Yan's Mentoring Award.

"I consider myself a product of NM EPSCoR," explained Dr. Yan. "During my education, I came to love the STEM fields. It was the mission of EPSCoR that drew me to NM EPSCoR: 'EPSCoR enhances research competitiveness of targeted jurisdictions (state, territories, commonwealth) by strengthening STEM capacity and capability.'

"NM EPSCoR has financially supported my research projects, broadened my research horizon and built my research collaboration networks," he said.

"I am honored to receive the Mentoring Award from NM EPSCoR," explained Dr. Yan, who notified by NM EPSCoR members Chelsea Chee, diversity and inclusion coordinator, and Anne Jakle, associate director, about winning the award. "I feel great to be recognized for my mentoring accomplishments during the past 16 years at ENMU. This award sets a new starting point for my mentoring activities. I hope that I can do more and better in the near future."

When asked what being a mentor means to him, Dr. Yan said, "To me, a mentor is a role model, and also an advisor, a supporter, a tutor, a master and a sponsor.

"An effective mentor at primarily undergraduate institutions should, first and foremost, be creative, have good people skills and be inspiring. To be effective, a mentor should be a good listener, a good communicator and also a trusted ally, friend and/or advocate."

Dr. Yan was nominated for the award by David Arellano, an ENMU student who served as his research technician for three years.

"While I have watched other students grow and learn from Dr. Yan, I realized that he was helping me to do the same," David wrote in his letter of support for Juchao's nomination. "Thanks to Dr. Yan, I am graduating this semester with a master's degree in Chemistry and, beginning this fall, I will be attending a university where I intend to get my Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering. This is just a small example of how I believe I have flourished under Dr. Yan's guidance and assistance."

The ENMU professor was born in Xixia, Henan, China. His mother passed away during his time in college, and his father passed away in 2007. They were both farmers and did not have any formal education. Dr. Yan and his three older brothers and two older sisters all have college degrees.

He earned a Bachelor of Science in Physical Chemistry from Jilin University, in Changchun, Jilin, China, in 1992, and a Ph.D. in analytical chemistry from the Changchun Institute of Applied Chemistry at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 1997.

dr yan with mentors
Dr. Yan with Drs. Erkang Wang and Shaojun Dong.

His interest in science was sparked by one of his older brothers. Dr. Yan started to enjoy chemistry when he was in junior high. The more he learned about chemistry in college, the more he liked it. "Chemistry has many sub-disciplines, and my training was in analytical chemistry, which is the art and science of chemical analysis," he said.

Before teaching at ENMU, Dr. Yan was a research assistant professor and postdoctoral fellow for the Department of Chemical and Nuclear Engineering at the University of New Mexico.

He was drawn to Eastern because of the University's motto ("Student Success ¾ That's What It's All About") and its location, which is similar to where he was born.

He has two roles at ENMU: professor of chemistry and graduate coordinator of chemistry. For the former, he teaches primarily analytical chemistry courses at both undergraduate and graduate level and forensic chemistry at the undergraduate level, advises students and carries out research in algal biofuels, organic solar cells and fuel cells. In the latter, he recruits and advises students, coordinates curricular proposals, determines students' admissibility to the program, coordinates the assignment of graduate advisors, acts on petitions related to program policies and procedure, makes graduate assistantship recommendations and assignments and submits approval for graduation.

The thing he enjoys the most about his job is "instilling a passion for science in my students through practical applications."

His favorite thing about ENMU is the "personal touch. I have had the opportunity to be a role model and to help everyone in my classes. This is quite different from lecturing for several hundred students in a big lecture hall at big schools."

Dr. Yan lives with his wife, Shu Chen, and their two sons, Tony and Justin, in Portales, New Mexico. Shu earned her Bachelor of Arts in Chinese Literature at Jilin University and her Bachelor of Business Administration at ENMU. Tony is in the 11th grade, and Justin is in the 7th grade. The family has three dogs: Forest, Brook and Happy.

The ENMU professor is a member of the American Chemical Society, the Electrochemical Society, the Materials Research Society and the Algal Biomass Organization. His professional service includes involvement with scientific journals, funding agencies and textbook publishers.

He considers his role models to be his Ph. D. supervisors, Professors and Drs. Erkang Wang and Shaojun Dong. They are husband and wife, and fellows of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Third World Academy of Sciences.

"Their scientific achievement, integrity, dedication and productivity have always encouraged me to work hard and to achieve my career goals," he explained.

The Mentoring Award recipient has also won the 2014 Faculty Presidential Award for Excellence in Research/Scholarly/Creative Activity at ENMU, the 1997 Elite Award for Outstanding Research Achievement at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the 1995 First Award for Best Graduate Student at Changchun Institute of Applied Chemistry and the Third Award for Top-Ten Undergraduate Student at Jilin University in 1990.

To read more about the NM EPSCoR Mentoring Award recipients, visit https://www.nmepscor.org/blog/2018-nm-epscor-mentoring-awardees