Eleanor Maine receives Wasserstrom Award for Higher Education

Eleanor Maine, professor of biology at the College of Arts and Sciences (A&S), is the 2022 recipient of the William Wasserstrom Award for Teaching Graduate Students.

A&S Dean Karin Ruhlandt officially presented her with the award at the Graduate School’s doctoral graduation ceremony on May 13.

Eleanor Maine

The award commemorates William Wasserstrom, a renowned teacher of English at Syracuse, who died in 1985. Each year since then, an arts and science teacher has been recognized who embodies Professor Wasserstrom’s approach as a graduate seminar leader, research and thesis director, advisor and model role.

“Eleanor exemplifies Professor Wasserstrom’s outstanding success as a leader and mentor for graduate students. She is a model of academic and personal success,” says Ruhlandt.

Maine is a distinguished scholar with an internationally recognized research program. A Syracuse faculty member since 1990, his research focuses on understanding the mechanisms regulating the formation of different cells and tissues during animal development, using the roundworm, Caenorhabditis elegans, as a model. She is a leader in the field, as evidenced by her extensive publication and funding records, with nearly $4 million in federal funding over her career. Maine has also played a vital role in supporting promising scholars, having officially mentored 60 graduate students and helping many more during its 30 years at the university.

In addition to his work with students, Maine has served the Biology Department in a variety of advisory roles, including as a member of the Graduate Student Recruitment Committee (1995-99), a member of the Graduate Studies Committee (2011-14) and Chair/Co-Chair of the Graduate Studies Committee (since 2017).

His letter of appointment from the biology department executive committee notes that Maine has created an environment in his lab “in which students feel both personally and professionally supported as they accumulate both the technical skills and the intellectual expertise to take them to the next level”.

“Eleanor is a role model within the department for graduate student mentoring, and every former graduate student we contacted responded with enthusiastic letters of recommendation for this award,” says Kate Lewis, Professor and Chair of biology. “She has had a positive impact on the education, success and happiness of hundreds of graduate students, helping them realize their potential and become effective professionals.”

Former Maine Students Now in the Workplace, in their letters of appointment, attributed their success and accomplishments to the excellent training they received in his lab.

Yini Li, now in medical school at Johns Hopkins University, said, “Dr. Maine was my doctorate. advisor, and she is an excellent research mentor who is truly supportive of her students and an inspiring role model in my scientific journey. Li continues, “When I ran into any problems or scientific obstacles, Dr. Maine was always available, no matter how busy she was. Dr. Maine’s frequent interactions and guidance greatly helped me develop my ability to draw logical conclusions from experimental observations, which became an essential skill in my postdoctoral research work.

David Pruyne, colleague and associate professor of cell and developmental biology at Upstate Medical University, says, “Professor Maine encourages students to use techniques that are new, and even beyond the expertise of his own lab. This helps her students learn to step out of their comfort zone. Yet this is always balanced with a clear concern for how they are doing. She doesn’t push them where they don’t want to go, or beyond what they can do. Instead, she inspires them.