Students Surprise Biology Professor with Advising Award Nomination

OXFORD, Miss. – When students describe Jason Hoeksema, they use words like “mentor,” “dedicated” and “enthusiastic.”

To Hoeksema’s students, it comes as no surprise that he was awarded the University of Mississippi’s 2012 Academic Advising Network’s Excellence in Advising Award. In fact, they were the ones to nominate the assistant professor of biology.

“I would be hard pressed to nominate another individual as deserving of recognition for excellence in advising as Dr. Jason Hoeksema,” said Kristopher Henning, who received his master’s in biology in 2011 under Hoeksema’s direction. “He has exemplified my conception of an ideal adviser – serving as a glue that not only promotes respect and socialization amongst the members of my lab, but in addition, helping to foster these qualities amongst many of the undergraduate and graduate students of the department.”

Jason Hoeksema

Hoeksema’s research focuses on ecological and evolutionary consequences of interactions among species, including mutualism, parasitism and competition.

“I believe my nomination for this award was instigated by current and former graduate and undergraduate students who have been members of my research group, and I’m very grateful to them and humbled to receive this award,” Hoeksema said.

Hoeksema is passionate about working with his students. He challenges them to grow intellectually and encourages them to take advantages of opportunities outside the classroom.

“When advising graduate and undergraduate students in my research group, I really enjoy helping them to see that they can make important contributions to the scientific research process,” he said. “I immensely enjoy seeing them grow, in confidence and competence to conduct science, over the course of months and years.”

Students praise Hoeksema for being accessible and approachable.

“I believe every student in our department benefits from his mentoring, whether by having him serve as a committee member, by attending the informal Friday reading group ‘BioLunch’ he organizes, swinging by the lab or catching him barbecuing at the biology department tailgating tent,” said Bridget J. Piculell, Ph.D. candidate in biology.

Through mentoring students, Hoeksema hopes to impart a deeper knowledge of science.

“I hope that students gain a broader understanding of how the scientific process works,” he said. “I hope they learn how to think creatively, how to plan carefully, and how to finish projects efficiently. I hope they learn the value of helping each other and collaborating in the scientific endeavor.”

Hoeksema has learned a lot from advising students over the years.

“I try to recognize that each student has different strengths and needs, and different advising approaches may be needed for each student, to bring out their strengths,” he said. “I’m grateful to advisors of my own, from before my arrival here at Ole Miss and also among my colleagues here, for helping to teach me this. I’m still trying to get better at bringing out the best in everyone with whom I interact, including students I’m advising.”