San Diego, CA, March 16, 2017 -- NanoEngineering professor Darren Lipomi has been awarded a UC San Diego Diversity Champion Award. Professor Lipomi is well known for research at the intersection of energy, biomimetic materials and devices, green chemistry and manufacturing – research that is often aimed at saving energy and improving human well-being. But he is also known for more than his research at the Jacobs School of Engineering. Inside and outside the lab and the classroom, Lipomi is recognized as a dedicated teacher, mentor, and champion of diversity.
Undergraduates are coauthors on 25 of the Lipomi group’s 39 publications. This statistic highlights an important fact: he makes special efforts to ensure the academic and professional success of all the students he brings into his lab. Undergraduate researchers are an important piece of his lab’s larger research-mentorship structure: more experienced graduate students and post docs mentor the new and less experienced graduate students who mentor undergraduates and high school students.
|Darren Lipomi leads the Laboratory for soft electronics, solar cells, and nanomanufacturing in the Department of NanoEngineering at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.|
In addition, Lipomi makes particular efforts to ensure the undergraduates he brings into his lab reflects the diversity of the region and the state. He is particularly interested in students who have demonstrated an interest in or aptitude for communicating, to diverse communities, the research done in the lab and the career opportunities that engineering education provides.
Lipomi consistently advocates for, and celebrates the successes of all members of his lab. He fosters a community of trust and support, as well as a high level of respect and communication among the students. This community feeling is palpable, even to someone visiting the lab for the first time.
Current and former undergraduates in the group include the southwest regional representative of the student chapter of the Society for Hispanic Professional Engineers, the current and former presidents of the UC San Diego chapter of the Society for Women Engineers, two Federal McNair Scholars, at least four IDEA Engineering Student Center Scholars, and high school students.
Two of the female high school students from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds in engineering that worked in the Lipomi lab as summer researchers are now undergraduate students at UC San Diego, where they are majoring in science and engineering.
“People like Darren Lipomi are the reason I went into science. His love for science and learning is insatiable, as is the desire to pass that passion on to his students. He is one of the most inspirational people I have ever met. He has given me the motivation and resources to excel in areas I never thought possible,” said Brandon Marin, a current chemical engineering graduate student in the Lipomi lab, and the first in his family to graduate college. “He motivated me to pursue the NIH Diversity Fellowship, which I received in the late summer of 2016,” said Marin.
Supporting Diversity Efforts
A leader by example, Lipomi instills in his students the importance of connecting with and giving back to organizations dedicated to diversifying STEM pipelines.
“There is this culture of service in Darren’s lab and each time I engage with his team, I become more and more aware of the larger contributions Darren is making to ensure that our future engineers give back to the community and feed the STEM diversity pipeline,” said Michelle Ferrez, Director of the IDEA Engineering Student Center at the Jacobs School of Engineering.
Lipomi is a prolific mentor who makes contributions across a wide range of the engineering diversity pipeline from K-14 through to postdoctoral researchers. He regularly speaks at events run by the IDEA Engineering Student Center and by other outreach programs. He supports the IDEA Scholars Engineering Program, a 5-year retention program for underrepresented students in engineering at the Jacobs School. For example, he has mentored a number of IDEA Scholars, some of whom went on to join his lab as undergraduate researchers.
He has hosted over 40 outreach events, many of which were aimed toward igniting the spark of curiosity in K-12 students, women in engineering, and students from underrepresented backgrounds.
Lipomi is also the Department of NanoEngineering representative to Executive Advisory Committee for the IDEA Engineering Student Center.
Lipomi is also a prolific and dedicated educator. In the last ten quarters, he has taught five different classes. He was awarded a Best Teacher of the Year award for 2013–2014 academic year, in part for his emphasis on helping to prepare students for the best possible positions in their future careers He also won the 2015-2016 Graduate Student Association best teacher award for his graduate courses.
Students and teaching assistants note that Lipomi takes the time and energy necessary to create a positive, inviting, and inspirational environment in the classroom. He also serves as a role model for graduate students aiming for careers as professors at colleges and universities. He regularly discusses, for example, teaching plans, course assignments, and potential ideas for class demonstrations with his teaching assistants.
Lipomi is active outside the official classroom and research mentoring activities as well. For example, he created a set of supplementary lectures for undergraduate and graduate students that focus on effective communication techniques that are crucial for future careers. Topics include writing skills, publishing research articles, securing grants, and communicating to a range of audiences, including peers, students, managers and politicians.
Some of these materials are on professor Lipomi’s YouTube channel, including: How to wins friends and influence people and UC San Diego: Grad, Postdoc, & Scholarly Talk on Presentation Skills and insights on grant writing.