Mentorship Awards

CU EMPower Peer Protégé and Peer Mentors of the Year

The CU EMPower protégé and peer mentor awards are presented to a mentoring pair who have made outstanding efforts to maximize their mentoring partnership. As mentoring partners, they have gone beyond regular participation in CU EMPower and by demonstrated a strong commitment to self-development and the group mentoring process.

Diptic portrait of two students
CU EMPower peer protege and mentor of the year: Daniella Reis (left) and Katie Barajas (right)

CU Empower Outstanding Peer Protégé: Daniella Reis, Geological Sciences, PhD Student
CU Empower Outstanding Peer Mentor: Katie Barajas ’22 Engineering Physics

Daniella Reis is an outstanding mentee who has become an inspiration to her mentor. She possesses an enthusiasm and curiosity that uplifts those around her. Although she is thousands of miles away, she strives to break barriers in her field and is always willing to provide a helping hand to all that need help.

Katie Barajas created a newsletter for her mentees to come them informed of resources and scholarship opportunities.  Not only did she make herself available to her mentees but also to other students associated to her mentees. Her caring, friendly and approachable demeanor has greatly impacted her mentees.


Portraits of two students Cira Diop and Jon Albo
CU EMPower peer protege and mentor of the year: Cira Diop (left) and Jon Albo (right)

CU Empower Outstanding Peer Protégé:  Cira Diop ’24, (Unaffiliated) Engineering
CU Empower Outstanding Peer Mentor: Jon Albo, Biomedical Engineering, PhD Student

Cira Diop is very committed to developing and has actively participated in CU EMPower and Ryan Scholars. As a freshman, she has taken the initiative to ask questions and seek advice from her mentors. She strives to get the most out of her Cornell experience.

Jon Albo has made himself completely available to his mentees. He is committed to their personal and professional growth by encouraging good mental health practices and providing his mentees with various opportunities.

The Ephrahim Garcia Graduate Excellence in Mentoring Award

Portraits of two graduate students
Ephrahim Garcia Graduate Excellence in Mentoring Awardees: Jason Chang (left) and Emily Laurilliard (right)

This award is given in honor of Cornell Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Professor Ephrahim Garcia, who passed away in 2014 at an early age. Ephrahim was a mentor and advisor to a great many students and champion for diversity and inclusion.

The Ephrahim Garcia Graduate Student Excellence in Mentoring Award recognizes graduate students who have exhibited exceptional mentorship of undergraduates and/or new graduate students in their assistantships, fosters greater inclusion through mentoring, and works closely with others in research and/or other settings across the college.

Jason Chang, Biomedical Engineering, PhD Candidate

Jason Chang has mentored students through his role as a PhD candidate in the Andarawis-Puri Lab through the scientific process and introduced them to research. He provides guidance to help students advance their career path and consider graduate school. He empowers student with opportunities to present their work at conferences and to seek out scholarships and grants. He constantly challenges his mentees which motivates them to work harder and produce their best work. His mentorship and supportive nature have allowed both undergraduate and graduate students to embrace their full self and accomplish their goals. A past mentee noted in their nomination: “Recently, I was asked to write down the name of my role model. Although I usually put down a scientist that made ground-breaking discoveries in stem cell research, I chose to write Jason’s name for his passion and excellence for mentorship.”

Emily Laurilliard, Biomedical Engineering, PhD Student

Emily Laurilliard has been a research mentor for students in the Cosgrove Lab. She is kind, patient, organized and instills confidence in her mentees. She has provided a space where students can grow and develop their skills. She promotes research experience for undergraduates by encouraging grant applications and welcoming other students to participate. She has created a space for atypical identities and voices in the laboratory, asserting that all ideas are welcome regardless of background or educational level. She is an advocate for undergraduate involvement and is being recognized for her consistent leadership. A current undergraduate mentee notes: “Prior to her leadership, I doubted my place at Cornell and my place in research. Thanks to Emily’s excellent teaching style and willingness to help, I have accumulated skills and accomplishments way beyond my years.”

Honorable Mention:

  • Ferra Pinnock, Chemical Engineering, PhD Candidate
  • Taylor Oeschger, Biomedical Engineering, PhD Candidate
  • Monideepa Chatterjee, Biomedical Engineering, PhD Candidate
  • Garrett Beeghly, Biomedical Engineering, PhD Student
  • Jon Albo, Biomedical Engineering, PhD Student

Return to 2021 Annual Awardees list