Aaron Stoker, PhD, the associate director of the Thompson Laboratory for Regenerative Orthopaedics, received the University of Missouri’s Outstanding Undergraduate Research Mentor of the Year award on April 17, along with Antje Heese, associate professor of biochemistry.
The awards were presented by MU’s Office of Undergraduate Research. The winners were selected after students submitted letters of nomination and support.
Stoker’s fatherly approach was cited by his students.
“He currently is in charge of 25 undergraduate students in our lab and never hesitates to help me no matter how busy he is,” Stephanie Quoss wrote. “Having 25 students can be stressful and overwhelming, but he knows exactly where everyone’s project is and what needs to be done next at all times. It is his job to do these things for us, but he does not treat it like one.
“He wants us to succeed in going to med school, vet school or whatever path the person may be on, so he makes sure we are all on track to publish our research.”
Eli Pratte noted that Stoker was so supportive of his student researchers that they chipped in to buy him a shirt with the words “Lab Dad” embroidered on the chest.
“He really has become a father figure in the lab, not only ensuring we are comfortable conducting our research, but also asking us about our lives, our interests and our aspirations,” Pratte wrote. “Dr. Stoker cares about you, not just the research you contribute to the lab. He takes an interest in your life and has a drive to assist you in achieving your goals. He is quick to ask fellow undergraduates if they have heard back from professional or graduate schools they applied and interviewed at. He experiences the emotions of letters of acceptance or letters of rejection right alongside his students, just as if he were a family member.
“But he is. He’s our Lab Dad.”