Kristen Whalen Wins Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award
The assistant professor of biology is the seventh recent Haverford professor to receive the award, which recognizes faculty at primarily undergraduate institutions who are outstanding educators and researchers with an unrestricted $75,000 grant.
Assistant Professor of Biology Kristen Whalen is one of eight early-stage faculty members to be recognized with a 2021 Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award. The award’s $75,000 unrestricted research grant recognizes outstanding faculty who are accomplished in both teaching undergraduates and conducting scholarly research with them in the chemical sciences. (Though Whalen’s appointment is in the Department of Biology, she also teaches in the biochemistry and biophysics concentrations and many of her courses feature a biochemical component to understanding the natural world.)
“While this award is given to a faculty member, I could not have achieved the success in my career without the hard work, tireless drive, and dedication of numerous research students in my laboratory past and present,” said Whalen. “I love being a part of their discoveries and often the questions they ask and results they collect inspire new and exciting avenues of research!”
Whalen’s research uses molecular, cellular, biochemical, and metabolomic techniques to address how marine organisms have adapted and respond to their chemical environment. Currently, she and the students in her lab are exploring chemically-mediated interactions between phytoplankton and bacteria that may influence bloom dynamics. That work is supported by the National Science Foundation
She will use her Dreyfus award to fund undergraduate summer research experiences, conference travel, and co-authored student publications in the chemical sciences. She is also hoping to send students to collaborator’s labs at leading research institutions across the U.S. and abroad to gain exposure to cutting-edge instrumentation and techniques that will help support and develop new avenues of research in the Whalen Lab.
The Dreyfus Award is particularly meaningful to Whalen because she is deeply committed to the mentorship part of her job. The mentors she had as an undergraduate were vital contributors to her success in the sciences, she said.
“Engagement in research in my freshman year of college inspired me to pursue a career in understanding the ecological and pharmacological roles of marine natural products,” she said. “As an undergraduate, I was fortunate to have opportunities to explore how chemistry structures benthic marine ecosystems on research cruises alongside experts in the field of marine chemical ecology. These interactions and experiences directly inspired me to pursue a Ph.D. in oceanography.”
She hopes that working in the Whalen Lab is similarly inspiring for her students.
“Many students in my research group join as freshman and sophomores and continue through graduation, building their research portfolio as they develop their scientific prowess at the lab bench,” she said. “This transformation in a student is always inspiring to watch.”
Whalen is the seventh recent faculty member to be honored with a Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award during their time at Haverford, following Lou Charkoudian, Helen White, Casey Londergan, Joshaua Schrier, Alexander Norquist, and Karin Åkerfeldt.
“Having looked at past faculty awardees in the chemical sciences at Haverford, all are fantastic teachers and exceptional scholars who make it a point to publish their science with their undergraduate students,” said Whalen. “I am honored to be a part of this group of distinguished colleagues and appreciate their mentorship and collaboration during my career at Haverford.”