Bayliss honored by President Obama for science mentoring
July 13, 2009 -- For nearly 20 years, Frank Bayliss' mentoring work has made SF State a leader in training and educating minority students in the sciences. For his efforts, Bayliss has been awarded a Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring. Bayliss will officially receive the award during a reception at the White House this fall.
Bayliss had already been teaching biology at SF State for nearly two decades when he noticed a shortage of students -- particularly underrepresented minorities -- in the sciences who went on to complete master's and doctoral degrees. He founded the Student Enrichment Opportunities (SEO) office in 1992 to meet that need. The office provides financial support and mentoring to students in the sciences from the undergraduate to doctoral level. SEO now helps send 20 to 25 underrepresented minority students from SF State to doctoral programs each year.
The SEO office provides financial support, hands-on research opportunities and supplementary instruction for science students. Bayliss himself provides one-on-one mentoring with the 70 current students in the program. To date, more than 800 SEO-funded students have benefited from the office's mentoring, scholarships, classes and seminars.
"In the sciences we’re apprentices that go through apprenticeship after apprenticeship," said Bayliss, who came to SF State in 1975. "Science is the product of generations of scientists passing on what they came to know and how they came to know it. You get a tremendous reward watching somebody with potential and talent rise above their history."
The SEO has yielded significant results including higher retention and academic achievement of underrepresented minorities in the sciences. From 1984 to 2003, only one minority undergraduate from SF State went on to complete a doctorate in the sciences. From 2004 to 2007, 21 underrepresented minorities completed doctorates in the sciences, with another 73 expected to complete doctorates in the next five years.
"Too much scientific talent goes unused in the United States because many students have not had appropriate encouragement and opportunity to pursue scientific careers," said Sheldon Axler, dean of the College of Science and Engineering. "Frank Bayliss has created an imaginative array of programs that help students succeed in science, with a particular emphasis on giving students from underrepresented minority groups a chance to have exciting research opportunities. Because of Professor Bayliss' work, many students whose scientific talents would have been lost to our nation are now working on the frontiers of science."
In addition to mentoring students, Bayliss and the SEO have been active in helping to increase the diversity of SF State's science faculty and mentoring junior faculty members. He helps new faculty learn everything from time organization and teaching techniques to securing grants and running lab budgets. Bayliss said he receives phone calls from former students who are now professors at other universities looking for advice in their careers and how to mentor students at their own institutions.
Equating mentoring to coaching, Bayliss said: "I get all the credit, but I’m like the coach with the All-American quarterback and the great team."
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