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UTRGV’s Dr. Malik Rakhmanov recognized for his mentorship of new faculty

Dr. Malik Rakhmanov (right), associate professor of physics, received the 2016 New Faculty Support Program Mentor Award at a ceremony held May 5 in the Ballroom at the Edinburg Campus. Pictured left to right with Rakhmanov are Dr. Myoung-Hwan Kim, his mentee who nominated him for the award, and Dr. Parwinder Grewal, dean of the College of Sciences.
(UTRGV Photo by Kristela Garza)

By Gail Fagan

EDINBURG, TEXAS – MAY 6, 2016 – First-year UTRGV faculty member Dr. Myoung-Hwan Kim says the advice and guidance he has received from 2016 New Faculty Mentor Award winner Dr. Malik Rakhmanov has helped him make a smooth transition to being a productive junior faculty member.

“Dr. Rakhmanov made himself accessible,” said Kim, who nominated Rakhmanov for the award. “He stops by my office frequently to discuss any research and funding opportunities and teaching difficulties and offers his advice."

“He also supports my independence in research,” said the assistant professor of physics who has already applied and received UT System STARs (Science and Technology Acquisition and Retention) program funding to support his optics research. “He (Rakhmanov) always listens carefully to my future plan of research and laboratory set-up, and always tries to understand my research and make constructive feedback. To be part of a team of researchers is good for me, since I just started.”

Both Kim and Rakhmanov, an associate professor of physics at UTRGV, participated this academic year in the New Faculty Support Program, initiated in 2007 at legacy institution UT Pan American to support and retain new faculty by assisting them in the adjustment to their new academic environment and processes.

The program pairs new faculty with experienced faculty members who provide one-on-one peer mentoring on teaching, research, and grant and other funding opportunities. The program, which often has concurrent sessions on both the Edinburg and Brownsville campuses, also offers activities like academic orientation and training luncheons and workshops to orient new faculty members to the university and its culture.

“The new faculty meet about once a month throughout the year and we cover everything from getting good mentoring, how to write grant proposals, how to seek external funding, how to improve their teaching and how to write a cool syllabus,” said Dr. Kristine Lowe, vice provost for Faculty Affairs, who oversees the program. “We also use other resources at the university like the Center for Teaching Excellence, the Dean of Students, and Students Rights and Responsibilities.”

The award, based on nominations received from mentees and reviewed by an ad hoc committee of faculty members, is given to a faculty mentor who has provided high-quality mentoring to a new faculty member and has been instrumental to the success of the new faculty member.

Rakhmanov received a $500 honorarium and a plaque at a reception held on the Edinburg Campus on May 5.

Rakhmanov is well known for his participation since 1995 in the LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory) project and is a key faculty participant in UTRGV’s Center for Gravitational Wave Astronomy (CGWA), where he started the experimental research lab focused on optical and interferometric research when he joined the CGWA in 2008.

He collaborated with CGWA colleague Soumya Mohanty on the development of the algorithm that enabled the historic first gravitational-wave detection in September 2015 and which was announced worldwide in February 2016.

Rakhmanov, who also mentored new faculty member Hamidreza Ramezani, said of the mentoring award that recognizing faculty for volunteer assignments can be very important for the betterment of the university’s academic environment.

“I am particularly excited about this nomination because this is a new university and its actions today are shaping its image for the future,” he said.

UTRGV Founding Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Havidán Rodríguez, who congratulated the winner and the program's participants, said great things are coming at the university.

"We are building new initiatives and new programs at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral levels. And we could not do that without the active engagement, participation, commitment and support of our faculty," he said.

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