(JACKSON, Miss.) – President Barack Obama on July 9 named Jackson State University chemistry professor Jerzy Leszczynski to receive the prestigious Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring. Leszczynski is one of 22 teachers and mentors in the country to receive the award. The educators will receive their awards in the fall at a White House ceremony.
“There is no higher calling than furthering the educational advancement of our nation’s young people and encouraging and inspiring our next generation of leaders,” President Obama said in a White House press release. “These awards represent a heartfelt salute of appreciation to a remarkable group of individuals who have devoted their lives and careers to helping others and in doing so have helped us all.”
The Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring, awarded each year to individuals or organizations, recognizes the crucial role that mentoring plays in the academic and personal development of students studying science or engineering and who belong to minorities that are underrepresented in those fields. By offering their time, encouragement and expertise to these students, mentors help ensure that the next generation of scientists and engineers will better reflect the diversity of the United States.
Candidates for the Presidential Mentoring Award are nominated by colleagues, administrators, and students from their home institutions. The mentoring can involve students at any grade level from elementary through graduate school. In addition to being honored at the White House, recipients receive awards of $10,000 to advance their mentoring efforts.
“It is more important than ever that American students be well grounded in science, math, and engineering in order for them to be able, whether as professionals or just as citizens, to understand and tackle the challenges that face our nation,” wrote John P. Holdren, director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the Executive Office of the President, in Leszczynski’s congratulatory letter. “The great talent and commitment you have shown in mentoring – and in particular your success in helping students in demographic groups that are underrepresented in these important fields – are worthy of the highest recognition.”
Leszczynski directs Jackson State’s Interdisciplinary Center for Nanotoxicity, which conducts research related to the toxicity and health effects of nanomaterials. The center is the only one of its kind in Mississippi and one of only a handful in the United States.