UTEP professor receives lifetime achievement award from Nature journal for mentoring

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Credit: UTEP Communications/Ivan Pierre Aguirre


A UTEP professor’s momentous year will close with a monumental honor.

Jorge A. Lopez, Ph.D., the Schumaker Professor in The University of Texas at El Paso’s Department of Physics, has been named a recipient of the lifetime achievement in mentoring award as part of the 2018 Nature Awards for Mentoring in Science. The honor — given by Nature, the world’s leading multidisciplinary science journal — was formally presented Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018, during a ceremony on the UTEP campus.

“We are truly delighted that Professor Jorge Lopez has received this prestigious lifetime award from the international science journal, Nature,” said UTEP President Diana Natalicio. “For the past 29 years, UTEP students have benefited from the mentorship of this dedicated and innovative educator. A native of Cd. Juárez, Mexico, who is proud to have earned two UTEP degrees, Dr. Lopez has successfully applied what he learned during his personal educational and career trajectory to profoundly impact the UTEP students who are following in his footsteps. All of us at UTEP celebrate this well-deserved recognition of Dr. Lopez’s fine work, and we extend to him our congratulations and appreciation for his commitment to UTEP and the students we serve.”

Sir Philip Campbell, editor-in-chief of Springer Nature, which publishes Nature and other science publications, lauded Lopez, one of two recipients of this year’s lifetime achievement honors announced by the publication. They are joined by two mid-career award recipients.

“I am delighted at the achievements of our awards winners, including Dr. Lopez, and I am especially delighted this year at the diversity of their experiences and of their commitments to mentoring,” Campbell said. “I know that the judges had a strong field of applicants. It’s terrific for Nature to be able to celebrate researchers who have been so outstanding in their encouragement of a strong scientific ethos in those who come after them.”

Lopez said he is elated to be named a recipient of the award. He maintains that any recognition of his efforts is a tribute to the work of the students with whom he has been associated.

“I am humbled and honored to be named a recipient of this award,” Lopez said. “This is a testament to the far-reaching impact of students I have had the privilege to mentor. I have been fortunate to be able to contribute to many students’ lives and am always amazed to see them reach milestones in their professional lives. I hope this award can serve as an example of the importance of mentors and showcase the caliber of faculty members that work at UTEP.”

Nature established the mentor awards in 2005 to recognize the vital importance of mentorship in the research process throughout the world. The awards for outstanding scientific mentorship focus on a specific country or region each year. In 2018, the publication focused on mentors from the South of the United States.

“I have enormous admiration for Jorge Lopez as a faculty member and a truly inspirational mentor,” said Robert Kirken, Ph.D., dean of the College of Science. “Throughout the evolution of our campus, Jorge has dedicated himself to students with an unflinching commitment to guide and inspire their academic and professional dreams. I feel intense gratitude for this award that recognizes his efforts to create an unparalleled learning environment for our students and an intellectually innovative environment for our faculty and staff.”

For Lopez, the announcement from Nature caps a year in which he received another significant honor. Lopez entered the 2018-19 academic year as a recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM), the highest national mentoring award bestowed by the White House.

Lopez received the prize along with 38 other winners during a ceremony at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., this summer. The awards, issued by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, with the National Science Foundation, recognize outstanding efforts of mentors who encourage the next generation of innovators and help develop a science and engineering workforce that reflects America’s diverse talent.

Lopez arrived at UTEP in 1990 after earning a Ph.D. in nuclear physics at Texas A&M University, spending four years as a postdoctoral researcher in Copenhagen, Denmark, and Berkeley, California, and a one-year stint at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. The Juárez, Mexico, native — and UTEP graduate (B.S. 1977, M.S. 1979) — returned to El Paso to be closer to family.

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