Mavis Future Faculty Fellowship prepares chemical & biomolecular engineering graduate students to become professors


Claire Benjamin

Mavis Future Faculty Fellows from left: Jason Adams, Soumajit Dutta, Aliki Kolliopoulos, Victoria Kriuchkovskaia, and Chris Torres.
Mavis Future Faculty Fellows from left: Jason Adams, Soumajit Dutta, Aliki Kolliopoulos, Victoria Kriuchkovskaia, and Chris Torres.

Five chemical and biomolecular engineering graduate students at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign were selected to be Mavis Future Faculty Fellows (MF3) for the 2021-2022 academic year, which will help prepare them to become the next generation of great engineering professors. This year’s participants include Jason Adams (Flaherty Lab), Soumajit Dutta (Shukla Lab), Aliki Kolliopoulos (Harley Lab), Victoria Kriuchkovskaia (Harley Lab), and Chris Torres (Flaherty Lab). 

The MF3 Fellowship was established by the Office of Engineering Graduate, Professional and Online Programs to address a potential gap between research-focused doctoral programs that may not prepare students interested in academic careers to become productive faculty members with a focus on research, teaching, and mentoring

Fellows participate in a series of workshops, seminars, and activities that cover various aspects of an academic career. Workshop themes include describing life as a faculty member, writing cover letters and CVs, preparing for campus interviews, and defining and achieving success as a faculty member. These workshops are available to all engineering graduate students.

  • Research: Professional development activities include dedicated workshops on communicating engineering research through writing and presentations as well as writing proposals

  • Teaching: All MF3 Fellows will have a significant teaching experience, typically through a teaching assistantship obtained inside the student’s department or in The Grainger College of Engineering.

  • Mentoring: MF3 Fellows are required to mentor a less experienced graduate or undergraduate student and advise them on a research project.  

Get to know ChBE’s MF3 Fellows

Answers were lightly edited for length and clarity. 

What prompted you to apply for the Mavis program?

Jason Adams: I wanted to become a professor of chemical engineering as an undergraduate and have pursued my career fervently ever since. Ultimately, I want to make a lasting impact in this field to benefit humankind and satisfy my intellectual curiosity. I believe the Mavis program is an excellent opportunity to help educate myself in this journey and do my best.  

Soumajit Dutta: The Mavis program will provide a graduate student like me a structured chance to become proficient in faculty-related skills that I do not encounter in my everyday graduate life.

Aliki Kolliopoulos: As a female with international experience, I aspire to contribute to the global scientific community by mentoring the next generation of scientists and engineers. My ultimate career goal is to become a leader and innovator in biotechnology and translate my research findings. MF3 will expose me to opportunities that will allow me to succeed as a faculty member and mentor.

Victoria Kriuchkovskaia: My career aspiration has always been to continue my journey in academia and become a faculty member at a research university with a strong engineering program. However, this is an extremely challenging goal. The Mavis program is extremely beneficial to my success in graduate school and guiding me through the process of gaining the necessary skills to become a productive faculty member.  

Chris Torres: I am excited to participate in the Mavis program as I know peers in our department who completed the program and felt like the experience was beneficial. This is an opportunity for me to hone the skills that will enable me to step into a faculty role to give back to students, who like me, come from backgrounds that are underrepresented in science and must overcome unique  obstacles to succeed in this challenging field. 

Why are you excited to be a part of it/what do you hope to gain?

Jason Adams: I am excited to be a part of the Mavis program because it will help me become an effective professor and teach students, apply for research grants, and serve my mentees toward our mutual goals during this pursuit. So, it benefits me and everyone I work with if I can hone these skills early and avoid common mistakes. The Mavis program should give me many important insights.  

Soumajit Dutta: The Mavis program will help me improve my proposal writing, teaching, and public speaking skills. It will also give me exposure to the very successful alumni base of previous MF3 fellows.

Aliki Kolliopoulos: Through the Mavis program I look forward to building the foundation for my faculty career by learning effective methods for teaching, mentoring, and research. This program will expose me to valuable learning opportunities that will equip me with the tools needed to succeed as a faculty member in my future academic career.

Victoria Kriuchkovskaia: The MF3 program will help me strengthen and develop the skills necessary to be the best educator I can become. Each class and each student are different, and thus as an educator, I must be able to quickly adapt to various situations. In addition, one component of research that Ph.D. programs do not focus on is research management. Writing funding proposals, managing and mentoring a research group, and applying for tenure are not traditionally taught in school. The MF3 program would help me further develop these crucial skills to become a faculty member. 

Chris Torres: I want a chance to “demystify” what it takes to be a successful faculty mentor. I am looking forward to taking part in the workshops related to grant writing and how to actually get an interview and a foot in the door with universities. 

What ‘teaching legacy’ do you hope to pass on to your students?

Jason Adams: I want to spread a legacy that combines the best aspects of my previous mentor’s legacies and my philosophies. First, my undergraduate mentor, William Koros, excited me to pursue research with a burning passion and inspired me to pursue a career as a professor. Second, my graduate mentor, Dave Flaherty, helped me become more objective in scientific pursuits and produce work with a high standard of excellence. I have met many brilliant scientists and engineers that neglect their physical, social, intellectual, and emotional well-being outside of work, which leads to counterproductive consequences. So, in short, I hope to spread a legacy that encourages students to work hard for the greater good, think objectively about scientific questions, and become their best selves. 

Soumajit Dutta: Throughout my student life, I find that active learning is the best approach for teaching. For me, the best teachers are the ones who can excite and guide students to learn on their own.  As a teacher, I want to create an environment where students feel motivated about engaging in anything they want to achieve.

Aliki Kolliopoulos: During my early education while trying to solve a problem, one of my science professors stopped and told me, “Science is just a game. All you need is to know the rules and have some imagination and creativity.” This statement deeply resonated with me and changed the way I approach obstacles that arise. This is the teaching legacy that I hope to pass on. As a teacher and mentor, I aim to create an environment conducive to learning by engaging students and allow them to build valuable life skills such as problem-solving and independent learning.

Victoria Kriuchkovskaia:  As a future faculty member, I hope to foster diversity and collaboration among multicultural individuals. I strongly believe that diversity and inclusion in education and science lead to just scientific knowledge and overall progress. As a mentor and educator, I strive to provide equal access to education and opportunities to all students through extensive outreach and fostering a culture where each and every member is heard and valued. To me, it is key to help students integrate their identity with the identity of their work. 

Chris Torres: I like to say,f you have time to worry, you have time to work.”  I hope that I can create a learning environment that empowers students to push beyond what they ever thought possible. I’ve learned the hard way what sacrifices are required for higher education.My goal is to make this path a bit easier for future generations of students.