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Cruz Ortiz

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Cruz Ortiz, Jr., PhD Student / NSF Graduate Research Fellow
Bren School of Environmental Science & Management, University of California, Santa Barbara
Mentee:  2010-2013 (career development, research, lab/field methods, course work) 

  It is with great pleasure that I write this letter of evaluation for Priya M. Ganguli. I first met Priya as my teaching assistant (TA) for an upper division course at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC). It did not take long for me to realize that she had a passion for teaching and would often go beyond her call of duty as a TA. Priya had a gift for explaining things very well; and when the material got difficult, she didn’t hesitate to stay and help students who were having a hard time. In the week of tests, she took it upon herself to have extra office hours and hosted study sections for last minute questions. One semester I was given the opportunity of being her teaching assistant apprentice (TAA). As her TAA I got to witness her management and organization skills (both excellent); moreover, I saw her dedication of having all of her students succeed. She enabled me to grow as a teacher and made me a more dynamic instructor. This experience gave me the confidence and motivation I needed to pursue a career in academia. Priya’s enthusiasm and hard work really made her standout among all the TA’s I ever had; her accomplishments as a TA is evidenced by her multiple awards for “TA of the year” at UCSC. 
    Priya also has an exceptional ability to mentor undergraduate research. I got to witness her capabilities as a researcher and a mentor while working in Dr. Flegal’s trace metal lab at UCSC. While I was there, she mentored 2-3 undergraduate researchers at any given time. In addition to providing in depth research guidance for her mentees, she provided field opportunities for other undergraduates who were interested in gaining research experience. Priya made the effort to instill an early love for research in her students. In lab, she taught us superb lab etiquette with respect to organization and safety, which is very important for young scientists. She always explained the reasoning behind the methods we used and was effective in teaching her mentees how to independently run the lab instruments. Analyzing environmental samples for mercury (Hg) requires great care in collecting, processing, and analyzing; all Priya’s students became proficient in this regard. In addition to providing lab and field training, Priya encouraged her students to present their research at international conferences (e.g., AGU, ICMGP). She never hesitated to look over my posters and her feedback was invaluable. At conferences, she introduced us to experts in the field and enabled us to practice our networking skills. Overall, Priya provided the stepping stones needed to build a career in science and/or the academic arena. 
    I owe much of my academic success to the guidance and mentoring I received from Priya. Her support was a key component in building my confidence and finding my passion to work hard and earn a PhD. Any institution would truly find her to be an asset as a scientist and a motivation to all her students and mentees. Her experiences have shaped Priya into an excellent role model. A role model that I look up to and had the pleasure of working with.
Cruz Ortiz Jr.