Russell Hill receives Regents Award for Mentoring

April 14, 2016

Professor Russell Hill, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) faculty member and director of the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology (IMET), has received a 2016 USM Regents’ Faculty Award for Excellence in Mentoring, the highest honor that the Board bestows to recognize exemplary faculty achievement.

“I love a lot of things about my job but nothing more than the privilege of interacting with graduate students and playing a role in shaping their careers,” said Dr. Russell Hill. “Our graduate students are a constant source of inspiration for me.”

The Board of Regents Faculty Awards publicly recognizes distinguished performance by educators and researchers within the University System of Maryland. Award categories include collaboration, mentoring, public service, teaching, research, scholarship, and creative activity. This year’s awards were given by Chancellor Robert Caret and Board Chairman James Shea at the Board of Regents Faculty Awards ceremony at University of Maryland University College in College Park.

Dr. Hill, a leading researcher in marine and applied microbiology, studies the diversity and functions of microbes associated with marine invertebrates, such as sponges. A professor at UMCES since 2010, Dr. Hill has served since 2012 as director of the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology (IMET), a joint University System of Maryland facility in Baltimore that brings together scientists from UMCES, UMBC, and the University of Maryland Baltimore to engage in cutting-edge research in microbiology, molecular biology, and biotechnology.

He has been honored for his extraordinary efforts not only in mentoring his own graduate students, but also for his innovative creation of the Ratcliffe Environmental Entrepreneurs Fellowship Program.

“Russell Hill has a heartfelt and abiding passion for helping his mentees learn that extends, in many cases, throughout their careers,” said Dr. Donald Boesch, president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. “While his mentoring contributions are long term and ongoing, Dr. Hill merits specific recognition for his innovative leadership in creating the Ratcliffe Environmental Entrepreneur Fellows Program.”

In 2014, Dr. Hill launched the environmental entrepreneurs program at IMET to help young scientists develop leadership and business skills necessary to bring their research into commercial markets. Short courses on basic business principles, externships with established companies, and seed funding for viable new companies help students understand the potential business implications of their research.

Dr. Hill is recognized as a passionate researcher with an enduring commitment to mentoring at many levels, from high school students to postdoctoral fellows to junior faculty members, and fostering career development.

“I can honestly say that his ability to develop leadership qualities in me beyond academic mentoring has strengthened my confidence in my abilities to effectively community science to diverse audiences and has been vital to my career in science policy,” said Dr. Jeanette Davis, a University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science graduate who is now a Knauss Marine Policy Fellow at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-Fisheries.

Dr. Hill has been highly supportive of students from under-represented groups, particularly through the University of Maryland Eastern Shore's Living Marine Resources Cooperative Science program that leads development of underrepresented minority scholars entering the field of marine sciences and fisheries. 

“He makes sure that everyone is involved to discuss important scientific ideas and values everyone’s input into a scientific question,” said Jan Vicente, a University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Ph.D. student. “Russell’s mentoring abilities make him a role model to the graduate student community as well as the faculty of IMET.”

Dr. Hill is a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology and the Society for Industrial Microbiology. He has served as president of the Maryland Branch of the American Society for Microbiology and a member of the Editorial Boards of Applied and Environmental Microbiology, Marine Biotechnology, and Frontiers of Microbial Symbioses. He is also a board member of the International Marine Biotechnology Association. He has published more than 100 research papers on marine microbiology and biotechnology.

He has held faculty positions at the Center of Marine Biotechnology (COMB), University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute, where he served as professor and associate director, and the Australian Institute of Marine Science. He completed his Ph.D. at the University of Cape Town in 1988.

Dr. Hill joins an impressive group of University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science faculty members who have received Regents Faculty Awards, including Drs. Thomas Miller, Andrew Elmore, Keith Eshleman, Patricia Glibert, Rose Jagus, Rodger Harvey, Ed Houde, Michael Kemp, Tom Malone, Margaret Palmer, Allen Place, David Secor, and Diane Stoecker.