University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Associate Research Professor Eric Schott has received a 2023 Regents Faculty Award for Excellence in Mentoring, the highest honor that the University System of Maryland Board of Regents bestows to recognize exemplary faculty achievement. Working out of the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology in Baltimore, Schott is recognized for his strong contributions to high school, undergraduate, and graduate mentoring and his passion for increasing the diversity of students following careers in the marine sciences. A significant component of his service has focused on providing opportunities and inspiring individuals from underserved and disadvantaged backgrounds.
“Dr. Schott was recognized for being a highly skilled and dedicated mentor with a commitment to equity and diversity,” said University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science President Peter Goodwin. “UMCES and USM are fortunate to have an empathetic, passionate, ethical, and highly dedicated faculty of the quality of Dr. Schott.”
Schott, a marine ecologist whose research focuses on understanding aquatic health, is active in science education and watershed preservation. His research focuses on understanding the discovery and tracking of estuarine pathogens in the blue crab and other shellfish. He also collaborates with numerous researchers and stakeholders, applying molecular methods to monitor the health and biodiversity of Baltimore Harbor. His leadership in programs to make the Inner Harbor of Baltimore swimmable, fishable, and an asset for underserved communities has further inspired students.
"He is deeply passionate about every aspect of his area of expertise in biology, genetics, and field research but he is also clearly committed to helping students find their passion,” said Julie Rogers, Science Department Chair at the Park School of Baltimore, where Schott has mentored students monitoring marine ecosystems to predict what could happen in the future due to climate change. “He meets students of all ages and demographics where they are and takes them to the next level with his ideas and role modeling. He deeply respects young people and they return his respect with their undivided attention, engagement, and willingness to stretch themselves as learners and leaders.”
High school students from the City of Baltimore have been a permanent fixture in Schott’s lab at the Inner Harbor, many coming to IMET through The Ingenuity Project, a nonprofit initiative to prepare the next generation of STEM leaders from Baltimore City Public Schools. The student experiences range from a five-week summer program to a more immersive experience for the entire school year. These intensive research experiences are crucial for students applying for college admission and fellowships, and six students had their lives changed through his guidance with these students moving on to college.
He has also been active in undergraduate mentoring through the IMET Summer Internship Program that connects students with scientists to conduct their own research for over 15 years. He has directly mentored 29 students in the IMET Summer Internship program (supported by generous donors and foundations) and helped the effort to ensure that IMET’s program continued virtually through two years of pandemic shutdowns. He has recently taken on the IMET leadership component of the nationally recognized Living Marine Resources Cooperative Science Center, supported by NOAA and led by the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, which provides support for graduate students from underrepresented groups in marine and environmental science to prepare them for careers in research, management, and policy that support the sustainable use and conservation of marine resources.
“He realizes that he can transform lives through a single conversation with someone, by providing thoughtful attention and constructive suggestions. No web search or algorithm can substitute for this kind of personal contact," said Russell Hill, director of the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology.
He was selected by the graduate student body at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology to receive the Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award for his dedication to both science and his students. UMCES graduate students say Schott has helped them grow into independent researchers and to be successful in job hunting and career path development, noting that he cares about his students and is always accessible whenever his help is needed. They note that he also knows when to step back and let students work as independently as possible, and he encourages students to attend scientific conferences outside the lab. Students say he is dedicated to improving diversity, equality, and inclusion in his lab. The doctoral students that he has advised emerge as confident, well-trained, enthusiastic scientists with excellent publication records.
“He gives students enough support and allows them to learn from their mistakes, knowing they get always get help and benefit from his rich experience afterward,” said graduate student Mingli Zhao.
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 the Chancellor and Board Chairman at the Board of Regents meeting at the University of Maryland Baltimore.
The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science is renowned for its groundbreaking research on coastal and terrestrial ecosystems and boasts many globally eminent faculty scholars. Dr. Schott joins an impressive group of UMCES faculty members who have received Regents Faculty Awards, including Jeffrey Cornwell, Mario Tamburri, Russell Hill, Tom 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.