Yantao Li receives 2024 Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award

June 3, 2024
UMCES Associate Professor Yantao Li receives 2024 Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award. Credit: Jill Jasuta.

Yantao Li, associate professor at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology (IMET) laboratory, has received the 2024 Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award for his dedication to science and students beyond the classroom.

Driven by a passion for research and teaching, Li exemplifies dedication to his students' success as both a professor and a principal investigator.

"Dr. Li has been an exceptional advisor throughout my graduate studies," said UMCES Ph.D. student, Majeed Alrefaie. "He is approachable and supportive, and consistently prioritizes the growth and development of his students. From the beginning of my program, Dr. Li has been available to discuss my research interests and academic goals and has remained a reliable source of guidance and support. He encourages independent and critical thinking while providing mentorship every step of the way."

Miranda Judd, another Ph.D. student at IMET, echoed that sentiment: "Dr. Li, my esteemed committee member for the past four years, has been an invaluable asset throughout my Ph.D. journey. His unwavering support, coupled with his extensive knowledge and expertise, has greatly enhanced my research endeavors. Dr. Li's guidance and insights have been instrumental in shaping my academic path, and I am deeply grateful for his mentorship and dedication to my scholarly pursuits."

Li, an expert in microalgal biology and biotechnology, is known for creating a welcoming atmosphere. Through mutual trust and respect, he cultivates a lab culture that values work-life balance, fosters personal well-being, and encourages professional growth. Li emphasizes the importance of engagement by encouraging open discussion, critical thinking, and providing constructive feedback to nurture a scientific mindset. His methods deepen understanding, enhance the learning experience, and inspire students to view scientific concepts from a more innovative perspective.

"Yantao excels in mentorship as well as he excels in science, always ensuring his students have a solid direction for their degrees," said Russell Hill, IMET Executive Director and Professor. "He fosters collaboration as well, connecting students with new opportunities to expand their professional network and enhance their research through strategic partnerships."

Indeed, Li actively supports the professional development of his students by encouraging them to attend conferences and through engagement with initiatives like the Ratcliffe Environmental Entrepreneur Fellow program, participation in shared governance, and communicating research to a wider audience. What’s more, he is always available, extending his support not just to his own lab members, but also to the broader scientific community. Whether it’s for research guidance, career advice, or personal development, he makes himself accessible.

Li received his bachelor of science degree from Nanjing University, P.R. China and his Ph.D. from the University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong. In 2012, he joined the UMCES faculty as an assistant professor at IMET.