FARMINGTON, ME (October 3, 2019)—Dr. David Gibson, professor of geology at the University of Maine at Farmington, has been awarded the prestigious Undergraduate Research Mentor Award for 2019 by the Geosciences Division of the Council on Undergraduate Research. The award was presented at the Geological Society of America national conference last month.
The annual award is given to recognize the critical work of a Geoscience faculty member who serves as a role model for productive and transformative student-faculty mentoring relationships. It was created in 2011, in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Geosciences Division of the Council on Undergraduate Research.
“I am so honored to receive this award,” said Gibson. “To be recognized for something you love to do is pretty special. There are so many people who I’d like to thank including my late colleague emeritus professor Dr. Thomas Eastler who nominated me for the award, my mentor colleague and friend Dr. Ian Meighan from the Queen’s University of Belfast where I did my undergraduate degree, and especially my wife, Hilary, without whom none of this would be possible.”
Mentorship from a faculty member has long been considered one of the most important factors that determine student success in college. Research from Gallup shows that college graduates are two times more likely to be engaged at work if they had a mentor who encouraged them to pursue their goals and dreams. Gibson has spent his career encouraging and inspiring his students.
“We are extremely proud of Dr. Gibson. He is a testament to the importance of faculty mentoring,” said Edward Serna, UMF president. “He has shown time and time again how caring about, challenging and engaging with students helps them to become confident professionals.”
Since his first days at UMF in 1996, Gibson has combined his two passions—interest in his students and dedication to geologic field research. A devoted educator and mentor, he leads by example with an inspiring commitment to help his students prepare for careers in the field of geology or the rigors and challenges of graduate school.
“I learned a long time ago that demonstrating to students the interesting research that we as geologists do and engaging them in that research motivates them to learn,” said Gibson.
From day one, he has looked for opportunities outside of the classroom for his students to gain in experience, knowledge and confidence. He energizes his students to participate in undergraduate research, class field trips, peer support sessions and attend professional conferences.
Students looking for field experience would sometimes reach out to the late UMF Professor, Tom Eastler, to see if the department had any trips planned and he would always say, “Go ask Gibby.”
For over 20 years, Gibson has organized and taught highly-regarded geology travel courses to locations around the world, including Ireland, Scotland, the Canadian Maritimes and the Grand Canyon.
“Research in the field is one of the essential tools of the trade and something students are eager to be involved in,” said Gibson. “If you see a convoy of vans parked on the side of the road with me leading a group of 15 or so enthusiastic students, you can assume we are examining something of particular geologic interest.”
Sumaya Hamdi, a 2017 UMF graduate, was inspired to major in geology by Gibson’s knowledge, dedication and enthusiasm.
“The field work was fascinating,” said Hamdi, and I could always count on Dr. Gibson to be ready to teach, encourage and be available to help.”
Gibson was a mentor and a trusted advisor throughout Hamdi’s undergraduate years and continues to serve as a member of her thesis committee for her master’s degree at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
“There is a bond to being one of Dr. Gibson’s students,” said Hamdi. “He never stops being interested, and he never stops caring. I consider him one of my dearest friends and colleagues and am thrilled that has continued on to my graduate school research.”
Gibson earned his bachelor’s and doctoral degrees at Queen’s University Belfast. An igneous petrologist/geochemist whose research focuses on the petrogenesis of central Maine magmatism, he embodies longstanding excellence in and commitment to teaching through research by embedding research in the liberal arts curriculum.
He was honored by UMF and the University of Maine System in 2010 as the UMF Trustee Professor. His research using UMF’s X Ray Fluorescence Spectrometer lab was used to examine the composition of volcanic ash observed in glaciers and ice sheets and thus elucidate eruptive history and the role that plays in impacting climate variations.
Dr. Gibson and his students will be continuing his research this fall working on basaltic intrusions as well as granitic rocks in southwestern Maine, with this research being presented at next spring’s geological conferences.
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Photo Caption: Dr. David Gibson, UMF professor of geology
Photo Credit: UMF Image
Photo Caption: Dr. David Gibson helping former student Kelsey O’Connor with research in the field.
Photo Credit: UMF Image
UMF Associate Director for Media Relations