Graduate student Alex Shved receives Gary Schuster Mentoring Scholarship

Graduate student Alex Shved.

In recognition of outstanding mentorship of undergraduates in research, chemistry graduate student Alex Shved has been awarded the third annual Gary Schuster Mentoring Scholarship.

This graduate scholarship was established by Dr. De-Kai Loo (PhD, ’87, Beak) and Dr. Jianjian Zhang (PhD, ’89, Schuster) in 2018 in honor of Gary Schuster, professor of chemistry at Illinois from 1975 to 1994. The scholarship recognizes graduate students who demonstrate outstanding mentorship of undergraduate students.

Shved is a graduate student researcher in the lab of Professor Scott Denmark, where Shved explores the field of chemoinformatics. Professor Denmark nominated Shved for the Gary Schuster scholarship in recognition of Shved's outstanding mentorship of an undergraduate researcher, Andrew Feng. 

In the nomination, Feng described how Shved initially mentored him as a sophomore in 2019 — before his first semester of organic chemistry — by teaching him basic laboratory skills for organic synthesis and helping him to develop as an autonomous scientist. By summer, Feng said he could run a reaction from initial setup through workup, purification, and characterization on milligram to hundred-gram scales, which helped him get an Eli Lilly internship.

"Because I was able to talk intelligently about my work on reaction mining beyond the synthesis of starting materials," Feng wrote in the nomination. "This effort reflects Alex’s ability to teach and his attitude towards me as a rising peer rather than just free labor."

Feng also explained how Shved continued to mentor him, specifically through a research proposal for a SURF award, providing Feng with critical feedback on his scientific writing.

"He challenged me for details and rationale and ensured that I could appreciate and communicate the greater significance of my chemoinformatics project. These efforts culminated in successful graduate applications to five, top institutions," said Feng, who graduated from Illinois chemistry in May 2022. "Alex has been an invaluable sounding board for choosing between graduate schools, as well as between academia and industry, by sharing his experiences and perspectives on graduate education around the US and abroad. By sharing the breadth and depth of his knowledge and experience without condescension, by appropriately delegating more sophisticated laboratory and literature work in accordance with my skills, and by practicing an exemplary work ethic worthy of emulation, Alex has helped transform a naive sophomore into a Princeton-bound senior."

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