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2017 Outstanding Undergraduate Research Mentor – Sarah Lebeis

Congratulations to Sarah Lebeis, one of seven recipients of the 2017 Undergraduate Faculty Research Mentor of the Year Award! She received the honor as the top mentor in the Natural Sciences division in the College of Arts & Sciences. Lebeis is an assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology. Her work combines the fields of microbiology, immunology, and metagenomics with the aim of furthering understanding of the relationships between host plants and microbial communities.

David Grant says joining her lab has been the highlight of his time as a UT student. He describes a strong, student-centered emphasis to all of her work as a researcher. He says,

“Dr. Lebeis excels at creating environments that feel more community-oriented than focused solely on individual work. From the time I started working in her lab, she has never wavered in being extremely approachable and confident in her ability to answer any question I’ve had, even if the answer requires that I approach the problem in a different way. Her mentoring consistently fosters critical thinking and never stifles my ideas. . . . What’s most incredible is her willingness to adapt to the needs of the classroom. I believe this distinguishes her above all other professors in that she will reassess her teaching methodology to reach every student in the class.”

Grant also praises her mentorship of the Microbiology Undergraduate Club and its broader appeal to students from all majors and backgrounds.

Andrew Willems shares the appreciation for Lebeis’s dedication to her students. He says, “When I joined Dr. Lebeis’s lab I had no background in microbiology research or many lab techniques. Under her tutelage, I have gained a plethora of new lab skills. These new skills have allowed me to gain a new level of confidence and passion for science. . . . Along the same lines, she has given me plenty of autonomy to develop my skills on my own and has invaluable in providing opportunities to assist me in my future endeavors.”

Sarah Lebeis received a BS from Michigan State University, a PhD from Emory University, and held a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of North Carolina. Her faculty profile can be found here: