Mentoring Profile: Giselle Sandi, PhD, Rush Medical College

Monday, August 26, 2019

The Rush Women Mentoring Program fosters professional development and a sense of community and collaboration among women faculty at Rush University. In this series, we highlight program mentors and mentees and learn more about how mentoring has impacted them.

Giselle Sandi, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Microbial Pathogens and Immunity, Rush Medical College, and director of the Office of Mentoring Programs, joined Rush in 2013. 

Tell us about your background.

In 1994, I received my PhD in electrochemistry and joined Argonne National Laboratory as a postdoctoral fellow. For over 19 years, I led fundamental research at Argonne in the areas of energy storage, materials for hydrogen storage, electrocatalytic membranes, nuclear forensics, sensor development and nanoscale engineering. I was also an adjunct professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology, where I mentored several graduate students, many of whom are now faculty members at national and international institutions. I also founded a postdoctoral program (350 postdocs from 15 different areas of research), which, under my direction, was ranked No. 5 in the country by The Scientist magazine and expanded to include the mentoring of junior faculty. The UChicago Argonne LLC Board of Governors honored me with the Pinnacle of Education Award for my contributions and leadership in establishing Argonne’s postdoctoral program.

I am also the recipient of the 2004 Luminary Award for Excellence in Science, Engineering and Leadership, granted by the Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Conference, as well as several awards from the Chicago Chapter of the Electrochemical Society. I was appointed as the Women in Science and Engineering Program initiator of Argonne in 2012. Through this program, I provided support for the success of women in science and pushed for gender equity for women scientists. I was also a founding member and past president of and advisor to Argonne’s Hispanic Latino Club, which was developed to mentor middle school students and to help researchers serve as role models to students who are interested in STEM career opportunities.

In 2013, I became the director of the Office of Rush Mentoring Programs,  the mission of which is to support the successful transition of junior faculty to independent investigators. Under my leadership, mentoring programs at the university underwent critical transformations, and we currently host programs in mentoring for researchers (junior faculty and postdoctoral fellows), educators and educational scholars, and women faculty. I am also the mentoring liaison for the Rush Initiative to Maximize Student Development, a National Institutes of Health-funded PhD training grant for underrepresented minority students.

What inspired you to get into your field?

Science is fascinating because it is always evolving. To be able to pass knowledge on to new generations has been an amazing experience.

What excites you about your work at Rush?

The energy and passion of young investigators and the commitment of senior faculty (researchers, clinicians, educators) to move medicine and health sciences to a new level and benefit society have always been what has excited me about working at Rush.

What is your opinion of mentoring and sponsorship? 

I have been very fortunate to be on both sides of the relationship for a long time. I cannot imagine having succeeded at my career and life goals without the guidance of a mentor or the help of a sponsor. The rewards are mutual, and I strongly believe in paying it forward.

Do you have tips or advice you would recommend for someone looking to enter your field of work?

On the scientific side, be sure to learn and understand fundamental concepts because they will be the foundation upon which you will build your career. On the administrative side, listen and learn from many different people. Be open to suggestions and flexible in your approaches.

What are your hobbies? How do you like to spendd your free time?

My family is the center of my life, so I try to spend as much time with them as I possibly can. I enjoy long walks, reading all types of books, traveling, movies, theater, classical music and having a nice cup of coffee with a friend.