Carol Bender of the University of Arizona to be honored as the Michael A. Cusanovich Arizona Bioscience Educator of the Year at the 2017 AZBio Awards

Chandler, Ariz. —- The Arizona Bioindustry Association will honor Carol Bender, MSSS, of the University of Arizona as the Michael A. Cusanovich Arizona Bioscience Educator of the Year at the 2017 AZBio Awards. Arizona life science and business leaders, as well as guests from across the nation, will be on hand to applaud Bender for her work in the Undergraduate Biology Research Program (UBRP) at the UA and for her success in encouraging students to pursue careers in the life sciences.

Carol Bender, MSSS, of the University of Arizona (photo credit: 2016- FOTOSMITH)

Bender is a University Distinguished Outreach Professor and founding/current director of the Undergraduate Biology Research Program (UBRP) at the UA. In this capacity, and inspired by the ideas of the late UA Regents’ Professor Michael Wells, PhD, Bender leads the development and assessment of programs that produce students who are well prepared to enter graduate and professional degree programs that lead to careers in biomedical research and health professions careers.

Professor Bender was at the forefront of the movement to get undergraduates out of the classroom and into apprentice-style research lab experiences before this concept was popular or its impact well understood, particularly in STEM fields where it is imperative that professionals work together on issues facing humankind.

“Carol Bender’s commitment to student success is unrivaled,” said Leslie Tolbert, PhD, Regents’ Professor in Neuroscience and in Cellular and Molecular Medicine at the UA. “Using the model of apprentice-style lab experiences in which undergraduates get individual attention as they work side by side with graduate students and faculty members on cutting-edge lab or field research, she gives of herself far beyond the walls of our science buildings. Her students are inspired by her, not just because she helps them find exciting research experiences, but also because she travels with them, hikes with them, hosts gatherings for international groups with them and generally takes an interest in them as individuals.”

Carol Bender (at right) at the Czech Academy of Sciences Biology Centre with Prozkoumat students Kimmy Skvarla and Randall Eck. (photo credit: Vlasak Miroslav)

Under her inspiring leadership over the last 28 years, UBRP and other UA-affiliated programs in the life sciences have provided paid research experience to more than 2,300 students. UBRP and the international program Bender founded—Prozkoumat! (formerly Biomedical Research Abroad: Vistas Open Program or BRAVO!)—were recognized in 1999 by the National Science Foundation (NSF) with a Recognition Award for the Integration of Research and Education (RAIRE). The UA was one of only 10 institutions to receive a $500,000 RAIRE award, with the intent that the highly impactful UBRP program model be shared with other institutions across the nation.

Professor Bender’s creative ability to build and nurture undergraduate research experiences, both at the UA and internationally, has received much recognition. She is the recipient of two Fulbright Senior Scholar awards (to Japan in 1997 and to India in 2011), and she was a founding member and president of the Arizona Chapter of the Fulbright Association.

“I have admired Carol Bender since I joined the UA faculty twenty years ago. Her boundless energy and passion for experiential, life-changing undergraduate education is inspiring,” said Jennifer Kehlet Barton, PhD, interim director of the BIO5 Institute and professor of biomedical engineering, electrical and computer engineering, optical sciences, and agricultural and biosystems engineering at the UA. “Many of Carol’s former students  – including some who have worked in my own lab – note the influence that she and UBRP had in their lives. Her impact is reminiscent of Michael Cusanovich, and she is a most worthy recipient of his named award.”

Barton herself was a recipient of the Michael A. Cusanovich Arizona Bioscience Educator of the Year in 2012.

In recognition of her work on behalf of undergraduate STEM education, Professor Bender was named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (Education Division) in 2015, and in 2016 the UA College of Science designated her as a Copernicus Fellow.

“Great educators open our eyes to possibilities. Their work inspires new generations and lays the groundwork for tomorrow’s miracles,” said  Joan Koerber-Walker, president and CEO of the Arizona Bioindustry Association. “For those of us who may have left the classroom years ago, they create the gift of future scientists, engineers, medical professionals, entrepreneurs and leaders. Through her work with – and commitment to – thousands of students and her leadership in our community, Carol Bender has inspired us all.”

A ceremony honoring Bender will take place at the AZBio Awards on Oct. 11 at the Phoenix Convention Center.

The AZBio Awards ceremony celebrates Arizona’s leading educators, innovators and companies. Each year, AZBio honors bioindustry leaders from across  Arizona who are illustrative of the depth, breadth and expertise of its bioscience industry. The AZBio Awards ceremony is held annually during Arizona Bioscience Week. AZBW 2017 was proclaimed by the Arizona Senate earlier this year. Multiple educational events focused on the value of life science innovation will take place from Oct. 8-14, including the BMES Annual Meeting in Phoenix. The Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) is the world’s leading society of professionals devoted to developing and using engineering and technology to advance human health and well-being. Attendees at BMES 2017 in Phoenix are expected to include nearly 4,000 professional scientists, engineers, researchers and students from academia and industry who are leaders in biomedical engineering.

Past recipients of the Michael A. Cusanovich Arizona Bioscience Educator of the Year Award include: Marni Landry (Paradise Valley High School, CREST Program), Dr. Joan Rankin Shapiro (University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix), Dr. Miles Orchinik (Arizona State University), Amanda Grimes (Mesa Biotechnology Academy), Dr. Jennifer Kehlet Barton (University of Arizona), Dr. Nadja Anderson (UA BIO5 Institute), Dr. Andrew Lettes (Pueblo Magnet High School), Barbara Fransway (Arizona Research Laboratories, University of Arizona), Margaret Wilch (Tucson High Magnet School), and Xan Simonson (Mesa High School).


For registration and more information, go to

For more information on Arizona Bioscience Week, visit  

About AZBio

A key component in Arizona’s life science ecosystem, the Arizona Bioindustry Association (AZBio) is the only statewide organization exclusively focused on Arizona’s bioscience industry. AZBio membership includes patient advocacy organizations, life science innovators, educators, healthcare partners and leading business organizations. AZBio is the statewide affiliate of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) and works in partnership with AdvaMed, MDMA and PhRMA to advance innovation and to ensure that the value delivered from life-changing and life-saving innovation benefits people in Arizona and around the world.

For more information visit and www.AZBio.TV  


Joan Koerber-Walker, Arizona Bioindustry Association   480-332-9636

Amanda Vega   (480) 275-9797

Lisa Romero   520-626-9598

 Photos available upon request

Posted in AZBio News.