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Monday 20 December 2021 12:04pm

Congratulations to Professor Mauro Farella and Associate Professor Sunyoung Ma, this year's recipients of SJWRI Research Supervisor of the Year Awards, which were announced at our Faculty end-of-year function on Friday 17 December. These Awards celebrate excellent supervisors of undergraduate and postgraduate students undertaking research projects in the Faculty of Dentistry.

Introduced in 2016, the SJWRI Research Supervisor of the Year award celebrates outstanding research supervisors of postgraduate and undergraduate students within the Faculty of Dentistry. Nominations are made via a survey process, whereby students are asked to anonymously nominate outstanding supervisors, with reasons for their nominations. Attributes such as being supportive, available, interested and enthusiastic, knowledgeable and an expert in their field, a good communicator, and taking prompt, decisive action to resolve issues were listed as being important for excellent supervision.

As in recent years, this year's award has been split into undergraduate and postgraduate research supervisor categories, as a result of a very strong field of nominees and to reflect the different challenges of supervising undergraduate and postgraduate research students.

Postgraduate Research Supervisor of the Year: Professor Mauro Farella

Professor Mauro Farella is the leader of the Craniofacial Research programme within the SJWRI, and is head of the Orthodontics clinical discipline in the Faculty of Dentistry, in which he supervises a large number of PhD and DClinDent candidates. His primary research interests are in the physiology and pathology of the masticatory muscles and their relationship to orthodontics, craniofacial growth, and temporomandibular disorders. Since joining the Faculty of Dentistry in 2009, he has been the primary or co-supervisor of more than 45 doctoral candidates (40 DClinDent and 5 PhD), one postdoctoral fellow, one Masters student, 5 Honours projects, and over 30 undergraduate elective research projects. He was the 2015 recipient of the SJWRI's premier research honour, the Sir John Walsh Award for Research Excellence.

The following are a selection of comments from postgraduate student nominations:

Prof Farella has been an excellent supervisor. My research is focused on an area he is extremely passionate about and this is clearly demonstrated on a day-today basis. Over the last 2 years, Prof has always responded quickly to concerns I have had and been there to support me when have we faced road-blocks. For example, when we were having considerable difficulty with some of the technology we are using for the project, Prof advocated for me strongly in order to get things back up and running. He is consistently available for advice both during and after-hours and is happy to spend time with me to explain concepts and ensure I am able to carry out my research competently. I am very grateful to have Prof as a supervisor.

Prof Farella has been an amazing supervisor, while I'm sure all academics at Otago maintain a high standard, I believe Prof Farella needs recognition for his commitment to his students. Within the discipline of Orthodontics, he ensures we maintain the highest level with our work and always goes above and beyond the call of duty to ensure our learning is second to none and any area we lack in is taught. I'm sure his drive for excellence and passion for orthodontics and research will forever resonate in his students.

Personally, not only have I become a better researcher, but I also feel the knowledge and skills I have gained from his mentorship has made me a better evidenced based clinician. I believe that his guidance has been very positive on my DClinDent journey, one that would've been very different without him.

Mauro Farella Sabarinath Prasad 650pxProfessor Farella (left) with former PhD student and postdoctoral fellow Dr Sabarinath Prasad.

Undergraduate Research Supervisor of the Year: Associate Professor Sunyoung Ma

Sunyoung Ma is an Associate Professor in Prosthodontics in the Department of Oral Rehabilitation. Her research interests are in implant dentistry, removable prosthodontics, gerodontology and CAD/CAM dentistry, with a particular interest in conducting clinical trials using different treatment modalities involving dental implants for patients, particularly of older age, that need to replace their missing teeth. Associate Professor Ma is the Faculty of Dentistry's Associate Dean for Postgraduate Studies, however it is for her work in the supervision of undergraduate research, in particular fifth-year Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) electives and Honours projects, that she is being recognised with this award.

Here are a selection of comments from undergraduate student nominations:

Sunyoung has been so amazing throughout our research project. She patiently guided us through the steps and inspired me in the field of research. My positive experience with the research project is mainly because of her support. I couldn't have asked for a better supervisor!

A/Prof Sunyoung Ma was extremely supportive and encouraging throughout our research project. Through her guidance, I have gained invaluable experience and learnt so much in the process. The positive experience I had with research was mostly due to Sunyoung and she has inspired a greater interest in research in me. In my personal opinion, I can't think of anyone more deserving for this award. Thank you.

Sunyoung is an incredibly supportive and caring supervisor that made these undergraduate research projects really fun and constructive for her students. She was incredibly organized and was always available to her students. She is helpful, responsive and replies immediately. She guides us well and pushes us to achieve better each time. Without her our research would not have been possible.

Sunyoung has been an awesome supervisor this year. Despite being a supervisor to 2 honours students and at least 3 other elective groups, she still made the time and effort to make sure I was on top of my work. I found my honours research a smooth process with her supervision. She was always available to contact and had a vast amount of knowledge in and out of prosthodontics. She also actively encouraged to me take on challenges that I may not have usually (I wouldn't be in honours without her encouragement), and to present my research in competitions such as the IADR poster competition. Sunyoung was more than a supervisor this year, I also consider her as my mentor and a friend!

Sunyoung has been the most supportive supervisor I could have asked for. She is always available and very quick to respond. She always has great advice and support and guidance for both the research project and other aspects of my learning. She replied the soonest she is able, she is hard-working, gentle and kind, encouraging and nurturing, and very very proactive in teaching me how to do research, rather than spoon-feed me. She inspired me to do more research in future.

These awards indicate the appreciation, respect and regard in which Professor Farella and Associate Professor Ma are held by the students they supervise. Our sincerest congratulations to both.

Sunyoung Ma - image 2021

Associate Professor Ma.

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