Chancellor Gary S. May’s impressive career includes years as an engineering researcher, dean and leader of the University of California, Davis. Throughout his career, he has continued to found programs and to find the time to mentor underrepresented students in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, fields.
Now, May is being recognized with the 2021 Lifetime Mentor Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, or AAAS, the world’s largest scientific organization. The award honors researchers who have positively impacted a department or institution over the course of 25 years through mentoring students who are underrepresented in STEM fields, such as women, African American, Native American and Hispanic men, and people with disabilities.
“It’s truly an honor to receive the AAAS Lifetime Mentor Award,” May said. “Mentors have been a powerful force in my life. Because of their support, I’ve made it a priority to uplift others on their own roads to success. Each of us can make a difference and help someone else on their path to personal or professional achievements.”
“In every role Chancellor May has played in higher education, he has sought to support the entry and success of students from underrepresented minority populations and first-generation college students,” said Shirley Malcom, director of SEA Change, a AAAS initiative that helps universities build more inclusive campuses. “Leadership matters a lot in diversity, equity and inclusion in STEM, and we are pleased he has been recognized for a lifetime of such leadership.”
Throughout his 30 years as a professor of engineering and an administrator, May has founded several programs that support underrepresented minority students in STEM and also mentored more than 100 graduate students. Many of May’s mentees have gone on to become mentors themselves, with their own careers in academia and industry.
In 1992, May founded the Summer Undergraduate Research in Engineering/Sciences, or SURE, program. Of the more than 500 undergraduates who have participated in SURE, 75% have gone on to attend graduate school. In 2013, May helped launch the University Center of Exemplary Mentoring, an initiative that awards stipend support to minority Ph.D. students in the eight schools of Georgia Tech’s college of engineering.
In 2018, May launched the UC Davis Leadership Job Shadow Program to encourage students to build meaningful relationships with campus leaders and to learn more about the inner workings of a research university. He is an active participant in the very popular program, which has been on hiatus since the start of the pandemic. He also came up with the idea for Envision UC Davis Program, run by Graduate Studies, which sponsors California residents hoping to apply for graduate school within the next two years, allowing them to envision their future as a graduate student at UC Davis.
May has won several other awards in honor of his mentoring initiatives and research on the manufacturing of integrated circuits, tiny chips that are the foundation of modern electronics. He received the AAAS Mentor Award in 2006 and the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring from President Barack Obama in 2015. He was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering in 2018 and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2020.
May will receive the award in a virtual ceremony on Feb. 10, during the 187th AAAS Annual Meeting.