Faculty Spotlight- Dr. Bret Ulery
For Dr. Bret Ulery, Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering and Principal Investigator of the Biomodulatory Materials Engineering Laboratory, being tapped into Mortar Board this year was what he calls a stand out moment in his tenure at Mizzou and a moment he will never forget. Mortar Board is a national honor society that recognizes exemplary scholarship and leadership.
“I was incredibly honored when I received the news I was going to be tapped, I had no idea how big of a deal it was on this campus until the actual ceremony. It was also nice to receive so many kind emails from colleagues and students congratulating me on receiving such a prestigious honor after it was announced,” says Ulery.
Dr. Ulery conducts interdisciplinary research with partners across campus. “The University of Missouri is a unique place as it is one of only six universities in the country with College of Arts & Sciences, Engineering, Veterinary Medicine, and Medicine on one campus allowing my research team to partner up with excellent collaborators to create new solutions capable of helping both pets and people,” shares Ulery.
As a faculty member, Dr. Ulery explains that seeing his students accomplish their goals and successfully complete the journey they started is most rewarding. “The significant moments are the ones that involve my mentees getting recognition for their hard work. This includes everything from having them present at a national conference and getting a manuscript accepted for publication to successfully defending their thesis and going through commencement, shares Ulery.
And when asked what words of wisdom he would share with graduate students and postdocs, Dr. Ulery advises against having a negative attitude towards networking and encourages students to see the value in connecting with others. Dr. Ulery suggests, “instead of seeing there being a requirement to network, approach it as an opportunity to make new friends who are doing awesome things. Avoid the people who do not align with your values and expectations and find those who will make for excellent, long-term partners in research.”
Even in his own career, Dr. Ulery continues to rely on his team of supporters that he can lean on for advice when he needs it. “I have a group of about eight friends who are all a few years to a decade more senior than me in the field that I can turn to on a moment’s notice, no questions asked, for their input” says Ulery.
By taking this approach, Dr. Ulery explains how networking led him to receive grant funding opportunities. “My first external grant getting funded and saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in start-up costs were both direct results of this approach” shares Ulery.
But when it comes to career advice, Dr. Ulery suggests students avoid taking every piece of advice but to instead discern the best and make it their own. He offers that students should, “recognize that you know yourself better than anyone else. When you do solicit advice on a subject, get input from multiple sources, process it within your own understanding and values, and make the best decision for you. You will be the one living with your decisions and career, so do not let others make those decisions for you. Use your best judgement and do what you think is best within the framework of what you know about your options. If you do not feel you have enough information to make an educated decision then gather more data.”
And when he’s not working on his own research with his team, he and his wife Eva enjoy spending time with their two beagles, Colby and Jack. Although his allegiance lies with the Chicago native’s hometown teams, he and his wife are always cheering on the Tigers and graduate students together.