Melissa Kosinski-Collins talks with 2 students in the lab

Most undergraduate science students at Brandeis first meet professor Melissa Kosinski-Collins in sophomore year biology. For many, it's the beginning of a life-changing connection through mentorship.

Kosinski-Collins' greatest passion is teaching and mentoring students, particularly women, who are underrepresented in STEM fields.

"Brandeis is really cool because the general culture is one where you get to know professors on a level where they can become mentors and even friends," Kosinski-Collins said. "Having that type of role model — someone who understands what it's like to be in your position — can have a positive impact."

From Student to TA to Doctoral Candidate

Amanda Shilton ’18 double-majored in biology and neuroscience at Brandeis and is now a third-year PhD candidate at Rockefeller University studying how bacteria defend themselves against viruses.

Shilton got to know Kosinski-Collins' leadership and mentoring style as both her student and teaching assistant (TA) during her junior and senior years.

"Melissa unlocked my passion for teaching," said Shilton, who took an education course as a TA and is considering entering the profession. "The mentoring I've received from her has been great, even as a PhD student when I've needed coaching about what to do next in my career."

Kosinski-Collins is always on the lookout for new TAs, who play an important part in her courses. "There are ample opportunities to be a tutor or TA because we don't have a huge graduate population, so we rely on our fantastic undergrads," Kosinski-Collins said.

"My TAs bring a zest to class and keep things vibrant. I always find new ways to teach based on what my former students like," said Kosinski-Collins. "And it's always amazing how well you get to know them — it's really awesome to see Amanda's path and be part of her mentor network."

"Brandeis is really cool because the general culture is one where you get to know professors on a level where they can become mentors and even friends,"

From Former Student to Friend to Physician

Sumana Setty ’11, who double-majored in biology and neuroscience, also served as Kosinski-Collins' TA. Now in her final year of residency at Lawrence Family Medicine, in June she will become an attending family medicine physician.

"Melissa is so approachable, available and personable," Setty said. "She makes it known she's someone you can reach out to for help. She helped me along in so many ways."

Setty also discovered a love of teaching as Kosinski-Collins' TA. With Kosinski-Collins' encouragement, she taught high-school biology for two years before enrolling in medical school.

"She re-inspired my love of science and made me really want to help people," said Setty, who co-taught a summer course with Kosinski-Collins on biology and women's health last year. "In medical school, my love of learning carried with me. Her mentorship was very important."

Setty and Kosinski-Collins remain close friends today.

"She's the best," Setty said.