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Dan Wieczorek
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Dan Wieczorek at work at the James J. Howard Marine Sciences Laboratory at Sandy Hook, NJ. Photo credit: Liz Baskin, MAST
Dan Wieczorek and mentee Sam Kodama
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Dan Wieczorek and mentee Sam Kodama at the mentor award presentation in June. Photo credit: Liz Baskin, MAST

August 3, 2016
Contact: Shelley Dawicki

Sandy Hook Lab Staff Member Honored as Mentor of the Year

Daniel Wieczorek was recently honored by the Marine Academy of Science and Technology (MAST) at Sandy Hook, New Jersey as 2016 Mentor of the Year. The award is given in recognition of years of leadership and support of the MAST capstone program and students, who nominate and select the recipient based on their own mentorship experience and their mentor’s excellence as a role model.

MAST is a co-educational four-year public high school and is one of five career academies administered by the Monmouth County Vocational School District in New Jersey. Founded in 1981 as a part-time program which grew to a full-time diploma program, the school is focused on marine sciences and marine technology and engineering. Students are enrolled in college preparatory courses for four years and are required to participate in the Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (NJROTC) in lieu of physical education. The MAST campus is located in the Fort Hancock Historic Area at Sandy Hook near the NEFSC’s James J. Howard Marine Sciences Laboratory.

Wieczorek, who has been at the Sandy Hook Lab of NOAA Fisheries since 2001as a physical science technician, works each year with several students who design projects around experiments utilizing the Howard Lab's ocean acidification system. The MAST students usually spend an hour or more a day in the ocean acidification lab, often giving up some of their lunch period during the school year and even more time in the summer if they are able to get to the lab. He has mentored MAST students for three years, usually two or three students each year, and enjoys the experience.

In presenting the Mentor of the Year award to Dan Wieczorek at the Academy’s 2016 graduation ceremony June 20, senior Samuel Kodama said: “To me and to MAST students of the past, he has been the best mentor we could ever hope for. He teaches while still allowing you to take your own creative approach to your project. He takes his research seriously without losing his sense of humor. He is the scientist you want to grow up to be like when you are young. He is hard-working, funny, helpful, wise, and the best mentor I could have asked for. Thank you for everything. ”

Kodama, one of the two students Wieczorek mentored this past year, went on to win multiple college placements and awards based on his research on the effects of varying pH levels on larval eastern oysters (Crassostrea virginica). His project involved two different pH treatments, each with six replicates, to study the effects of ocean acidification on larval eastern oysters acquired from Rutgers University Aquaculture Innovation Center in Cape May, New Jersey. The pH levels for each treatment were maintained and monitored by the Howard Lab’s Ocean Acidification Laboratory.

"I was deeply honored by this award, especially because the students themselves participate in the selection,” Wieczorek said. “I was sincerely touched by Sam's speech. It’s not a very difficult task to mentor kids like these when they come so passionate and driven. I count myself lucky to get to work with them."

Kodama will attend Columbia University in the fall and has been selected as a Science Research Fellow in recognition of his talents and scientific accomplishments. Only about 10 students are selected by the Columbia faculty each year for this program, which provides a wide range of benefits and opportunities over the student’s four years of college.

As for Wieczorek, he will be mentoring another MAST student starting this summer, and possibly another in the fall.

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