June 7th, 2021

The 2021 John Hatch Memorial Prize in Mentorship

In 2020, we introduced the John Hatch Memorial Prize in Mentorship to recognize the outstanding mentors who work with our Genes in Space Finalists. The award honors the memory of John Hatch, himself an outstanding mentor, and is funded by the Hatch family, with additional support from New England Biolabs.

We are proud to announce that veteran mentor Dr. Deniz Atabay will receive the 2021 Hatch Prize. As this year's Hatch Prize recipient, Deniz will have the honor of judging the Finalist presentations at the 2021 Finalist Launchpad, and selecting one of their projects to launch to space.

Deniz shares all that this award means to him in a reflection below.

“…and I’ll be there for you when you need me, full of excitement and support...” We were at the ISS Research and Development Conference and my friend, John Hatch, was speaking to his mentees about the future after the Genes in Space finals. They looked at him with deep respect and admiration.

Julian Deniz NEB Deniz and his 2016 mentee, Julian, piloting their science

The value of such moments is not quantifiable. In fact, for both sides, these fragments of time are singular gifts, in which knowledge, perspectives, and unique ways of seeing this world are transferred. In a way, through their mentor, a student can reach back generations and touch the mind of a person who lived thousands of years ago. Similarly, the mentor can reach deep into the future, beyond many life times, through their student. The two fringes of time come within reach.

I learned that one’s potential can only be realized with the guidance and help of key mentors in life, and I was lucky to have truly extraordinary mentors along the way. I have been fortunate enough to serve as a mentor in the Genes in Space program since its beginning in 2015. A truly wonderful experience, and an amazing responsibility! Through Genes in Space, I've been able to meet an extraordinary group of students with whom I still hold deeply meaningful bonds.

divya priyanka deniz Deniz and his 2017 mentees, Divya and Priyanka

The relationship of a mentor and a mentee is one where both sides can experience the joy of discovery together. This experience forms a connection that could only be really understood by the people who are on this adventure together. It’s describable, but similar to the ‘overview effect’ experienced by astronauts looking to the Earth from space. To really understand it, one has to be there!

John Hatch, an exceptional mentor in the Genes in Space program, had an unparalleled awareness of the value of that unique bond between a mentor and a mentee. He had a deep appreciation of the potential positive impact one could make when one truly cared about teaching and mentoring others. When his students asked for help, or had a question he would drop everything and give his full, undivided attention to them.

I am grateful to be a part of the Genes in Space community that comprises a fascinating group of mentors, remarkable students and the Genes in Space Team, and I feel deeply honored to receive this year’s John Hatch Memorial Prize in Mentorship. It is a source of inspiration to strive to do better, and a great reminder of what is truly meaningful in life.

— Deniz Atabay

mentors with astronaut.jpg

The 2019 Genes in Space mentors with astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor