Julie Delauriers squarely blames UCF Biology professor Linda Walters for where she is in her career today – attending one of the best veterinary schools in the nation.

“She is such an inspiration,” Delauriers said from Purdue University. “She kept encouraging me, pushing me to do science research. She was and continues to be an amazing mentor.”

That’s why Delauriers nominated Walters for the INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine’s 2016 Inspiring Women in STEM Award. The award recognizes educators’ efforts to inspire and encourage a new generation of young women to consider careers in STEM through mentoring, teaching, research, successful programs and initiatives. While many women who work in these fields have made significant contributions and have engaged in new discoveries and innovations, they are not always recognized for their hard work and dedication, said Lenore Pearlstein, owner and publisher of the magazine.

“You are an inspiration to all of us who are working so diligently to make a difference in the lives of others,” Pearlstein said in a letter to Walters notifying her that she won the award.

Walters said she was humbled by the recognition, which includes an article in the September edition of the magazine.

“It was really nice of Julie to nominate me,” Walters said. “I enjoy conducting research and field work. But I think one of the most important jobs a professor has is to teach and to help students progress. They are our future scientists.  I take that responsibility very seriously. That’s why this honor is so meaningful to me.”

Delauriers always knew she wanted to become a veterinarian. She met Walters through an assistantship program, which put the then 19-year-old in Walters’ coastal and estuarine ecology lab. That’s where she learned to conduct research, first on oyster-reef restoration and water quality and then on her own project looking at a potentially invasive algae in the Indian River Lagoon.

“She’s very passionate towards helping her students,” Delauriers said. “And even when I thought I was done with the program, she kept encouraging me to continue my research. I’m glad I listened.”

Five veterinary schools offered her admission to their programs and all of them asked her about her research during interviews.

“Getting into veterinary school is highly competitive,” said Delauriers. “I think having done research really helped me in the process. At Texas A&M they only offer 10 out-of-state students admission. And they wanted to know all about my research.”

She was offered one of those 10 slots, but opted for Purdue.

Perhaps the biggest compliment to Walters’ work is not the award itself, but what it represents – her impact on students.

“I nominated her because she’s so selfless and I wanted to give back something for all the things she has given me and so many other students over the years,” Delauriers said. “That’s probably why I want to be a professor after being in practice for several years. I want to play that kind of monumental role in a student’s life, like she’s had in mine.”