Michael S KayMichael S Kay

Michael Kay is a Professor of Biochemistry in the School of Medicine and Director of the Biological Chemistry Graduate Program. Before coming to Utah in 2001, he trained with Harold Scheraga at Cornell University (BA in Biology and Chemistry), Robert Baldwin at Stanford University (MD/PhD in Biochemistry), and Peter Kim at MIT (Damon Runyon Postdoctoral Fellow). He currently mentors one postdoctoral and five predoctoral trainees and has graduated eight PhD students. His lab designs mirror-image peptides for use as novel therapies that are not degraded in the body, with a special emphasis on viral entry inhibitors. His mentoring philosophy can be summarized by the maxim “a week in the lab saves an hour in the library”. Tackling important scientific problems is intense work, and the best training comes from sharing in all aspects of it – the excitement and joy of discovery, along with the challenges of troubleshooting and fundraising, all while keeping a optimistic attitude and a sense of humor.

Jindřich KopečekJindřich Kopeček
Distinguished Professor
Pharmaceutics & Pharmaceutical Chemistry 

Mentoring is really a rewarding activity. To witness the growth of graduate students/postdoctoral fellows into admirable scientists and colleagues is the highlight of academic life. I was fortunate to be associated with excellent students and postdoctoral fellows. My main aim in mentoring is to instill in students and postdoctoral associates the love for science. I strongly believe that the future of science is in an interdisciplinary approach to hypotheses design and problem solving. Thus I try to create an interdisciplinary environment where mentees’ with different backgrounds (chemistry, biology, engineering) can develop their talents to the fullest. I motivate my students to develop own ideas, formulate new hypotheses, and experimentally validate them, whereas I give them challenging questions, focus on improving their critical thinking and reasoning skills, and provide consistent assistance.  Learning is a mutual process – I learn from my coworkers and they learn from me. Finally, I try to lead and educate by example, not by force.

Jindřich Kopeček received his Ph.D. in Macromolecular Chemistry and D.Sc. in Chemistry from the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences (CAS), Prague. His postdoctoral studies were done at the National Research Council of Canada. Before joining the University of Utah in 1988, he was Principle Investigator and Laboratory Head at the Institute of Macromolecular Chemistry, CAS. He is an elected member of the US National Academy of Engineering. Hydrogels from his laboratory have been in clinical use and HPMA copolymer – anticancer drug conjugates in clinical trials. Kopeček’s Hirsch index is 85; his publications have been cited over 25,500 times (Google Scholar 03092017). Since 1988 Kopeček has supervised directly 32 Ph.D. students, 8 M.S. students, 9 Research Faculty Members, 32 Postdoctoral Fellows, and 51 Visiting/Rotating and Exchange Students. Former mentees hold tenured faculty positions at major universities (such as Cornell, Rutgers, Case Western Reserve, Utah, Nebraska, Minnesota, Howard, Tsing Hua University in Taiwan, Tokyo Institute of Technology in Japan, Ben Gurion University in Israel) and pharma/biotech companies (such as Amgen, GSK, Gilead, and Novartis). Some of lab alumni have become distinguished endowed professors, department chairs, executives and directors in large companies, and successful entrepreneurs.

Don StrassbergDon Strassberg

In the four decades I have been at the University of Utah, I have been most fortunate to have had the opportunity to work individually with wonderful students whose intelligence and motivation made mentoring so rewarding, an activity from which I almost always received every bit as much as I gave.

As a mentor, my attitude and behavior have been the direct result of those mentors I was fortunate enough to have had as both an undergraduate and graduate student. As I suspect is true of all of those who have been honored with the U’s Distinguished Mentor Award, the opportunity to mentor has, for me, always felt like a major benefit of my job, never as a burden or price I had to pay. While I love classroom teaching, my professional life as a teacher would have been far less satisfying and rewarding had I never had the opportunity to mentor both graduate and undergraduate students.

As an academic, I learned quickly that every student with whom I worked individually brought their own strengths (on which I tried to build), areas for growth (which I tried to facilitate), and unique personality to our collaborations. Whether an undergraduate research assistant in our lab, an honors student working on their own project, or a graduate student working on their thesis or dissertation, I recognized the importance of my becoming aware of, and helping to nurture, their unique goals and ambitions; that I make sure that our collaboration was truly symbiotic, with both of us growing from our work together. With undergraduates, this often meant helping to facilitate their developing the skills and accumulating the experiences that would help them to gain admittance to and to be successful in graduate school. With graduate students I have mentored, I tried never to lose sight of their professional aspirations and to work hard to facilitate their reaching those goals.

I have loved being able to mentor students at the U for over forty years. It will be among the things I miss the very most when I retire next year.

Donald Strassberg received his BA in psychology from Hunter College in the Bronx (City University of New York), his M.A. in psychology from the University of New Hampshire, and his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from George Peabody College (Vanderbilt University). He joined the faculty of the Department of Psychology at the University of Utah in 1975. He received the College of Social and Behavioral Science Distinguished Teaching Award in 1986, the University of Utah Distinguished Teaching Award in 1999, and the Calvin S. and JeNeal N. Hatch Prize in Teaching in 2010. In 2012, he was made a Fellow of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality and, in 2013, he received the James A. Maddock (teaching) Award from the Society for Family Psychology. While at the “U,” he has mentored 26 Doctoral and Post-Doctoral students and over 20 honors thesis, senior thesis, and UROP undergraduate students.


Rebecca UtzRebecca Utz
Associate Professor

My approach to mentoring reflects my general approach to life – I treat others as I wish to be treated, with kindness and respect.  And, I give in proportion to what I have received.  I have been fortunate over my years of development and training to have had many mentors who cared deeply and who have guided tremendously.  I am thankful for the support, encouragement, and examples they provided for me; I am honored and humbled that my actions are now being recognized as positive examples of mentorship to others.  Though, I sometimes wonder what exactly mentoring is.  For me, it is not something “extra” that I do.  It is simply what I do and has become a part of my everyday behaviors as a professor.  When I teach, no matter if it is a small-enrolling graduate seminar or a large undergraduate lecture course, I hope to inspire students to meet their full potential by showing enthusiasm for the topic and for showing respect to each and every one of them as individuals.  When I do research, I bring students into my projects and I enjoy working alongside them to develop their own projects, since I believe they will have more lasting learning if they do instead of only reading about something.  When I am in an administrative or service role, I try to create clear documents, policies, and resources that they can draw on to be more self-sufficient in meeting expectations and requirements.  To me, being a mentor is synonymous with being a professor and is about fostering environments and opportunities for each student to reach his or her potential and to meet his or her goals.

Rebecca Utz completed a bachelor degree in psychology from Miami University (Ohio), where she later completed a master degree in gerontology and health care administration.  She completed a PhD in sociology and demography from the University of Michigan.  She has been a faculty member in the department of sociology since 2004, where she works closely with both undergraduate and graduate students.  Her research adopts a life course perspective to understand how families cope with the transitions of later life (bereavement and caregiving) and how families influence health risk and health behaviors (obesity and aging).

Valerio PascucciValerio Pascucci
School of Computing

I had the privilege to work with many students and postdocs over the years and my focus has always been on creating spaces that foster new ideas. In my view, it is essential to have an environment where people can establish the habit to fully develop their thoughts and gain the confidence necessary to present them to others. I find inspiration from the classical Socratic method by engaging people in debate and helping them in sharpening their own ideas instead to imposing preconceived knowledge.  My most important role, though, is to gain a deep understanding about what aspirations and desires drive each person. The academic environment can be a great launching pad for different careers in industry, research, and education. True appreciation for the value of diverse motivations and ambitions is very important to help students find their personal calling and be happy and successful not only as professionals but in their personal life. I am continually learning about mentoring from my students, postdocs, and collaborators and each has shaped and improved my practice.

Aaron James BertramAaron James Bertram
Department of Mathematics

Mentoring is one of the great joys of my academic life, and I have had the good fortune to be affiliated with wonderful students and postdocs continuously since I arrived at the University of Utah in 1993. When working with undergraduates, my emphasis is on exploration and fun. Our goal is to find a mathematical direction that interests the student and to pursue it at a depth that is not possible in an ordinary class. When working with PhD students, the aim is to reach the frontiers of research and carve out both an original approach to a mathematical problem as well as an area of expertise that the student will carry onward into post-PhD mathematical endeavors. My postdoctoral advisees I treat as equals. We work on problems together, each bringing something different to the table.

Finally, I’ve worked with a dozen or so high school math teachers on masters projects, ranging from Rubik’s cubes to cryptography, the projective plane and the five Euclidean solids. I have learned much about teaching from these student/teachers, as they crafted projects that combined a novel (for them) mathematical concept together with ideas about how to share their insights with other high school teachers and their own students.

You may find a list of my advisees, titles of their projects, and some indication of their subsequent employment at:


Amy BergersonAmy Aldous Bergerson
Associate Professor
Department of Educational Leadership and Policy

For 25 years, an ethic of care has guided my work with college students. In residence life at Grinnell College, academic advising and orientation at Salt Lake Community College, and for 10 years as a professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy at the University of Utah, the driving force behind my work has been the success of the students who enter the sphere of my care. A central aspect of a caring ethic is the notion of relationship and the inherent reciprocity that exists in relationships. Whether encouraging a student who is trying to wrap her head around a new way of thinking, nurturing a doctoral student to become an independent scholar, or listening to a student’s interpretation of research data, the greatest rewards of teaching come when I learn from students. Seeing students as whole people – with families, homes, hobbies, cares, strengths and fears – has helped me understand that they already have an enormous amount of potential. My job is simply to facilitate the actualization of that potential through sincere care for them. My work honors those who took the time to care for me, and I hope to build a community of scholars who care for those who enter their spheres as well.

Dr. Richard DorskyRichard Dorsky
Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy

My approach for mentoring students is to consider each person’s individual needs. Some benefit from a structured set of meetings and goals, while others do better with a more “hands off” approach, where they work independently and come to me with questions or for advice. The key is to develop this relationship over time and learn what works best for each student. Regardless of the individual strategy, it is important to be available as a mentor as much as possible, and to remain engaged with everyone to keep them on track. I also believe in giving students room to try (and sometimes fail) in their own work, whether at the bench or in oral and written presentations. I think that a lot of learning can occur through this process, especially if it is followed by feedback from the mentor and others. There is a place for leading by example, but I try not to use this as a primary method, as in my experience it is more effective as a reinforcement of lessons that students learn on their own.

Dr. Dorsky received his B.A. in Molecular Biology from U.C. Berkeley in 1990. He performed his graduate thesis work in the Department of Biology at U.C. San Diego, where he studied retinal development, and received his Ph.D. in 1996. He performed postdoctoral research at the University of Washington, where his work focused on the role of the Wnt signaling pathway in central nervous system development. Dr. Dorsky began his faculty position in the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy in 2001, and his laboratory uses zebrafish to study the genetic regulation of neurogenesis during embryonic development, in the adult brain, and in regeneration following injury. He is also the Director of the University of Utah Interdepartmental Ph.D. Program in Neuroscience. Dr. Dorsky has mentored 5 predoctoral and 4 postdoctoral trainees, 6 of whom have moved on to academic faculty positions. He currently mentors 3 predoctoral trainees in his laboratory.

Carol LimCarol Lim
Associate Professor
Pharmaceutical Chemistry

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (St. Paul)

The central theme of my mentoring philosophy is to keep the best interests of the student in mind.  If I seek the best interests of the student before my interests, it inevitably will work in favor of both of us.  I believe that positive encouragement and realistic assessments of their work can propel students to the next level of excellence.  Finding the right student is a critical component of a good mentoring relationship.  I seek out students that are personally compatible with me and my lab members.  These students tend to be self-propelled and highly intelligent, and promise to be persistent, hard-working and open-minded.  We maintain high standards of excellence (3 first-author paper minimum; well-honed oral presentations, high GPAs, high teaching standards, helping others, encouraging academic collegiality and being active in our department/college).  Students also buy into our goal of translating our scientific discoveries into therapies for cancer patients.  This translational goal in turn motivates us all to work for something bigger than ourselves.  I encourage students to think about what they want to do after graduate school early on, and we work towards this goal together.  We grow and celebrate a student’s strengths, and use these strengths to grow others in the lab.  We work on their weaknesses also with the help of the lab.  Mistakes are allowed, and hypotheses can be proven wrong. My students are given management and leadership articles to read prepare them for the real world.  They are given opportunities to mentor others, teach in my classes and lead/write review articles and write research papers (under my supervision).  The first time at anything new, we pay attention to all the little details; after they have mastered one task, I increase their level of independence.  Motivating from love rather than fear works best.  We also recognize that every seminar they give is an opportunity to highlight our work in the lab, so we aspire to make their presentations nearly perfect.  Conversely, I also solicit feedback from my students on my own work (grants, papers, lectures) and take their suggestions to heart.  I consider it a great privilege to be able to mentor a student who has agreed to dedicate a number of years in my lab.  Such a decision warrants a compassionate approach to mentoring, which treats the student as a whole, and considers their hopes and aspirations.  With a focus on growing a student to independence, they are well-prepared to go into the academic world with the skills needed to solve difficult problems.

Carol Lim is an Associate Professor of Pharmaceutics and Pharmaceutical Chemistry in the College of Pharmacy.  She received her B.S. degree in Pharmacy from Purdue University, and her PhD from UCSF in Pharmaceutical Chemistry.  She did her post-doctoral training at the NIH at the National Cancer Institute in the Laboratory of Receptor Biology and Gene Expression before coming to Utah.  Her research focuses on novel gene and protein/peptide therapeutics for cancer therapy.  The laboratory currently focuses on chronic myeloid leukemia, breast cancer, and ovarian cancer.  Dr. Lim collaborates with faculty in her own department, and MD-research clinicians from the School of Medicine and the Huntsman Cancer Institute.  Dr. Lim has had continuous federal funding for her research (NIH, DOD) since 2005.  She has won “Teacher of the Year Awards” from the College of Pharmacy in 2005, 2008, and 2012, and has won Distinguished Teaching Awards for the College of Pharmacy in 2005 and 2012.  Dr. Lim has mentored 14 PhD students to date, and is currently a permanent member of NIH Study Section (Gene and Drug Delivery).


Bruce K. GaleProfessor Bruce K. Gale
 Mechanical Engineering

Bruce K. Gale, received his undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering from Brigham Young University in 1995 and his PhD in Bioengineering from the University of Utah in 2000. He was an assistant professor of Biomedical Engineering at Louisiana Tech University before returning to the University of Utah in 2001 where he is now a professor of Mechanical Engineering. He is currently Director of the Utah State Center of Excellence for Biomedical Microfluidics and the College of Engineering Nanofabrication Facility. He is also Chief Science Officer at Wasatch Microfluidics, a multiplexed instrument development company focused on protein characterization in the pharmaceutical industry, that was spun out of his lab in 2005. He also recently became Chief Science Officer at Espira, which focuses on pathogen detection. He has been working in the area of microfluidics, nanotechnology, medical devices, and micro-total-analysis systems (m-TAS) for the past 18 years. His primary interests include lab-on-a chip devices that require a variety of microfluidic components for the completion of complex and challenging medical and biological assays. Specifically, he is working to develop a microfluidic toolbox for the rapid design, simulation, and fabrication of devices with medical and biological applications. The ultimate goal is to develop platforms for personalized medicine, which should allow medical treatments to be customized to the needs of individual patients. He also has expertise in nanoscale patterning of proteins and sensors, nanoparticle characterization, miniature medical devices, and nanofabrication techniques. He has graduated 13 PhD students and 27 MS students and advised 6 post doctoral researchers. He is currently advising 11 PhD and 2 MS students. He has also advised dozens of undergraduate students on research projects.

Matthew MulveyProfessor Matthew Mulvey

I was born in El Paso, Texas, where I lived until moving to attend the University of Texas at Austin. There I received a Ph.D. in Biology after completing a thesis project that examined the assembly of virus particles in mammalian cells. During a postdoc fellowship that took me to Sweden and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, I was introduced to the world of bacterial pathogens and their remarkable ability to commandeer host functions and thwart host defenses. I have continued work in this field since starting my own lab at the University of Utah in 2001. My group is currently focused on understanding the survival and virulence strategies employed by a group of important bacterial pathogens collectively known as Extraintestinal Pathogenic Escherichia coli, or ExPEC. These bacteria can efficiently colonize the gastrointestinal tract like commensal strains, but have the added capacity to disseminate and cause disease in other host niches, including the blood, central nervous system, and the urinary tract. ExPEC strains are responsible for some of the most common infections on the planet and are gaining resistance to antibiotics at an alarming rate. We are working to delineate both bacterial and host factors that control the ability of ExPEC to colonize and persist within diverse environments, with a major goal being the development of new anti-bacterial therapeutics.

Timothy W. SmithDistinguished Professor Timothy W. Smith
Psychology Department

Prof. Smith received his BA in psychology from Gettysburg College, and his PhD in Clinical Psychology from the University of Kansas. After a pre-doctoral internship in clinical psychology and post-doctoral fellowship in behavioral medicine at the Brown University Program in Medicine, Dr. Smith joined the faculty of the Department of Psychology at the University of Utah in 1983. He has published approximately 250 scholarly articles, chapters, and books, and his widely cited research has been supported by the NIH. At Utah, he has served as the Department Chair, Director of Graduate Studies, and multiple times as the Director of the Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology. He founded the Graduate Program in Health Psychology at Utah, and has supervised 25 successful PhD students. In the 21 year history of the American Psychological Association Early Career Award in Health Psychology, two of his PhDs have received this prestigious award, and only two other institutions (UCLA, Yale) have multiple recipients of this honor among their graduates. He also served on the APA Committee that established guidelines for graduate training in clinical health psychology.


mentor2013_johnsonAssociate Professor Cari Johnson
Department of Geology and Geophysics
mentor2013_shawProfessor Janet Shaw
Department of Biochemistry
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADistinguished Professor Mladen Bestvina
Department of Mathematics


mentor2012_keefeProfessor Kristen Keefe
Pharmacology & Toxicology
mentor2012_sheaProfessor Peregrine Schwartz-Shea
Department of Political Science
mentor2012_bassoProfessor Matt Basso
Department of History
mentor2012_chienProfessor Chi Bin Chien
Neurobiology & Anatomy


mentor2011_abelProfessor E. Dale Abel
School of Medicine
mentor2011_feenerProfessor Don Feener
Department of Biology
mentor2011_mooneyProfessor Kathleen Mooney
College of Nursing


mentor2010_graingerProfessor David Grainger
Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry

mentor2010_raikhProfessor Mikhail Raikh
Department of Physics

mentor2010_simonsProfessor Jack Simons
Department of Chemistry


mentor2009_adlerProfessor Fred Adler
Departments of Mathematics and Biology

mentor2009_dearingProfessor Denise Dearing
Department of Biology

mentor2009_marcProfessor Robert Marc
Departments of Ophthalmology and Physiology


mentor2008_coleyProfessor Phyllis Coley
Department of Biology

mentor2008_goldbergProfessor Robert Goldberg
Department of History

mentor2008_keckProfessor Gary Keck
Department of Chemistry


mentor2007_beckProfessor Susan Beck
College of Nursing

mentor2007_philipsProfessor Peter Philips
Department of Economics

mentor2007_thummelProfessor Carl Thummel
Department of Human Genetics


mentor2006_bergProfessor Cynthia Berg
Department of Psychology

mentor2006_irelandProfessor Chris Ireland
Department of Medicinal Chemistry

mentor2006_luceroProfessor Mary Lucero
Department of Physiology