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Carolyn R. Bertozzi Wins 2022 AAAS Lifetime Mentor Award

Carolyn R. Bertozzi, the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences and Professor of Chemistry at Stanford University, and the Baker Family Director at Stanford ChEM-H, has been awarded the 2022 Lifetime Mentor Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Like the Mentor Award, the AAAS Lifetime Mentor Award honors university faculty and administrators with distinguished records of mentoring and leadership to increase the amount of underrepresented minority students, women, and first-generation students who complete a PhD in a STEM field. This award, however, is directed toward individuals whose mentoring success spans more than 25 years.

Bertozzi is a world-renowned chemist known for launching the field of bioorthogonal chemistry, but equally significant are her contributions to mentorship and diversity in chemistry and chemical biology. In her 25-year career – which includes 20 years at UC Berkeley before joining Stanford in 2015 – she has mentored over 270 postdocs, graduate students, and undergraduate researchers. These mentees included 52 women and underrepresented students who completed their PhDs in her group or went on to complete PhDs at other prestigious universities.

“I am humbled and honored to received this award, especially as a major career goal of mine has been to continuously improve as a mentor and help mold the next generation of scientists aiming to improve human health,” Bertozzi told AAAS. “I consider it a great privilege to be in a position to mentor brilliant and motivated young scientists, help launch their careers, and contribute to diversification of the scientific workforce.”

After moving to Stanford, Bertozzi founded and directed the Stanford ChEM-H Chemistry/Biology Interface Graduate Training Program. In short order, she has grown this program to more than 90 graduate trainees. The 26 students in the two most recent cohorts included 13 underrepresented minority students, 3 students with disabilities, and 16 women.

Bertozzi is now also extending her efforts to the pre-PhD pipeline. She recently announced the launch of the ChEM-H/IMA Postbaccalaureate Program in Target Discovery, a new postbaccalaureate program that aims to prepare recent college graduates from diverse and historically underserved backgrounds to apply for PhD programs in the sciences.

In the male-dominated field of chemistry, Bertozzi’s presence as a female, LGBTQ+ leader stands out. On social media, her willingness to speak on her personal experiences as an outsider in the field of chemistry allows her to connect with a broad range of students and aspiring chemists.

Students laud her accessibility and humility as well her commitment to their advancement well beyond their time in the lab. Bertozzi’s commitment to mentorship also includes her faculty colleagues. Diversifying academia and recruiting and retaining top talent are a priority for Bertozzi. In the last five years, she played a key role in the recruitment of, among others, Laura Dassama as an Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Christopher Barnes as an Assistant Professor of Biology – both of whom serve as Institute Scholars at Stanford ChEM-H. These two African American scientists not only bring technical expertise and vision, but also carry on a legacy of strong mentoring for young and underrepresented scientists.