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Ian Wilson Named 2012 Outstanding Mentor

The word “mentor” depicts a wise and loyal adviser, harkening back to the Greek goddess of wisdom Athena who, disguised as an old man, provides guidance to Homer’s hero Odysseus. Honoring the same spirit of service to others, this year’s Scripps Research Institute Outstanding Mentor award goes to Professor Ian Wilson.

The award was established to honor Scripps Research faculty who consistently and enthusiastically serve as effective mentors to postdoctoral fellows and graduate students. The winner receives a $1,000 prize to support professional development, training, or team building activities in his or her lab.

“[Professor Wilson] stood out for the breadth of supporting letters and a distinguished track record of helping mentees achieve career success,” said Ryan Wheeler, manager of the Office of Career and Postdoctoral Services, which sponsors the award with the Society of Fellows and the institute’s Kellogg School of Science and Technology. Wheeler also praised the other “exceptional” award nominees, who include Wendy Havran, Jack Johnson, Katja Lamia, Jim Paulson, Peter Wright, and Takao Yagi.

In addition to chairing the curriculum committee for the WASC Reaccreditation of the Kellogg School, teaching graduate classes, and participating actively in science outreach programs, Wilson, the Hansen Professor of Structural Biology in the Department of Molecular Biology, has mentored more than 100 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows over the years, many of whom now hold top positions in academia and industry around the globe.

Fourteen former and current Wilson-guided postdocs and grad students wrote letters supporting his nomination as Outstanding Mentor. The letters emphasized the Wilson’s merits as both an accomplished, highly cited scientist and compassionate, thoughtful mentor, who also exhibits a whimsical sense of humor. The letters spoke repeatedly of his ability to teach excellence in science, his genuine concern for the welfare of his lab members, and his active support of lab members’ careers, including making phone calls to personally advocate for current and former lab members pursuing coveted job offers.

Comments included:

“The research environment that Ian has created in unlike anything I have ever experienced, with complete freedom to pursue any credible scientific idea with his unwavering support. Like many of the best mentors, Ian does not micromanage the projects in the lab, yet he remains available and involved. Very importantly, he is continually advocating for his students and postdocs. This includes … facilitating networking by introducing students/postdocs to other top scientists; creating opportunities to present their work orally at international meetings; and giving sound, honest advice as people prepare to move on to the top postdoctoral, faculty and corporate positions.”

“I think the single most helpful thing Ian does for his mentees is to instill a higher standard—of thought, background research, experimental design, execution, writing and speaking.”

“Every time you had a big talk coming up, Ian will sit down with you and go through it slide by slide. He would come in on the weekends, bring fresh fruit from the farmer’s market, and sit and talk with you about your research and offer you some star fruit. … He diffused almost all the stress of my thesis defense by asking me what kind of cake I wanted at the party afterwards and then by showing up and sitting in the audience in a silly-looking plastic Red Sox helmet. (We’re both Boston fans.) While giving my public defense, I could not even look in his direction for fear I would burst out laughing.”

More information on Wilson’s activities, awards, and research, which focuses on structural studies of the immune system, viral pathogens, and vaccine design, is available on his faculty page and laboratory website.

Nature Highlights Article from Rebek Lab

The journal Nature recently highlighted research from the Rebek lab. The commentary notes that the work, which focuses on modified liposomes, “adds a new dimension to the search for the optimal drug carrier.” To read the Rebek lab research paper, “Deep cavitand vesicles – multicompartmental hosts,” (Kubitschke et al., J. Chem. Commun., 48, 9251–9253 (2012)), see To read the Nature commentary, see

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Professor Ian Wilson has mentored more than 100 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, 14 of whom wrote letters in support of his nomination as Outstanding Mentor. (Photo by Kevin Fung.)














Book by Dennis Burton and Colleagues Wins Top British Award
burton book
Roitt's Essential Immunology 12th edition, co-authored by Scripps Research Institute Professor Dennis Burton and European colleagues Peter Delves, Seamus Martin, and Ivan Riott, has been named the British Medical Association’s 2012 Medical Book of the Year. The book also took first place in the award program’s Basic and Clinic Sciences section. Praised for its “hallmark easy reading style,” the textbook “clearly explains the key principles needed by medical and health science students, in the context of a fully functioning immune system,” according to the award announcement.