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Hollis Cline Selected as Outstanding Mentor



Hollis Cline Selected as Outstanding Mentor

By Cindy Brauer

Hollis (“Holly”) Cline believes the mentor-mentee relationship must be a partnership. That’s why she provides her lab members at The Scripps Research Institute (TRSI) with “as many opportunities as possible so they can figure out what they love about science and which problems to focus on in their research.”

That commitment to partnership is just one factor in the selection of Cline, who is Hahn Professor of Neuroscience at TSRI’s California campus, as this year’s Scripps California Outstanding Mentor.

The award recognizes TSRI 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.

“Dr. Cline’s nomination letters provided numerous inspirational examples of how she consistently goes above and beyond in providing individualized support to the members of her lab,” said Ryan Wheeler, manager of the Office of Careers and Postdoctoral Services, which sponsors the award with the Society of Fellows and TSRI’s Kellogg School of Science and Technology. Wheeler also noted the committee had to select among many distinguished and deserving nominees, including Velia Fowler, Wendy Havran, Jack Johnson, James Paulson and Eric Topol.

Based on her own experience with “strong-minded scientists,” Cline considers both supporting and challenging input essential to helping her mentees and junior colleagues attain their goals. She has mentored more than 40 postdoctoral fellows and graduate students, assisting them in finding ways to use their science training in career paths they will enjoy. She remains in touch with many mentees who now work in industry as well as at academic intuitions such as Brown University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, McGill University, Columbia University, India’s National Centre for Biological Sciences and Australia’s University of Tasmania.

In their letters supporting Cline’s nomination as Outstanding Mentor, current and former postdocs and graduate students praised her scientific skills, emphasis on collaborations and valuable career guidance and support. Many noted the annual progress evaluation reports Cline requests of each lab member—“an opportunity for us to consider all aspects of our research and career development,” wrote one former mentee. Cline reads and discusses the report with each individual lab member.

Comments included:

“Somehow she found time to take everyone’s research and present it at meetings to bring our science out to the community. … Everything I know about science, my approach, my execution and interpretation are direct benefits of having had Holly as my mentor. I see how so many of us have been successful due to her ability to appropriate support and simultaneously push us.”

“Dr. Cline consistently values finding the best technique for a project and the professional development of her lab members over expediency. She creates an environment where I feel free to explore ideas and risk trying new techniques.”

“[An attribute] of Holly’s that makes her an outstanding mentor is that she is a wonderfully generous and caring person. She is one of the most decent human beings I’ve encountered in science throughout my career. As such, she has always been a pro-active, honest and supportive advisor, not only when I was in her lab, but also in the years since.”

“Her constant attention to the larger context in which an experiment can be planned or explained has taught me to think more critically and to recognize more broadly the types of questions that can be addressed in our system.”

“One of the most valuable lessons I have learned from my time with Dr. Cline [is that] motivation must always come from within. A woman of great personal drive, Dr. Cline never imposes her motivation or work ethic onto others in the lab and always encourages curiosity and personal initiative.”

More information on Cline’s activities, awards and research, which focuses on the mechanisms by which sensory experience affects the development of brain structures and function, can be found on her faculty webpage and laboratory website.

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Letters supporting Professor Hollis Cline’s nomination as 2013 Outstanding Mentor praised her scientific skills, emphasis on collaboration, and valuable career guidance and support. (Photo by Cindy Brauer.)