Dr. Ophir Klein Wins 2013 Mentorship Award

Graduate Division

The Graduate Students’ Association (GSA) and the Graduate Division Alumni Association (GDAA) has selected Dr. Ophir Klein as this year’s Outstanding Faculty Mentorship Awardee.

Dr. Klein is an associate professor in the departments of Orofacial Sciences and Pediatrics, and the Institute for Human Genetics.  He is also director of the Program in Craniofacial and Mesenchymal Biology and a member of the Biomedical Sciences, Pharmaceutical Sciences and Pharmacogenomics, Oral and Craniofacial Sciences, and Developmental and Stem Cell Biology graduate programs. 

In his lab, Dr. Klein aims to understand the molecular mechanisms that drive a variety of different developmental processes—including stem cell differentiation, patterning and outgrowth—with the hope of translating his findings into new treatments for developmental diseases.  In parallel, Dr. Klein studies the genome of patients with craniofacial and dental birth defects, to directly identify new genes underlying these disorders.

Dr. Klein received nominations from current and former lab members, as well as people on whom he has had a positive influence outside the lab. Their letters made clear that Dr. Klein is deeply committed to providing comprehensive training to the next generation of scientists, and to forming lifelong relationships with those he mentors.

Each year, the GSA and the GDAA call for students and postdocs to nominate faculty who have gone above and beyond in their duties, providing both professional and personal support and an unwavering dedication to student development.

The Outstanding Faculty Mentorship Award is a rare opportunity for students and postdocs to express their appreciation for faculty mentors, and this year, we received 27 nomination letters for 10 exceptional faculty members.

Each of Dr. Klein’s nomination letter praised the unique balance he is able to achieve in mentoring his students and postdocs to become independent scientists, giving them the space and freedom to grow but knowing when to step in and provide critical guidance. 

“In Ophir’s lab, I have truly developed as an independent, curious, skilled scientist during my training,” wrote one student. “From the start, Ophir was available to answer questions about project hypotheses and directions, but also gave me the time and challenged me to figure out ideas and questions on my own.”  

Though he is happy to give his mentees space, Dr. Klein makes himself available to meet with lab members and tries to accommodate each individual’s needs, establishing what one postdoc referred to as “a model for how to create a positive lab environment that cultivates success.”

Beyond fostering their ability to design and conduct meaningful research, Dr. Klein understands that an important aspect of training is to help students become acquainted with the broader scientific community.  

One student wrote that “Ophir is an amazing networker and collaborator and has taught me how to seek out the best collaborators and develop productive projects,” while another praised his ability to “connect people whom can mutually benefit from each other” and introduce them to scientists that offer an “expertise that would otherwise be difficult to find.”

Above all, though, Dr. Klein “understands that being a great mentor is to be supportive in any way he can.” He was enthusiastically endorsed not only as a fantastic scientific mentor, but also a great role model and ally, described as a “strong advocate” who is “kind and generous and thoughtful.” 

His compassionate approach to training led one student to note that his students “will count on him and his mentorship and guidance for the rest of [their] careers.” 

Dr. Klein will be presented his award at the Graduate Division Commencement Ceremony at the Mission Bay Community Center on May 17.

While Dr. Klein was the recipient of the award, there were many other deserving nominees.  We would like to recognize and honor all of the faculty members nominated by students who benefited from their efforts, listed below.

  • Pilar Bernal de Pheils, Family Health Care Nursing
  • Susan Kools, Family Health Care Nursing
  • Linda Sawyer, Nursing and Health Systems Leadership
  • Naomi Schapiro, Family Health Care Nursing
  • Joseph Shieh, Biomedical Sciences
  • Janet Shim, Sociology
  • Kevan Shokat, Chemistry and Chemical Biology
  • Robert Stroud, Biochemistry and Biophysics
  • Zachary Zimmer, Sociology