Distinguished Mentor Award
Aron Lichtman, Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology, is a talented scientist, as evidenced by his twenty years of NIH funding for not one, but two grants. His success draws graduate students to his laboratories to study, and once there, Dr. Lichtman reveals another of his exceptional talents – that of being a mentor.
Dr. Lichtman’s dedication to guiding his students is well-known in the department. As students rotate through different training experiences, they often decide to stick around in Dr. Lichtman’s lab. Students that work with him are recognized for their exceptional work, achieving excellent grades and authoring multiple scientific publications. Dr. Lichtman collaborates with an exceptionally high number of VCU faculty colleagues and these interactions greatly enhance the training of his postdoctoral fellows and students. He also involves his students in his work with internationally acclaimed scientists outside VCU; this provides invaluable career-building connections for his students. One of the most impressive aspects of the mentoring record of Dr. Lichtman is the quality of scientists who have taken his students for post-doctoral training and positions in industry and academia.
Mindful of the need to develop an early interest in science, he took a lead role for almost a decade in an NIH-funded summer program that enabled underrepresented and disadvantaged high school students and their teachers to learn about and participate in biomedical research at VCU.
Dr. Lichtman’s former students describe his impact:
“As a naïve graduate student, his ability to communicate his knowledge in a useful manner improved my critical thinking skills and broadened my scientific interests,” recalls Laura E. Wise, Ph.D., a former student who is now an Assistant Professor, VCU Pharmacology and Toxicology. “As a faculty member, Dr. Lichtman meets regularly with me to review my progress and discuss research projects. He provides invaluable information, feedback, and opportunities for me to develop the skills and knowledge needed for a successful career in research.”
Joel Schlosburg, Ph.D., now a Research Associate at The Scripps Research Institute, entered Dr. Lichtman’s lab with an engineering background, and “Dr. Lichtman allowed me both the autonomy to improve and expand projects toward increased efficiency, while also reigning in my inevitable over-exuberance and maintaining focus on a handful of projects. As a result, we have published a dozen papers together and he assisted in my securing an individual training grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (F31).”
“Due in large part to the great mentoring that I received from the Department, and in particular from Dr. Lichtman, I gained a tenure-track faculty position and now advise my own students,” says Steven G. Kinsey, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at West Virginia University Department of Psychology. “I strive to emulate Dr. Lichtman’s excellent mentoring, which I still receive as I find my place and seek research funding.”
As Divya Ramesh, Ph.D., Columbia University Department of Psychiatry, describes, “Aron provides dynamic guidance, adapting to each mentee’s personality and research style. He has a unique ability to see inner talent and potential in students, and is not wary of taking on students with limited research experience. His mentoring style allows for students to grow into independent researchers, develop their own ideas and scientific thinking, thereby preparing us adequately for realities of the competitive research world.”
Dr. Aron Lichtman has influenced the future of science through his guidance of young scientists into productive research careers. As Lamont Booker, Ph.D., MTOX, Toxicologist at the Center for Excellence in Research, Defense Threat Reduction Agency of the US Department of Defense, declares, “For me, dreams I once felt were unattainable, I now have achieved due to the encouragement and guidance of Dr. Lichtman.”