Aaron Johnson, PhD, receives University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus Graduate School Dean’s Doctoral Mentoring AwardKristine M. Sikora, PhD | Graduate School May 22, 2023
Aurora, Colorado – Aaron Johnson, PhD, Associate Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics and Program Director of the Biomedical Sciences Program (BSP) at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus (CU Anschutz), is the recipient of the 2023 Dean's Doctoral Mentoring Award.
This award goes to CU Anschutz faculty who demonstrate a commitment to providing students with a one-on-one, high-quality training experience; maintain high standards of scholarship; and possess personal attributes that make the faculty member an effective role model for other mentors. Faculty are nominated by the doctoral students whom they mentored for at least one semester and with a significant amount of one-on-one interaction.
Dr. Johnson received 10 independent nomination letters from faculty peers and mentees as well as students from the BSP. The unique structure of the BSP as an umbrella program provides a pathway for incoming PhD students to explore various basic and biomedical science disciplines before selecting a thesis lab and transitioning into a PhD-granting program in their second year. Highlighting the importance of Dr. Johnson’s role in supporting the incoming BSP students, one colleague explained “[Dr. Johnson] plays an outsized role in charting their path through the first year of graduate school. Unlike the other major Ph.D. programs that have robust mentoring infrastructure for their first-year students, Aaron is the primary mentor for the class of ~10 students each year.” They continued “Aaron has had a transformative impact on the early careers of many BSP students, serving as a guiding light to help them through the initial stages of graduate school."
Nomination letters from current graduate students echoed this sentiment and emphasized the warm and welcoming culture that BSP has developed under Dr. Johnson’s leadership. One student wrote “BSP radiates a sense of companionship and inconceivable support which all stems from the morale established by our program director. His encouragement pushes us outside the bounds of our scientific comfort zone to explore different areas of interest.” Additional praise is offered regarding Dr. Johnson's dedication to helping students navigate their scientific journeys. Another student wrote “As someone who’s been in academia for a long time, I’ve worked with numerous mentors over the years, and I’ve yet to meet someone whose teaching style is as effective and genuine as Aaron’s.” They continued “His approach to the mentor-mentee relationship is one that actively encourages a high standard of scholarship by allowing students to explore their own avenues and interests through “guided exploration”.
When asked what this award means to him, Dr. Johnson stated “It’s an honor to win the Dean’s Doctoral Mentoring Award. I’ve won this award because I have the privilege of working with amazing graduate students in my own lab and in the graduate programs I am a part of, including the Biomedical Sciences Program that I direct.” He added “Helping each student I interact with reach their full potential is so fulfilling, I consider this award a collective win for all of us!”
Dr. Johnson is one of two 2023 award recipients along with Dr. Benjamin Bitler. Previous award recipients are listed below.
2022: Jason Aoto, PhD, Department of Pharmacology
2021: Heide Ford, PhD, Department of Pharmacology
2020: Rebecca Schweppe, PhD, Department of Medicine; and Vanessa Phelan, PhD, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences
2019: Sean Colgan, PhD, Department of Immunology and Microbiology
2018: Cory Christiansen, PhD, Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation-Physical Therapy; and Jennifer Kiser, PharmD, PhD, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences
2017: Matthew Kennedy, PhD, Department of Pharmacology; and Rytis Prekeris, PhD, Department of Cell and Developmental Biology
2016: Jared Brown, PhD, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences; Gidon Felsen, PhD, Department of Physiology and Biophysics; and Jennifer Stevens-Lapsley, PT, PhD, Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation-Physical Therapy
2015: Ulli Bayer, PhD, Department of Pharmacology; Laurel Lenz, PhD, Department of Immunology and Microbiology; and Jennifer Richer, PhD, Department of Pathology
2014: Dana Dabelea, MD, PhD, Department of Epidemiology; Elan Eisenmesser, PhD, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics; Ross Kedl, PhD, Department of Immunology and Microbiology; and Nancy Zahniser, PhD, Department of Pharmacology
2013: James McManaman, PhD, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology; Deb Glueck, PhD, Department of Pediatrics-Endocrinology; and Gary Grunwald, PhD, Department of Biostatistics and Informatics
2012: David Bentley, PhD, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics; Uday Kompella, PhD, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences; Daniel Tollin, PhD, Department of Physiology and Biophysics
2011: Mark Dell’Acqua, PhD, Department of Pharmacology; Roxie Foster, PhD, Nursing; and Vasilis Vasiliou, PhD, Department of Ophthamology
About The Graduate School | The Graduate School at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus (CU Anschutz) oversees, facilitates, and enhances graduate education and postdoctoral training, while encouraging excellence in research, creative and scholarly work. We offer master’s degrees, doctoral degrees, graduate certificates, and non-degree options in a wide variety of programs.