2022 Mentors of the Year Pamala Jacobson, Robert Straka, and Alik Widge
Mentors of the year Pamala Jacobson, Robert Straka, and Alik Widge

CTSI recognizes three University professors for outstanding mentorship

At CTSI's Translational Science Symposium & Poster Session on Sept. 15, CTSI bestowed awards on outstanding research mentors: 

  • Mentor of the Year: Pamala Jacobson 
  • Mentor of the Year: Robert Straka
  • Junior Mentor of the Year: Alik Widge

Mentors are nominated by the mentees themselves. Mentor of the Year Award nominees are evaluated based on the research guidance they provided as well as their interpersonal and motivational skills, promotion of career development, mentor training record, and NIH biosketch.

Mentor of the Year: Pamala Jacobson 

Pamala Jacobson, PharmD, FCCP, is a Distinguished Professor with the Department of Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology and Director for the College of Pharmacy’s Institute of Personalized Medicine.

Her research focuses on the clinical pharmacology of immune suppressants and anticancer agents. She also studies how genetic variation influences human response to drugs. It is noteworthy that Dr. Jacobson has mentored a total of seven CTSI scholars and trainees — an impressive commitment to CTSI’s mission. 

Excerpts from letters nominating Dr. Jacobson 

“Dr. Jacobson always provides a positive and productive research environment and leaves a space for our innovation which ultimately expands our horizon letting us develop the needed skills for our research.”

“Dr. Jacobson is one of my role models, personally and academically, because of her hard-working, dedicated, and supportive nature.”  

“Dr. Jacobson has contributed to an impressive count of highly successful trainees. [...] I am confident that she will continue to develop successful scholars who themselves will become excellent mentors based on their experiences with Dr. Jacobson.”

“In preparing my NIH R01 application, Dr. Jacobson continuously challenged me with questions that could come up in reviewers’ minds. [...] Providing explicit answers to these questions in my grant applications has remarkably improved my grantsmanship and helped me secure federal NIH funding.”

Mentor of the Year: Robert Straka

Robert J. Straka, PharmD, FCCP, is Department Head and Professor with the Department of Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology in the College of Pharmacy. His research focuses on pharmaceuticals for the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular and related diseases. 

Research interests include health disparities, drug metabolism, and how genetic variation influences human response to drugs.

Dr. Straka has made many highly valued contributions to the CTSI, and has been the greatest booster for our Advanced Pathways to Research Program (A-PReP). He has encouraged a high level of participation from the College of Pharmacy, mentored several excellent scholars to success every year, and  partnered with us through the College of Pharmacy Melendy program for the past 10 years.

Excerpts from letters nominating Dr. Robert Straka

“I admire Dr. Straka not merely because he is a great researcher, but because he also leads by example. [...] I have learned so much by just observing his working method, attitude, and interaction with other professionals, faculties, and students.” 

“He once shared the recipe for becoming a good researcher: open-mindedness, curiosity, creativity, innovation, and not accepting mediocrity. I believe he owns these traits, and I expect myself to have these in the future.”

“He has an effective approach that empowers trainees by allowing them to take ownership of their experiences while offering clear, thoughtful, and scientifically strategic feedback.”

“Dr. Straka is a kind, clever, and highly capable mentor. His attentiveness to detail and brilliant perspectives are always inspirational and motivate me to become a better scientist, educator, and collaborator.”

Junior Mentor of the Year: Alik Widge

Alik Widge, MD, PhD, is an Assistant Professor with the Medical School’s Department of Psychiatry, a Preceptor in the Medical Scientist Training Program, and faculty in the Graduate Program in Neuroscience. 

His research focuses on novel brain stimulation treatments for mood, anxiety, and substance disorders. 

Excerpts from letters nominating Dr. Alik Widge

“Dr. Widge provides outstanding assistance and guidance in research.[…] Since joining his lab, I have personally noticed a dramatic improvement in my skills as a scientist.[…] Based on how much time and energy Dr. Widge puts into the academic development of the lab members, it is no surprise that they all graduate […] with much stronger research skills and a productive publication record.

“In my experience in academia, many mentors provide only constructive criticism. However, Dr Widge’s acknowledgement of my strengths and achievements, no matter how small, has been important in building my own confidence as a scientist.”

“Dr. Widge is a fierce advocate for his mentees' best interests and a catalyst for career development. Despite a busy schedule, he is responsive and sets aside time every week to offer help in research and career guidance for his mentees.”

“He is a very trustworthy mentor: I have heard multiple stories of lab members feeling comfortable enough to share their academic/personal insecurities with him. In all these cases, he took the time to develop personalized strategies to help the lab member overcome such insecurities and become a competent scientist. His clinical training in psychiatry and understanding of human psychology definitely shine and contribute to the successful management of his large and diverse lab.” 

“As written in his laboratory manifesto, Dr. Widge’s lab is built upon a principle of 'be excellent to one another'. This principle is a fundamental part of the laboratory and is reflected in the mutually respectful and supportive research environment which Dr Widge consistently encourages."