Chilkoti named 2022 Outstanding Postdoc Mentor

Outstanding Postdoc Mentor at Duke Hall of Fame


2022 Outstanding Postdoc Mentor at Duke

Dr. Ashutosh Chilkoti, Department of Biomedical Engineering

The 2022 Outstanding Postdoc Mentor is Dr. Ashutosh Chilkoti, Alan L. Kaganov Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering. Dr. Colin Duckett, Vice Dean for Basic Science, presented the award.

A current postdoc wrote: When I met Tosh as a graduate student, I already had a postdoc position at another university and was determined to go there. However, Tosh's energy and his willingness to listen to my thoughts persuaded me to come to Duke. He allowed me to pursue various directions based on my interests. When I applied for the K99, Tosh put huge effort into my training plan. HE REALLY CARES! That is the best thing about him as a mentor.

A former postdoc, now Associate Professor at Syracuse University, wrote: I met Tosh for the first time during a materials conference. I was a polymer chemist by training--with zero background in molecular biology and biochemistry--and yet, I was fascinated when Tosh delivered a thrilling, fast-paced presentation. I approached him after his talk and discussed my work. He was gracious with his time, and a few weeks later, there I was as a new lab member.

When I asked his opinion on what project to pursue, he simply told me to follow my passion and to learn what I needed on the project. The rest is history. In two years, I published my first Nature Chemistry paper, showing the promise of these modifications for materials science applications. A year later, I started my independent career, and in less than four years, I was promoted to associate professor with tenure. At first glance, I know that my story may not appear unique at a world-class institution such as Duke, which always has a cadre of talented postdocs with trajectories much steeper than mine. When things work out, it is easy to take the postdoc-mentor relationship for granted. It was only when I started my own lab that I realized the challenge of ensuring postdoc success while accomplishing the lab's research mission. I now have a much deeper appreciation of my freedom to pursue challenging ideas and projects in Tosh's lab. More importantly, Tosh was there to support me whenever I needed his help, whether it was a confounding experimental result or a fear of an unknown future in the wake of the infamous travel ban. He always found time in his busy schedule for us, even while chairing the largest department at Pratt School of Engineering.

A former postdoc, now Associate Professor at University of Utah, wrote: To me, Professor Chilkoti is an exceptional mentor because he exemplifies what a first-class scientist and professor should be: visionary, strategic in managing science and research team, and importantly, caring for the growth of trainees. I joined Professor Chilkoti's group with a background of immunology and protein chemistry, which was not necessarily in line with main research themes of the group. However, Professor Chilkoti recognized the importance of investigating immunological properties of biomaterials before the biomaterial research field embraced the idea. He encouraged me to conduct research on this area, which tremendously helped research programs in his lab as well as my own lab later. When I applied for the K99, Professor Chilkoti carefully reviewed my training and professional development plans. When I told him that my application scored well, he was very excited for me. I know he is truly happy for the successes of his trainees.

A former postdoc, now Distinguished Scientist at Medtronic, wrote: I was luckily hired as a postdoc by Dr. Chilkoti. Within one year, we had accomplished four papers published in different prestigious journals, including one cover story, and three US patents.  Dr. Chilkoti is the extraordinary postdoc mentor who inspires and leads his team with his clear vision disrupting, evolving multidisciplinary bio-interface science and technology. The professional training I received from Dr. Chilkoti was the cornerstone of my own career.

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