Biology Professor Receives Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award in Biological and Life Sciences

You are here

John Riehl, Web Content Editor, University of Iowa Graduate College
May 10, 2018

Congratulations to Biology professor, Joshua Weiner, Ph.D., for receiving the Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award in Biological and Life Sciences from the Graduate College at the University of Iowa for his extraordinary contributions to graduate education through mentoring graduate students. Dr. Weiner was nominated for the award by his students and colleagues. An interview with Dr. Weiner is below. Click here for the full article. 


Weiner’s relationship with his graduate students is based on honest communication. Whether talking about his students’ research progress or their post-graduate job prospects, he speaks his mind, with his students’ best interests at heart.

“I really need to be able to talk to people to get a sense of how things are going and be completely honest with them,” says Weiner, associate director of the Iowa Neuroscience Institute. “If something isn’t working I want them to talk with me right away. I try to have a relationship where we trust each other. I think that’s how you get the best science done, because all data are considered and all possible interpretations raised.”

Weiner treats his students’ ideas seriously. He trains his mentees to analyze their ideas critically and turn them into a testable hypothesis.

Early in his students’ graduate careers, when they aren’t yet under pressure to complete their dissertation or write a comprehensive examination document, Weiner helps them take ownership over their own research ideas. His laboratory identifies molecular mechanisms that control neuronal differentiation and neural circuit formation during brain development.

“I don’t really see them as working for me,” says Weiner, whose research has been continuously funded since the creation of his lab in 2004. “You’re supposed to be developing students to be independent. One way I try to do that is to give students opportunities to develop their own ideas, as well as working on established projects in the lab.”

For Weiner, mentoring is all about helping graduate students succeed at the University of Iowa and embark on successful academic and alt-ac careers.

“I’m here for them. They’re not really here for me,” Weiner says. “Students are different from employees, and they join my lab to be mentored. They have to do a good job, but it’s ultimately up to them. They have to be self-motivated, though I try to inspire them as well. I think they will do the best science if they enjoy what they’re doing.

“My definition of success for my graduate students is for them to be happy in the path they’ve chosen.”

Article Link: