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Amita Sehgal


A crucial component in developing a successful career, particularly in science, is a good mentor. Outstanding postdoctoral mentorship is expected of our faculty members but is rarely rewarded. In recognition of the value Biomedical Postdoctoral Programs (BPP) places on mentorship, BPP has created the Distinguished Mentor Award. This award is designed to acknowledge superb mentors from among the BPP participating faculty.


John Herr Musser Professor of Neuroscience
Director of the Chronobiology Program at the Perelman School of Medicine
Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute since 1997

Dr. Sehgal received her Ph.D. from the Graduate School of Medical Sciences, Cornell University, working with Dr. Moses Chao, and conducted her postdoctoral work with Dr. Michael Young at Rockefeller University. Research in her laboratory focuses on the cellular and molecular basis of circadian rhythms and sleep, using the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, as a model system. Dr. Sehgal has received many awards and honors for her work. She is also an elected member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Over the course of her ~20 years at Penn, Dr. Sehgal has mentored over 50 postdoctoral fellows and graduate students in her laboratory. These trainees have gone on to outstanding positions at academic institutions, in industry and in other scientific careers. She is committed to helping the members of her laboratory pursue their interests and reach the career path of their choice. Dr. Sehgal also serves as an informal mentor for many scientists, and participates frequently in career panels for trainees and junior faculty.


"Speaking to current and former postdocs regarding this nomination, the conviction with which everyone admires and praises Amita’s mentorship skills is disarming. She makes leading a sizeable lab appear effortless.... As an intellectual leader we cannot think of another person that maintains such a great balance of providing direction, focus, and motivation without micro-managing. We always look forward to our meetings with her – even with a string of frustrating results, one walks away feeling positive, hopeful, and inspired. Simply put, Amita is the best role model we have had in our professional careers.”
— Nominators

“In a fashion that Amita might not even personally agree with, Amita has no ego or selfish motivation. She is certainly an effective advocate for her own need and also as I have said, competitive. I think she achieves this ideal state because her excellence and confidence allow her to simply seek the truth, and to know that having excited, supported, well-trained students is the most important way to contribute to the advancement of science in the broadest and highest impact fashion.”
— Faculty letter of support




Dr. Sanjeev Kumar was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, where he studied HIV pathogenesis and vaccine development. Dr. Kumar embraced academic research and all the accompanying expectations of this type of career. He loved the challenge of designing experiments and analyzing the data as he delved into his hypothesis. Even as Dr. Kumar gathered his data, he was always thinking ahead to the next set of experiments, which stoked his motivation to pursue new paths to exciting scientific discoveries. In addition to his scientific endeavors, Dr. Kumar loved to teach. Communicating his knowledge and love of science to other more junior investigators was one of his exemplary and defining traits. He thrived on the collegial collaborations and scientific discussions fostered by the research environment at Penn. This presentation was selected for the type of excellence in scientific discovery that Dr. Kumar pursued and enjoyed.


AUM LifeTech Science & Innovation Award for Best Short Oral Presentation

Dr. Kurt Marsden
“A genome-wide screen in zebrafish reveals CYFIP2 as a novel regulator of startle sensitivity”

AUM LifeTech Science & Innovation Award for Best Poster Presentation

Dr. Mariya Sweetwyne
“Notch1, but not Notch2, regulates podocyte survival and dedifferentiation during diabetic glomerulosclerosis.”

New England BioLabs Poster Award
Best use of next-generation sequencing in research design and interpretation

Dr. Paul Babb
“Assembly of the Golden Orb Weaver spider (Nephila clavipes) genome enables full characterization of silk gene repertoire”

Charles River Laboratories Poster Award
Research emphasizing ethical animal research, by reducing or refining techniques to reduce overall animal model usage

Dr. Kristen Long
“CCL2 is necessary for macrophage-dependent fibrosis degradation in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma”

Biomedical Postdoctoral Council Outstanding Poster Award

Dr. Megan Keiser
“Translating RNAi Therapy for Spinocerebellar Ataxia Type 1”

Biomedical Postdoctoral Council Outstanding Poster Award

Dr. Nicole Facompre
“G0-like cells support an oral cancer stem cell pool by transitioning to a JARID1B-hi state”