Linda Van-Aelst

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This WiSE Wednesday we honor this year’s WiSE faculty mentor awardee, molecular biologist Dr. Linda Van Aelst. Scientists are often judged by their number of papers, citations, or scientific awards but many of our greatest minds have also served the field as influential mentors to junior colleagues. For women, obtaining a strong mentor is a crucial part of advancing their careers in a male-dominated field. To highlight the invaluable colleagues who support and inspire us, we created the WiSE Mentorship Awards to honor women and men who have served as personal or professional mentors to women here at CSHL, and we were thrilled to present the inaugural award in the faculty category to Dr. Van Aelst.

Van Aelst’s association with CSHL began in 1992 when, after receiving a PhD in molecular biology from the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium, she joined Michael Wigler’s lab as a postdoctoral fellow. She went on to earn her own lab here and was awarded full professorship in 2006. Her lab studies molecular signaling pathways and their roles in development and diseases including cancer and neurological disorders. She recently helped discover molecular forces that help direct new brain cells to their final location. Throughout her long tenure here, she has been a prominent member of the CSHL community, and has served as a stable source of guidance to colleagues at all levels.

Van Aelst received multiple nominations for the mentorship awards from her colleagues who cited her assistance with promotion and grant-writing. Fellow scientists describe her as “incredibly valuable” and “a wonderful colleague,” always willing to meet and provide advice. 

Life doesn’t begin and end in the lab, and neither does Van Aelst’s mentorship - in addition to helping with these technical aspects of academia, she has helped her colleagues through hard times in their personal lives. 

Her WiSE award joins a long list of honors including awards from the Neurofibromatosis Foundation and the Dana Foundation, and we anticipate many more are still to come. Thank you Dr. Van Aelst for helping make CSHL a great place for women to work!

Photo by Michael Englert/CSHL