Ivan Soltesz, Ph.D.

Landis Award for Outstanding Mentorship
Photo of Dr. Ivan Soltesz
Stanford University, Stanford, CA

Dr. Soltesz’s commitment to mentorship covers the gamut of great mentorship practices. He treats all members of the lab, including technicians and administrative staff, as mentees. They are encouraged to grow and excel in their jobs, sent to meetings, introduced to leaders in their respective professions and fields. From the beginning of a mentee’s time in the lab, the focus is on discovery of what is needed to help the mentee achieve success and go on to independence in whatever position is desired. Dr. Soltesz sets an extremely high bar for scientific quality, provides honest, constructive criticism when appropriate, and is available night and day to help when asked. All trainees commented on their appreciation of these qualities – he expects a lot, but helps them achieve a lot, with a focus on what they want to become professionally. Trainees reflected on how he “set the standard for rigor and ethics,” which both educated and empowered them. He teaches all lab members the politics of their profession and then encourages them to stand up for themselves, pushing them to identify their goals and set out to achieve them. He involves trainees in grant reviews, paper reviews, responses to reviews, general ethical scientific behavior, and other scientific skills for educational purposes. He advises postdocs on job searches, negotiations, and other professional activities All letters attested to his rapid attention to trainee needs, whether it be help with experiments, responding to emails, writing letters of recommendation, etc. He maintains contact with trainees after they’ve left the lab to “make sure” his plans don’t overlap with their plans in terms of projects they are pursuing. He is committed to diversity and helping trainees who’ve come from “difficult” backgrounds, and as with so many Landis Awardees, helps trainees deal with obstacles, delays, and life events without lowering expectations for their achievement. One trainee commented that Dr. Soltesz knew about unconscious bias “before it was a thing,” discussed bias with trainees regularly, and had a practice of having all trainees write on a public lab board in their native language, which remained present in the lab, as an exercise in inclusivity. All trainees have their own projects to lead in addition to a highly collaborative model where all work with each other. This fosters both independence and teamwork. He encourages vision, accepts failure, and uses failure as a teaching opportunity. And similar to trainee statements about many Landis Awardees, those who left the lab, when faced with a difficult issue, ask themselves, “what would Ivan do?” Dr. Soltesz's major research interest is focused on neuronal microcircuits, network oscillations, cannabinoid signaling and the mechanistic bases of circuit dysfunction in epilepsy. His laboratory employs a combination of closely integrated experimental and theoretical techniques, including closed-loop in vivo optogenetics, paired patch clamp recordings, in vivo electrophysiological recordings from identified interneurons in awake mice, 2-photon imaging, machine learning-aided 3D video analysis of behavior, video-EEG recordings, behavioral approaches, and large-scale computational modeling methods using supercomputers.