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Office of Graduate Education Stanford Biosciences Office of Graduate Education

Dan Herschlag, PhD

Professor of Biochemistry and (by Courtesy) Chemistry and Chemical Engineering

Dan Herschlag, PhDAs an undergraduate, Dan knew one thing: he would not take a science class. Perspectives change over time, and he has, since then, taken several science classes, merging his mathematical background with a passion for understanding nature at its most basic levels. Dan’s graduate research in physical chemistry and enzymology with W.P. Jencks was a transformational educational experience, and his postdoc with Tom Cech was an adventure into the RNA world that is ongoing. Dan developed an interest in academia because it sounded interesting in novels that he read and because he did not want to have a boss.

As a mentor and scientist, Dan believes that honesty is the fundamental currency. Being honest requires an underlying mutual trust—a trust that the mentor has your best interests in mind and heart and a trust that the student has the potential to excel. Often, the first step in mentoring is convincing a student that they have the potential to excel and, with a “growth mindset”, to broadly seek out critical constructive feedback. Finally, every mentor-mentee relationship is different and requires that the mentor listens at least as much they speak.

As a SoLID faculty mentor, Dan hopes to be able to pass along some of the phenomenal mentorship, advice and perspectives he received during his education and career. He is enormously proud of the students he has mentored, both formally and informally, and believes that his impact through them is far greater than any impact he could have alone. Dan is happy to talk to students about clearly defining their research questions, models, tests, and broader perspectives, regardless of the research area. He is also happy to engage in discussions of inclusion, personal and societal responsibility; activism in academia and beyond; maintaining your “self” while in graduate school; steps toward your career goals; or any other topics.

Students can email Dan directly at and copy his admin, Morgan Williams, at