Julie M. Claycomb, PhD

Julie Claycomb

Canada Research Chair in Small RNA Biology
Associate Professor, Department of Molecular Genetics

Mid-Career Excellence in Graduate Teaching & Mentorship
Graduate Faculty Teaching Awards


Dr. Julie Claycomb holds a longstanding interest in gene regulatory mechanisms involved in germline development, and joined the Department of Molecular Genetics in 2011. She performed her PhD at the Whitehead Institute/MIT and her postdoctoral training with Dr. Craig Mello at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. The Claycomb lab’s innovative research focuses on understanding how small RNA pathways regulate gene expression throughout development, small RNA mediated epigenetic inheritance, and small RNA-based intercellular communication. Dr. Claycomb’s trainees have won numerous awards, published high impact papers, and gone on to successful careers in various scientific sectors. Dr. Claycomb has served as the Assistant Graduate Coordinator (2014- 2016) and Graduate Coordinator (2016-2020). In these roles she enjoys mentoring and facilitating the progress of over 400 graduate students. She has also developed novel graduate student recruitment approaches, spearheaded new graduate professional development initiatives, and promoted community building and scientific outreach.

Quote from the Winner

Mentoring graduate students is truly a privilege and an honour. The most gratifying moments as a mentor involve witnessing your trainees master a new skill at the bench, get that killer result, or give an amazing talk. I’ve been so fortunate to have these opportunities with both the amazing trainees in my own lab, and with hundreds(!) of outstanding students in my department as Graduate Coordinator. My goal as a mentor is to foster a community where students can be creative, make mistakes (and importantly, learn from them), and grow to reach their potential both as individuals and scientists. I aim to lead and inspire by example, bringing sincerity, empathy, and encouragement to each interaction. My trainees quickly learn that most things we do as scientists are not easy or straightforward, but that with hard work and, perhaps most importantly, perseverance, we are able to navigate our challenges. My best words of advice for students were spoken to me as a grad student by a treasured mentor: “Keep them small; do them well.” To me, this emphasizes the importance of planning your experiments well (and frequently the simple experiments are the ones that reveal the most!), and to execute them carefully, with focus and intent—if something is worth doing, do it well! The corollary to this advice is: “…and don’t forget to celebrate the small stuff.” So, go ahead and do that happy dance the next time your PCR works!

About the Award

This award was established in 2002 to recognize sustained contribution to graduate student mentorship exemplified by, but not limited to: major involvement in graduate student learning, enthusiastic and empathic critical appraisal of students’ work, timely assessment of students’ research programs including program advisory committee meetings and prompt turnaround of written work, and careful attention to a critical path laid out for students’ research.