2016 APS Mentor Award

Yaacov Trope

New York University

Yaacov Trope is well known for offering constant and complete attention to each and every one of his mentees. In fact, Trope’s legendary regard for his students has sometimes led even those outside his supervision to seek him out.

“In the first lab meeting that I attended, I [was] immediately struck by an observation that every senior graduate student that I admired and respected — the very best at NYU’s social psychology program at the time — was sitting in that room,” writes Kentaro Fujita. “Most of them were not his primary students; instead, they were working on secondary projects with him or just interested in the high-level discussions that were common around the table. They were there because of the culture of openness, excellence, creativity, innovation, warmth, and nurturance that Yaacov cultivates.”

Others note that despite his obvious talent for attracting the best and brightest, Trope is remarkably modest, always focusing on the science rather than on his own achievements. He always insists on rigorous experimental designs. Mentees describe his desire to see experiments done the right way and a shared sense that trust in the process will yield results.

Most importantly, say Trope’s former students, they know that they can continue to turn to him with questions or concerns, sure that he will offer the same encouragement and insight into scientific reasoning that he did when they were working with him.

“These days (20 years later), when I meet Yaacov in his office at NYU, it is still a complete mystery to me how it is possible that he seems to have all the time in world to solve a problem with me,” writes APS Fellow Ayelet Fishbach. “I conclude it’s because he deeply cares about these problems, so much that the rest of the world ceases to exist.” And perhaps even more importantly, “Yaacov actually thinks of his students as kin. We are children, siblings, aunts and uncles, and so on. It’s a rapidly growing and very welcoming family.”