Stefano Forli, PhD

Commended for “exceptional knowledge and patience” and a “genuine passion to provide his absolute best in mentoring” 

In the tenth year of recognizing exceptional faculty mentorship at Scripps Research, Stefano Forli was named the 2022 Outstanding Mentor by students and postdoctoral associates who have benefited from his guidance. Forli said he was humbled to receive the award, adding, “We have the privilege and responsibility of helping the next generation of scientists unravel their full potential. At the same time, our wonderful mentees always teach us something new, and push us to do more and do better.” 

Trainees who nominated Forli lauded a laboratory environment “where collaboration and communication are high priorities” and one so rewarding that lab members who had the option to perform their computational studies off campus regularly chose to commute to the Forli lab “just to spend time together.” 

Forli’s mentorship extended beyond the lab, as he regularly joined his trainees for lunch. “This serves multiple purposes,” one nominator observed. “Firstly, it promotes access to Stefano for less formal advising on questions such as recommendations on seminars to attend or, more frequently, the proper methods for cooking risotto and other Italian dishes.” (Forli is a native of Italy and earned his doctoral degree at the University of Siena.) “In fact, some of the most important breakthroughs in my own research have come as a product of lunchtime discussions.” 

Many trainees mentioned Forli’s steady encouragement as key to their own success. “I struggled a lot with confidence at first, but Stefano got in the habit of always giving me a pep talk before committee meetings,” wrote one nominator. He has “a genuine passion to provide his absolute best in mentoring his students and anyone else who may need his help,” wrote another. 

An associate professor in the Department of Integrative Structural and Computational Biology, Forli combines medicinal chemistry and computational modeling to guide the design of new drugs. He helped develop AutoDock, a suite of open-source software designed to predict how small molecules will bind to a receptor, and he is leading the development of the next generation of these valuable tools. Forli is also a faculty advisor to the Skaggs Graduate School of Chemical and Biological Sciences at Scripps Research. He joined the institute in 2008.