Celebrating an amazing scientist and mentor

It was a great pleasure to visit Arizona State University last weekend to celebrate Ken Dill’s 70th birthday. Thanks very much to fellow Dill group alumni Steve Presse, Banu Ozkan, and Kings Ghosh for organizing.

Ken was my postdoctoral advisor and is an amazing mentor. I owe much of who I am and what I’ve been able to accomplish to Ken. He taught me a great deal, not only about science, but also about people and institutions. Ken’s approach is positive and focused around building consensus and finding mutual benefit, and I try my best to emulate him in this regard.


It was also striking just how many amazing scientists have come through Ken’s lab. It is quite an impressive group that I’m proud to be a part of, with dozens of successful researchers with careers in both academia and industry. Also noteworthy was the overall quality of the presentations. Ken owes much of his success to the ability to communicate complex ideas to broad audiences, and it’s clear that this skill has transferred to those who have worked with him.


The event was a great chance to catch up with old friends and make some new ones. We sometimes forget how important community is to all of us. Science is portrayed as cold and objective, but in practice it’s truly a human endeavour—we depend on each other to advance knowledge. Ken reflected on his own scientific upbringing and how it takes a village to raise a scientist. He also stressed the responsibility that we bear to be defenders of knowledge and of institutions, like universities, in the age of alternative facts.

There is also a special Festschrift issue of J. Phys. Chem. B in Ken’s honour.

Oh, and the weather was pretty good.