Richard Leahy

USC Viterbi School of Engineering
Keck School of Medicine of USC
Richard Leahy
Photo by Steve Cohn Photography

Graduate students are the life blood of the university. They do most of the actual research. I consider myself privileged to be able to work with students who are among the brightest of their generation just as they reach the peak of their ability to learn and conduct original research. The multi-year, one-on-one relationship between student and advisor is rare in the modern world and, frankly, a daunting responsibility. The impetus to publish is balanced by the need to ensure quality research. Allowing students the freedom to explore a topic—and to fail—must be balanced by the practical need for research productivity to justify grant support. And of course, all students have wildly different strengths and interests. I’ve mentored students from all over the world (Turkey, Iran, China, Italy, India, Tunisia, Russia, Argentina, Brazil…even the US)—reassuringly their individuality far outweighs their cultural backgrounds. My approach to mentoring is to encourage each student to discover his or her own path while also challenging him to justify and present his work at lab meetings and eventually at international conferences. In engineering, a career in academia is not necessarily the ultimate goal of our students, and the fact that graduates of my lab have also gone on to very successful careers in biomedical imaging, aerospace, social media, the financial sector, and business makes me think I must have done something right. That so many of them still want to talk to me is just the icing on the cake!