Skip to content

Katherine J. Franz, 2016 Dean’s Award Winner

Katherine J. Franz, Ph.D.

Dean’s Award for Excellence in Mentoring
Alexander F. Hehmeyer Professor of Chemistry



Since becoming a faculty member at Duke in 2003, Katherine J. Franz has mentored trainees ranging from high school students to postdoctoral fellows. She has advised 21 graduate students (including seven currently in her lab) and six postdocs. She has also advised 30 undergraduate students. Among those undergraduates, 14 were co-authors on peer-reviewed publications from Franz’s lab, and eight graduated with distinction for completing a senior thesis based on research conducted with her.

Franz, who earned her Ph.D. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, conducts research focused on elucidating the structural and functional consequences of metal ion coordination in biological systems. She has 61 publications and holds nine patents. In 2014, she was named a fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, as well as a Bass Society Fellow. In addition to her research, she has also been recognized for her teaching, including the 2009 Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award.

Franz also has been active in service to her department, The Graduate School, and the university. She is the associate chair of the Department of Chemistry and a member of The Graduate School’s Executive Committee of Graduate Faculty. She also has served on the Provost’s Diversity Task Force, the Women in STEM Steering Committee, the Academic Council Diversity Task Force, and the 2013 provost search committee.


In Her Words

“When I think of a good mentor, I think of somebody whose impact on your life is significant in the sense that maybe you wouldn’t be the same person, or wouldn’t have the same position, or wouldn’t have taken the same opportunities if you hadn't had the relationship with the mentor.”

On the importance of having multiple mentors


On guiding students along career paths different than her own


In Their Words

Excerpts from Franz’s Nominations

“Individual meetings with Dr. Franz were an important part of my training. I specifically recall a meeting that lasted several hours, where Dr. Franz worked with me to solve a difficult problem in my research. Her patience and determination in helping me work through a seemingly impossible problem was inspirational and motivated me to break through similar barriers in the future.”

“She befriends her students and takes a genuine interest in their lives outside of the lab. She recognizes the importance that personal relationships play in the dynamics of a lab and achieving success.”

“Kathy always has a way of stretching her students in a way that I try to emulate today. She never missed an opportunity to nominate her students for local and department awards. … There are no words to describe the feeling of being noticed by your mentor for the good work you do, to know that you were selected because you were the most qualified at the time.”

“Kathy has always encouraged us to “dream big” and to follow wherever our science may take us. My project in particular is vastly different from what our lab typically does, but Kathy has allowed me to pursue it because I’m passionate about it. Stepping outside of her field and comfort zone didn’t intimidate Kathy; she embraced the opportunity to support the creativity of one of her students. Her fearlessness is very admirable and inspires me to adopt a similar approach to my own science.”


List of 2016 Dean's Award recipients