Why Mentorship

"If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." - Isaac Newton

It is no secret that success in a career—and in one’s life- is in no small part due to having a great mentor. We all know we need them; some of us have been fortunate enough to have them; and I have had the great, good fortune of being able to be one for a host of young, talented students. Anyone who has shared this role of mentor can attest to the personal satisfaction that comes from watching a young person reach their full potential.

Mentoring, however, goes far beyond that; an effective mentor is someone who cares and what an enormous honor it has been to care for these individuals! It turns out that you don’t have to know Avogadro’s number or the chemical formula for paraformaldehyde; to be a great mentor means you have to know and care about each person.

A lot of these young people put a fantastic amount of pressure on themselves to achieve, and some worry that they won’t be able to leave out their dreams. Our program is here to say, “it’s not as hard as you think and we’re here to help you see that.” What an incredible honor to be a part of making a person’s dreams come true. Thank you for your belief and support in our program!

Meet Our Mentors

Jill Helms, DDS, PhD
Director, Stanford STARS Internship

I’ve heard that the only way to accomplish great things in life is to love what you do. I love being a part of someone’s learning experience. 

Each year, the “professor” in me becomes the student. This year, I learned from my young colleagues how to be more flexible and creative when it came to online education. I was schooled in the ways of tiktok and zoom dancing. I witnessed- and attempted to imitate- their resilience and determination to learn, even while a global pandemic raged. Whenever I feel depressed or anxious about the state of our nation, of our world- I look to these STaRS interns and my faith and hope is restored. Their future is so bright, we’re gonna all have to wear shades!


Igor Pilawski
Mentor, Stanford STARS Internship

Sure, STaRS Summer Internship is about introducing current topics of regenerative medicine to our mentees. But it is more than that! It is also a place where laughter reigns, friendships form, mentors get pranked, and where exclusion and barriers do not exist. In a time of tumult and uncertainty, we hope to make STaRS a place where everyone is welcome and every opinion matters.     


Masaki Arioka
Mentor, Stanford STARS Internship

The position as a mentor for the STaRS program is very responsible, because to address a scientific research with a mentor in this program might allow interns to notice an enthusiasm for science or medicine sleeping in them. In fact, I felt pleasure and responsibility to be able to influence the lives of young people when I heard that many of my students who had gone through this program were pursuing a medical path. While I was teaching the intern as a mentor, I rather learned a lot from them such as how we can build a strong team, what I lack as a leader. Especially, it was wonderful that I got energy from interns because they were energetic and passionate about this program. Therefore, the experience of a mentor in the STARS program is very valuable.


Jinlong Chen
Mentor, Stanford STARS Internship

Mentoring in the STaRS program has been a wonderful experience for me. I enjoy being a teacher, a guide, a coach, and a motivator. But rather than those roles, I see myself more as a friend keeping my interns company to take a glance at the real research life and explore with them. I feel great satisfaction seeing them develop an interest in science. On the other hand, being a mentor offered me the chance to learn by teaching. Oftentimes, I am amazed by their capability of mastering a skill in a very short time and inspired by their creative thoughts.”


Jie Pan
Mentor, Stanford STARS Internship

It was my first time to be a mentor, actually and I didn't know how to do it at the beginning. It has been said that the best way to learn is learn from the  best. I was fortunate because Jill is a great mentor, so kind and  and passionate. Learning from the other mentors, I started to figure out how to guide Tabatha in a productive way. Over the summer we communicated better and better, and I also learned that from listening to her, I had more creative ideas myself. This was inspiring. 

The best quote, I think, is “Teaching is Learning”. The experience as a mentor makes me more confident and ethusiastic about teaching.


Zhijun Li
Mentor, Stanford STARS Internship

I’ve learned a lot from my life mentor- Dr. Helms who was instrumental in shaping me. So, share what I have learned with somebody is the greatest joy in my life. Since joining the Science, Technology, and Reconstructive Surgery (STaRS) internship program in 2017, I have served as the primary mentor for numerous high school, undergraduate, and medical students. As a mentor, I help younger students by sharing my life and career experiences in medicine and biomedical research. I hope that my experiences can help young mentees in navigating their future career. Also mentoring isn't just one way. It, like most avenues of life, travels with reciprocity. I absolutely learned a lot from my lovely students. Every year is special. First-year was dancing, the second year was drawing, and the third year was slang. I really appreciate this mentorship between me and my students. I will miss you all.  

Thank you for giving me a such a great opportunity to be a mentor in the STaRS. It is the most beautiful experience in my life. 


Xue Yuan
Mentor, Stanford STARS Internship

Every year I look forward to teaching and mentoring the students in the STaRS program; it has been one of the biggest highlights of my summers in the Helms lab. Seeing the talent and enthusiasm the students have is inspiring. As a mentor, I am encouraged by the growth and curiosity of my students, and I take pride and joy in their achievements and watching how far they come. Not only has this program been an amazing opportunity for me to pay forward the mentorship I have benefited from, but I also reap the rewards of everything my students teach me. We push each other to think about problems from different perspectives, and together we can creatively arrive at new solutions and understandings.