Shaffer selected for the 2020 Craig Award for Excellence in Teaching


Congratulations to Dr. John Shaffer (HUGEN '08) of the Department of Human Genetics on winning the 2020 Craig Award honoring faculty who have excelled in the teaching and mentoring of students. Shaffer was nominated by students and chosen by a committee of students and past Craig awardees.

Here are just a few comments made by students who nominated Shaffer for the 2020 Craig Award:

"Dr. Shaffer is a major asset to GSPH. He is one of the professors most sensitive to student needs and questions, and he has the special talent for reframing even a stupid question into an interesting discussion without embarrassing anyone."

"If you've had a class with Dr. Shaffer you know how much care and attention he devotes to lectures and to student learning. I still remember how great he was at explaining difficult or counter-intuitive concepts with clarity, how thoughtfully he designed the class slides and homework, how he checked individually with students to be supportive, and most of all, how kind he was during all interactions with students."

"I can say that in addition to being one of the smartest people I know, (Dr. Shaffer) is also one of the most kind and most articulate, which is an incredibly rare combination in a teacher. I feel incredibly lucky to have worked with him."

"Dr. Shaffer is one of the best teachers I’ve had at GSPH. His lectures are well-organized, informative and clear. He is excellent at articulating difficult concepts while ensuring that everyone understands his explanation of those concepts. He is also kind, encouraging, and approachable - making it obvious that he cares about students."

John R. Shaffer received his BS in biology from The Pennsylvania State University and his PhD in Human Genetics from the University of Pittsburgh. He then pursued postdoctoral studies in statistical genetics before joining the faculty of Pitt Public Health in 2011. He is currently an assistant professor in the Departments of Human Genetics and Oral Biology and an affiliate faculty member in the Center for Craniofacial and Dental Genetics.  

Dr. Shaffer teaches one of the core classes in HUGEN: Human Population Genetics, and in 2014 he was the recipient of a Provost’s Innovation in Education Award to build educational software simulating human evolutionary forces and phenomena for this class. 

In addition to classroom teaching, Dr. Shaffer has served as a research mentor to four post-doctoral trainees, ten graduate students, and nine undergraduate students, and has been active in Pitt’s Training and Experimentation in Computational Biology summer research program. His research is focused on understanding the genetic architecture of complex human phenotypes, with particular interests in craniofacial and dental genetics, oral health disparities, and recovery from brain injury. His research has been funded by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research and National Human Genome Research Institute. In recognition of his research accomplishments, Dr. Shaffer has been the recipient of a number of awards including the Herbet S. Rosenkranz Award for Public Health Research (Pitt Public Health), the William J. Gies Award for Biological Research (the International and American Associations for Dental Research), and the Giddon Award for Distinguished Research in the Behavioral Sciences (International Association for Dental Research).

Find out more about the award and past winners at


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