UNM Awarded $15.6 Million Grant to NIH to Hire Biomedicine Faculty and Drive Inclusive Excellence: UNM Newsroom

A substantial grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will spur inclusive excellence efforts at the University of New Mexico and support the hiring of nine diverse faculty in biomedical research at the College of Arts and Sciences.

The $15.6 million award over five years at the University is part of the NIH Common Fund Institutional Faculty Recruitment for Sustainable Transformation (FIRST) program. The award given to UNM and four other universities was announced by the NIH.

“Through the FIRST program, these award-winning institutions will create self-reinforcing communities of scientists committed to diversity and inclusive excellence through the recruitment of early-career faculty who are competitive for assistant professorships (or equivalent) and have a demonstrated commitment to promoting diversity and inclusive excellence,” according to an NIH announcement.

“The institutions aim to foster lasting institutional culture change and positively impact faculty development, retention, progression and eventual promotion,” the announcement reads.

At UNM, an all-female interdisciplinary team of scientists from diverse STEM fields will work closely with College of Arts and Sciences administrators on hiring and focus on retaining and supporting current faculty.

The program, called UNM FIRST, specifically aims to promote sustained inclusive excellence through the hiring of a diverse cohort of early-career faculty in the fields of neuroscience and data science.

The project leaders are Jane Ellen Smith, professor of psychology, and Irene Salinas, professor of biology, who will co-lead the administration of the grant (# U54CA272167).

Salinas and Barbara Rodriguez, senior vice-rector for academic affairs, will co-lead the faculty development stream.

Distinguished psychology professor Katie Witkiewitz and Julia Fulghum, director of Advance at UNM, will co-lead the evaluation component of the grant.

Others working on the project include associate professor of organizational behavior Lisa Marchiondo, assistant professor of population health Shannon Sanchez-Youngman and assistant professor of psychology Margo Villarosa-Hurlocker. The project also involves an external advisory board made up of six colleagues from across the country who have expertise in neuroscience or data science and who have been successful in securing NIH funding and mentoring underrepresented biomedical science researchers.

UNM Provost James Holloway said the grant will benefit UNM’s research efforts in a variety of ways.

“This support from the NIH is a huge plus for New Mexico and UNM,” he said. “A diverse faculty generates more ideas and better ideas, and those ideas translate into the intellectual property that starts businesses; treatment methods that will address substance use; the analytical tools that allow us to extract wisdom from data, and the concepts that explain the universe.

UNM Vice President for Research Ellen Fisher said the project recognizes the work UNM has done and will continue to do on faculty diversity.

“Strategic hiring in the broad field of biomedical sciences promises to transform the research landscape at UNM through innovative interdisciplinary research programs that will enhance our research infrastructure and provide students with hands-on experiences currently unavailable,” said she declared. “Perhaps most importantly, the ability to hire multiple faculty members as an interdisciplinary cohort provides an integrated community that will foster and enhance collaboration and peer mentorship for success.”

The hires will include two faculty members each in the departments of Biology, Chemistry, and Psychology and one hire each in the departments of Mathematics and Statistics, Physics and Astronomy, and Speech and Speech Sciences. hearing.

Hiring will take place over the next two years with hiring clusters focused on neuroscience and data science.

Arash Mafi, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said the award will expand opportunities for the university to support diverse faculty.

“This award enables UNM and the arts and sciences to achieve the critical goal of having a more diverse faculty who can ask broader questions in their scholarship and reach wider audiences in their teaching and community outreach. “, did he declare. “In addition to hiring exciting new colleagues, the professional development plans for this award will provide new opportunities for current and future faculty. We look forward to helping our new colleagues develop productive and enjoyable careers at UNM.

Smith said she became interested in applying for the grant because the NIH has encouraged the use of science-based approaches to recruiting and retaining diverse faculty.

The project “also underscored the need to embed any promising findings into the general culture of the university so that UNM can support such hires in the future,” she said.

“UNM has been committed to diversifying its faculty for some time now, and this grant provides exceptional additional opportunities to do just that successfully: a powerhouse of faculty to lead the effort with me and Dr. Salinas, a new cluster recruitment approach to recruiting faculty, incredible financial support for setting up research labs, a series of carefully designed mentoring and training programs for new recruits, a carefully designed assessment process to determine what aspects of our strategy are working and a dedicated group of UNM administrators who are 100% behind the effort.”

Salinas said the combination of advancing neuroscience and data science while implementing institutional change is powerful.

She is thrilled with the project for several reasons, including that the team members are all women.

“The first is to make sustained institutional changes that make UNM a diverse and welcoming environment for all faculty. I really want this change to spread to all levels of our institution. We need to understand that academic achievement and scholarly legitimacy can take many forms. As part of this award, we will celebrate just that, recruiting, welcoming and promoting new biomedical teachers from diverse backgrounds,” she said.

“This is a huge achievement for UNM as very few awards have been given out and hopefully what we are achieving is also huge as it is our duty to serve a very diverse student body and we must represent all walks of life. It is a statement that everyone belongs to STEM and that success in academia can come from diverse backgrounds. We are very grateful to contribute to the NIH mission to diversify biomedical research and the NIH workforce.

This is the second round of awards for the program, which is funded by the NIH Pooled Fund. Other funding recipients include Northwestern University in Chicago; the University of California – San Diego; the University of Maryland – Baltimore and the University of South Carolina at Columbia. Grant funding totals more than $75 million over five years.

Although there is a pressing need to boost diversity in NIH-funded universities, “progress in achieving this goal has been seen primarily with trainee populations, leaving biomedical research faculty diversity as a ongoing and recalcitrant challenge,” according to the NIH.

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