Wandinger-Ness received a B.S. degree in Biochemistry (1979) from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA. She earned her PhD (1985) in Biochemistry from the University of California, Los Angeles, CA. Following receipt of her PhD degree she completed postdoctoral training at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, Heidelberg, Germany (1986-1991). She took an appointment as Assistant Professor, in the Dept. of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Cell Biology, at Northwestern University, Evanston, IL (1991-1998). Wandinger-Ness has been on faculty in the Dept. of Pathology at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center from 1998 to the present.

Personal Statement

My expertise on small GTPases in ovarian cancer and discovery of first-in-class allosteric and competitive guanine nucleotide binding inhibitors along with my extensive education leadership qualify me to serve as (1) a full member in the Cellular and Molecular Oncology (CMO) Program and (2) the Associate Director of Education Training and Mentoring for the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center (UNMCCC) and leader of the Cancer Research Training and Education Coordination Core (CRTECC).

I am a Professor of Pathology and have been continuously funded as a PI since 1992 by federal and private foundations, and have many years of service as a reviewer. My laboratory, in collaboration with UNMCCC members Sklar (CT) and Hudson (CMO), identified Rac and Cdc42 as new biomarkers and therapeutic targets in ovarian cancer, which are also relevant in breast, colon, head and neck among other cancers.

I led two high-throughput screening projects involving cheminformatics and virtual screens that identified novel and repurposed drugs as small molecule inhibitors of Rho and Ras GTPases, led to pending and issued patents, and motivated two clinical trials 1, 2. Women in a small retrospective study who received ketorolac for its clinically indicated use in pain relief had significantly improved survival. A new collaborative grant with L. Cook (CCPS) will extend these findings.

New studies with UNMCCC members Hudson and Gillette identify roles for Rac1 and/or Cdc42 GTPases in enabling ovarian tumor cells to be harbored in specialized niches, which in turn serve as reservoirs of tumor cells for relapse. In addition to a strong record of research productivity and innovation, my experiences include extensive education leadership. I currently direct a graduate teaching certificate program, a Cancer Biology Concentration and the UNMCCC CURE program encouraging Native American high school and undergraduate students to work in cancer research.

I am the PI for the Academic Science Education and Research Training (ASERT) program; one of more than 20 national IRACDA programs for training postdoctoral diversity scholars. I have a track record of working with minority serving institutions statewide that have exclusive Native American or high minority enrollments.

I personally trained 73 students and fellows in my laboratory, and served as an advisor/mentor for 131 students, 46 fellows and 11 junior faculty. Former trainees have gone on to residencies, fellowships, faculty positions and industry and secured independent funding. In sum, I have a longstanding track record of successfully and productively completing research projects and supporting diverse trainees to independent careers.

Areas of Specialty

Interrelationships between cellular function and disease pathology

GTPase targeted small molecules and their potentials in cancer therapy
Kidney repair and regeneration

Education and Mentoring as PI of multiple extramural training programs

Administrative and Leadership Expertise as Assistant Dean for Graduate Studies; President New Mexico Academy of Science, Vice Chair for Research


Promoting Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Good Clinical Practice
NSF Becoming the Messenger
Alan Alda Communicating Science

Achievements & Awards

The Victor and Ruby Hansen Surface Endowed Professor in Cancer Cell Biology and Clinical Translation


Distinguished Teaching Award, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of California, Los Angeles, 1981

National Institutes of Health (NIH) Research Service Award. Predoctoral Trainee (Genetics), 1984-1985

Chancellor's Graduate Research Grant. University of California, Los Angeles, CA, 1984

National Institutes of Health (NIH) Research Service Award. Postdoctoral Fellow (General Medical Sciences), 1986-1989

European Molecular Biology Laboratory Fellow, 1989

Cancer Research Institute Fellow, 1990-1991

National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Awardee,1995-2000

AHA Established Investigator Awardee,2000-2003

Medical Education Scholar, University of New Mexico School of Medicine, 2000-present

Faculty Teaching Excellence Award in Graduate Education, University of New Mexico School of Medicine, 2002

Nominee National Science Foundation (NSF) Distinguished Teaching Scholar, 2003

Nominee Regents Professor 2007, 2008

Creative Awards Recipient, Science and Technology Corporation. University of New Mexico, 2011

ASCB Pressbook Selected Abstract (One of nine selected from among ~2000 abstracts presented at the American Society for Cell Biology Meeting for special recognition in Pressbook and You Tube video), 2011

DAAD Visiting Professor Max-Planck Institute of Molecular Physiology (October), 2011

Elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2012

Finalist, Dean, Office of Graduate Studies, University of New Mexico, 2012

Women in Technology Award, New Mexico Technology Council, 2012

DAAD (German Academic Exchange) Research Ambassador, 2013

Nominee University of New Mexico Research Award (withdrew from consideration), 2014

Innovation Award Recipient, STC.UNM. University of New Mexico, 2015

Nominee University of New Mexico Research Award, 2015

Nominee University of New Mexico Research Award (withdrew from consideration), 2016

Innovation Award Recipient, STC.UNM. University of New Mexico, 2016

Innovation Award Recipient, STC.UNM. University of New Mexico, 2017

Senior Faculty Research Excellence Award for Basic Science, University of New Mexico Research Award, 2017

Innovation Award Recipient, STC.UNM. University of New Mexico, 2018

Science2StartUp Semi-finalist: One of 60 out of 170 total applicants selected for second round for May 2019 Venture Capitalist pitch held in Boston, MA, 2018

Innovation Fellow, a special honor accorded annually to a leader in innovation and entrepreneurship. STC.UNM. University of New Mexico, 2019

Research Excellence Award in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, University of New Mexico Research Award, 2019

Lifetime Mentor Award, American Association for the Advancement of Science. A special honor for researchers who, for 25 years or more, have positively impacted the atmosphere of a department or institution by mentoring students from communities that are underrepresented in STEM fields, such as women, African American, Native American and Hispanic men, and people with disabilities, 2020

Innovation Award Recipient, STC.UNM. University of New Mexico, 2020

Recipient U.S. Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring, 2019/2020

NMAS Outstanding Contributions to Science in New Mexico award, 2020

Innovation Award Recipient, STC.UNM. University of New Mexico, 2021




  • English
  • German

Courses Taught

It is my educational philosophy to support STEM workforce diversification, through education and training practices that are inclusive, individualized and experiential.

A pivotal moment in actuating my abilities to motivate student learning and persistence came through completion of a yearlong Medical Education Scholars (MES) program. I had training and practical experience as a graduate teaching assistant and knew how to reframe concepts that were hard and guide students in successful problem solving. I leveraged the idea that undergraduates would benefit from guided reading of the scientific literature and peer group discussions; implemented through an Early Stage Career Investigator Award from the National Science Foundation. However, it was through MES that I first learned the pedagogical principles that motivate adult learning. With my new toolkit I began to deliberately connect learning objectives to assessment and to strategically reinforce lifelong learning skills in the classroom. I systematically developed new inquiry-based courses, implemented graduate course and program reforms, and built training programs for learners from the high school student to the post-doctoral fellow levels. The effectiveness of the strategies is validated through an Academic Program Review, annual institutional Curriculum Assessments and Reviews, and the impact on hundreds of students who have persisted and pursued successful careers in science and medicine. MES also empowered me to take on more global leadership as past Assistant Dean for Graduate Studies, and current elected member of the AAMC GREAT* Steering Committee and Associate Director of Education, Training and Mentoring for the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center.

As a mature scientist and educator I have three goals: the first is to enable engaged, experiential science learning, the second is to promote near-peer learning and professional skill building to advance individual career goals, and the third is to strive for scholarly excellence. To realize the first goal, I have worked collaboratively to establish courses and internship programs that enable students from diverse backgrounds to engage in thinking about or solving current scientific questions and to work in a relevant laboratory or community context. To realize the second goal, I have established pipeline programs that engage diverse trainees across a spectrum from the high school to the junior faculty levels. Engaging trainees as near-peer mentors serves to integrate the practices of teaching and learning science among peers. Such communities of practice also serve to honor diversity of experience and thought, encourage network building, role modeling, career and professional skill building. Finally, I realize the third goal by never losing my roots as a practicing scientist, which requires hypothesis driven, evidence based practice that is built on the work of other scholars. In my teaching and my science, I incorporate best practices from the work of others, and use learner centered 'SMART'# learning objectives to guide rigorous assessment of interventions. Collectively, the impact of achieving the three goals is measured through trainee presentations at scientific meetings, authorship on publications, and independent grant awards. As documented in my CV, several hundred learners have honed their own interests, and acquired the skills to persist and pursue productive careers in science and medicine. I strive to maintain connections through online platforms and take great pride in the manifold successes of former trainees.

*American Association of Medical Colleges Graduate, Research, Education and Training. #Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely

Research and Scholarship

Delineating the interfaces between membrane trafficking and signaling - which are responsible for maintaining normal cell architecture and function - and determining how their disruption leads to organ dysfunction and cancer are core research emphases. We integrate quantitative measurement, chemical biology, and systems biology to probe and selectively target GTPase regulated pathways governing endocytosis, cell polarity, adhesion and migration. We have established Rho GTPases as high value, druggable targets in ovarian cancer. Novel Rab and K-Ras GTPase targeted compounds have potential utility for neurologic and kidney diseases, and cancer. In parallel, we have developed strategies for kidney regeneration by integrating stem cell biology, and tissue engineering.