By Michael Haederle

Honored Twice Over

UNM's Angela Wandinger-Ness Receives 2020 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring

The last out-of-town trip Angela Wandinger-Ness, PhD, took before the COVID-19 lockdown was to Seattle, where, on February 15, she received the 2020 Lifetime Mentor Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Now Wandinger-Ness, a professor in The University of New Mexico Department of Pathology, who serves as associate director for education, training and mentoring and the Victor and Ruby Hansen Surface Endowed Professor in Cancer Cell Biology and Clinical Translation at the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center, has received the 2020 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring.

Wandinger-Ness was among 12 researchers who were honored with the award on August 3 – this time virtually – in an online ceremony presided over by Robert Mayes, program director for Excellence Awards in Science and Engineering at the National Science Foundation.

The award, billed as “the Nation's highest honors for mentors who work with underrepresented groups to develop fully the Nation's human resources in STEM,” comes with a $10,000 honorarium.

“It’s incredibly humbling to be the recipient of these really prestigious awards this year,” she said. “It’s really with the support of the trainees and mentees who feel you’ve made a difference in their lives. It’s deeply meaningful.”

Wandinger-Ness, who joined the UNM faculty in 1998, studies GTPases, a family of enzymes that operate as molecular switches in many different cellular functions. She currently is looking for way to translate her work into potential therapies for ovarian cancer. Her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, American Heart Association, National Institutes of Health, Department of Defense and private foundations.

She has twice been singled out by her colleagues at the UNM Health Sciences Center for the annual Excellence in Research Award and was nominated for the Presidential award by Valerie Romero-Leggott, MD, the HSC’s vice chancellor for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Wandinger-Ness has made mentorship a centerpiece over the course of her 33-year career, having personally mentored 74 students and fellows in her laboratory. Her trainees, from five continents, bring their diverse abilities, culture, educational opportunity, gender, race/ethnicity and socioeconomic backgrounds to solve complex problems. Her mentees encompass more than 370 students, postdoctoral fellows and junior faculty.

She has also been honored by being elected a fellow of the AAAS, the world’s largest scientific society, in 2012.

“You become part of a network of people who are like-minded, and therefore you can connect more broadly across the country and have a bigger impact,” she says of her membership in the organization. “You can use that capital to help your trainees more, to connect more, to learn more and bring new things to your work area.”

Categories: Comprehensive Cancer Center, Diversity, Education, School of Medicine, Top Stories