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Pathologist Angela Wandinger-Ness Receives 2020 AAAS Lifetime Mentor Award

Angela Wandinger-Ness of the University of New Mexico is the recipient of the 2020 AAAS Lifetime Mentor Award. | Neil Orman/AAAS

Angela Wandinger-Ness, associate director for education, training and mentoring at the University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center and endowed professor in the UNM School of Medicine’s pathology department, will receive the 2020 Lifetime Mentor Award presented by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The AAAS Lifetime Mentor Award honors 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.

For nearly three decades — seven years at Northwestern University and 20 years at UNM — Wandinger-Ness has shown dedication to increasing the diversity of students pursuing doctoral studies in pathology and developing the skills necessary for her trainees to become successful scientists and effective mentors in their own right.

“Dr. Wandinger-Ness was an incredible mentor to me, providing personal and professional guidance throughout my time in her laboratory and beyond,” wrote Mary-Pat Stein, professor of biology at California State University, Northridge, in a letter to AAAS. “As my career at CSUN has progressed, many of the lessons that I learned from Dr. Wandinger-Ness have stuck with me as I have mentored students in my own laboratory.”

In 2004, when Stein was preparing to drive from a postdoctoral fellowship at UNM to another fellowship in Connecticut, Wandinger-Ness came to her house. She gave Stein and her mother, who was along for the cross-country ride, a set of audiobook CDs to play in the car.

“Of course, it was a murder mystery steeped in science that she knew I would enjoy,” Stein wrote. “This kindness and caring for me and my mom, whom she had met previously, exemplifies the thoughtfulness that Dr. Wandinger-Ness showed to all her trainees.”

For nearly three decades, Wandinger-Ness has shown dedication to increasing the diversity of students pursuing doctoral studies in pathology. | Allan Stone/University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center

Through her research and publications on GTPase enzymes and their potential as drug targets for treating cancer, Wandinger-Ness has engaged dozens of underrepresented minority trainees, including 15 bachelor’s and master’s students who have gone on to earn doctorate degrees, 26 Ph.D. students and 53 postdoctoral fellows. In all, she has mentored approximately 270 scientists.

Wandinger-Ness also directs two training programs at UNM that are funded by the National Institutes of Health. One of the initiatives provides Native American high school students and undergraduates with cancer research experiences, while the other builds the teaching and mentoring skills of women and underrepresented minority postdoctoral fellows.

The AAAS Lifetime Mentor Award was established in 1991. In considering nominations, the award committee looks at quantitative data and letters of support for evidence of how a researcher’s work resulted in departmental or institutional change with regard to the granting of doctorate degrees to underrepresented students. Such efforts may take the form of providing psychological support, helping students to publish their work, providing career guidance, and more. The award includes a $5,000 honorarium, a commemorative plaque and complimentary registration and travel to the AAAS Annual Meeting.

Wandinger-Ness will receive the award during the 186th AAAS Annual Meeting in Seattle, Wash., on Feb. 15, 2020.


Wandinger-Ness, left, directs a program that provides Native American high school students and undergraduates with cancer research experiences. | Robin Johnston/University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center