Angela Wandinger-Ness, PhD, professor in The University of New Mexico Department of Pathology, is being honored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) with its 2020 Lifetime Mentor Award.
She will receive the award, which recognizes her for mentoring some 270 scientists over her 29-year teaching career, at the association’s annual meeting in Seattle on February 15.
Wandinger-Ness is both the 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.
“I am deeply humbled by being nominated and receiving this award,” she said, adding that she is especially moved to know that she was nominated for the award by people she trained and mentored who are now respected scientists 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 nominating letter to the AAAS.
The AAAS Mentor Award honors individuals who during their careers demonstrate extraordinary leadership to increase the participation of underrepresented groups in science and engineering fields and careers. These groups include women of all racial or ethnic groups African American, Native American and Hispanic men and people with disabilities.
Wandinger-Ness has twice been singled out by her colleagues at UNM for the annual Excellence in Research Award. In nominating her for the Teaching and Learning category in 2019, Cancer Center CEO Cheryl Willman, MD, hailed her “unwavering commitment to scholarship in teaching and mentoring trainees at all levels of learning.”
Willman added, “Dr. Wandinger-Ness is a devoted and compassionate research mentor who invests her time to nurture and develop a more diverse scientific community and scientific leaders for our future.”
Wandinger-Ness was elected a fellow of the AAAS in 2012. Her research has focused on 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.
Wandinger-Ness joined the UNM faculty in 1998 after seven years at Northwestern University. Through the years, she mentored dozens of minority trainees, including 15 bachelor’s and master’s students who went on to earn doctorate degrees, 26 PhD students and 53 postdoctoral fellows.
She was recruited to UNM by Mary Lipscomb, MD, then-chair of the Department of Pathology. “She was an absolute 200% advocate for me,” Wandinger-Ness says. “She thought I walked on water, which I knew I didn’t . . . that was the first time I felt that I understood what it meant to have somebody who ‘gets’ you.”
Wandinger-Ness, whose parents emigrated to the U.S. following World War II, recalls growing up feeling the animosity many people still held toward Germans.
“I was assimilated,” she says. “That’s not true for a lot of people who come as immigrants. For me, it is deeply personal to train diverse trainees of every stripe to see that they should be welcome and part of this diverse community.”