The Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program at Marshall University’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine is proud to announce that Dr. Maria Serrat has been awarded an MU-ADVANCE fellowship and mini-grant. Dr. Serrat is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anatomy and Physiology who researches within two biomedical science research clusters: Neuroscience and Developmental Biology and Toxicology and Environmental Health Science. The Marshall University news release below highlights Dr. Serrat and the other award winners. Congratulations, Dr. Serrat!
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Marshall University’s MU-ADVANCE program has named four faculty fellows and awarded five mini-grants as part of the program to enhance the research and professional development of female faculty members in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.MU-ADVANCE is funded through a National Science Foundation (NSF) initiative called “Advancement of Women in Academic Science and Engineering Careers,” or ADVANCE for short. The national program supports projects, like the one at Marshall, to help institutions transform long-standing practices and academic climate that discourage women from pursuing careers in high-tech fields.
MU-ADVANCE faculty fellowships, intended for tenure-track faculty members, are awarded competitively based on a formal research proposal submitted by each applicant. Each of the four faculty fellows selected this year will receive $15,000 to be used for her research, and $5,000 for a senior research collaborator to help foster her professional development and success while preparing for tenure.
This year’s faculty fellows include Dr. Kristi Fondren, assistant professor in the Department of Sociology, who uses the Appalachian Trail and its hikers to analyze how humans develop relationships with the environment; Dr. Hyoil Han, associate professor in the Department of Computer Science, who is working to develop a system to help biomedical researchers quickly access evidence-based literature regarding breast cancer; Dr. Elizabeth Niese, assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics, who will use her award to further her work in algebraic combinatorics and to provide research opportunities for math students at Marshall; and Dr. Maria Serrat, assistant professor in the Department of Anatomy and Pathology, whose research uses real-time imaging to determine the impact of environmental factors like nutrition, temperature and physical activity on bone elongation.
Serrat said, “The MU-ADVANCE fellowships allowed me to establish and maintain a formal collaboration with a senior faculty mentor from Cornell University, whose expertise in biophysical imaging was critical to the progression of my microscopy research here at Marshall.”
For Serrat, this newest grant is a continuation of the faculty fellowship award she received last year. She is also one of five MU-ADVANCE mini-grant recipients this year.
The mini-grants are awarded in amounts up to $1,000, and fund tuition for professional development courses, registration and travel expenses for national meetings, development of grant proposals, interdisciplinary research efforts and manuscript preparation.
All five of this year’s mini-grant recipients are assistant professors at Marshall and, in addition to Serrat, include Dr. April Fugett-Fuller and Dr. Jennifer Tiano of the Department of Psychology, Dr. Anna Mummert of the Department of Mathematics, and Dr. Bin Wang of the Department of Chemistry.
“The best thing about the fellowships and mini-grants, in addition to the research funding, is that they provide a structure for outlining your professional goals and a means for documenting when and how you will achieve them,” added Serrat. “MU-ADVANCE recognizes that it is hard being a new assistant professor, and their funding opportunities have been invaluable to my professional development by helping me articulate and carry out a research plan alongside my teaching and service commitments.”
According to Dr. Marcia A. Harrison, professor of biological sciences at Marshall and the principal investigator on the MU-ADVANCE grant from NSF, the fellowships and mini-grants complement the recruitment, retention and policy efforts undertaken at the university over the past five years as part of the program.
“MU-ADVANCE’s support of networking has been crucial in enhancing faculty career development,” Harrison said. “The fellowships and mini-grants provide networking opportunities by funding travel to professional conferences and workshops, and laboratory visits to connect faculty members with other professionals worldwide.
“The program also sponsors campus networking events to foster collegiality and collaborations at Marshall, and has brought in experts to teach faculty critical career advancement skills like writing, delegation and time management.”
According to the NSF, women continue to be significantly underrepresented in almost all science and engineering fields. In fact, although 41 percent of all faculty members at Marshall are women, only 27 percent of science, technology, engineering and mathematics faculty members are female.
Research indicates that the lack of women’s full participation in science and engineering academic careers is unrelated to their ability, interest and technical skills, but is more often a systemic consequence of the culture and organizational structure at institutions of higher education. Difficulty balancing work and family demands also plays a key role.
The MU-ADVANCE program was established in 2006 with a $1.2 million NSF grant. In 2009, Marshall’s program was awarded funding for an additional two years, funded in part through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.