Seven UNM professors win Women in STEM awards for research

A group of UNM professors has received the 2016 Women in STEM awards honoring their research in diverse areas of inquiry including brain stimulation and substance abuse, sustainable food and energy, gender and kinship systems, engineering bones and ligaments, modeling planetary fault lines, and the media’s effects on public views.

The winners are the first in a competition that began this year after UNM in 2015 received a donation through the Chicago Community Foundation. The donor requested that the money be used to support research by women STEM faculty. UNM established an endowed account and dedicated the endowment earnings to women STEM faculty.

The Women in STEM (WIS) awards competition was developed through a collaboration between Provost Chaouki Abdallah,  Vice President for Research Gabriel Lopez, and the ADVANCE at UNM program, a new five-year project that promotes women STEM faculty.

The WIS awards seek to assist women STEM faculty at the assistant and associate professor levels to develop new interdisciplinary research and research collaborations. Awards are intended to support new research, travel to visit research collaborators, and for interdisciplinary workshops. Proposals are solicited, reviewed, and then winners selected by a committee consisting of full professor women STEM faculty. The Office of the Provost and the Office of the Vice President for Research provide support.

“The selection committee really enjoyed reading the first applications to the WIS program and I congratulate the winners, who had some stiff competition. We are delighted to be able to highlight the work being done by these outstanding faculty,” said Julia Fulghum, director of ADVANCE at UNM.

“ADVANCE at UNM is deeply appreciative that Provost Abdallah and VPR Lopez are in support of women STEM faculty developing and overseeing this award program, with help from their offices,” Fulghum said.

“Hearty congratulations to the winners.  We’re delighted to have this gift from the Chicago Community Foundation, to support the remarkably varied and exciting work our women faculty are producing.  We’re very proud of them all, and excited to watch how ADVANCE at UNM helps us help women in STEM succeed,” Abdallah said.

Katie Witkiewitz, a UNM psychology associate professor, said the award will help her examine new ways of helping heavy drinkers.

“Receiving the Women In STEM award is more significant to me than numerous NIH grants I have received. Most notably, this award is allowing me to break ground in a new field that is currently dominated entirely by male scientists. The award is allowing me to buy all new equipment for my lab to conduct exciting new research,” Witkiewitz said.

This year’s seed awards went to:

Christina Salas of the Mechanical Engineering and Orthopaedics Departments for her work Engineering the Bone-Ligament Interface through 3D Bioprinting/Electrospinning. Her project targets delineating the interrelationship between a hybrid material fabrication technique, the structure of each material phase, and multi-scale mechanical properties of a biocomposite to serve as a 3D scaffold for regeneration of the bone-ligament interface.

Katie Witkiewitz of the Department of Psychology for her work Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention and Transcranial Direct Current Brain Stimulation to Reduce Heavy Drinking. Her project focuses on integrating a non-invasive form of brain stimulation, transcranial direct current stimulation, with mindfulness meditation as a treatment for individuals who want to reduce heavy drinking. The study will also examine neurobiological mechanisms of change following the combined brain stimulation and mindfulness meditation treatment.

Lindsay Worthington of Earth and Planetary Sciences and Mousumi Roy of Physics and Astronomy for their work What Lies Beneath the Dunes? Geophysical Modeling of Subsurface Structure in White Sands National Monument. The project focuses on the influence of subsurface geology and earth structure on dune migration patterns in the world’s largest gypsum sand dune field.

Jingjing Wang in UNM’s Department of Economics for her work Integrated Modeling and Policy Evaluation for Sustainable Food, Energy, and Water Systems: A Case Study of the Dairy Industry in New Mexico. Her project focuses on using the dairy industry in New Mexico as a case study to investigate the food-energy-water (FEW) nexus at a regional scale, model economic and policy linkages across the FEW systems, and propose policy tools for advancing the FEW nexus in arid-land regions.

This year’s travel award goes to Jessica Feezell in the Political Science department for her work Experimental Analysis of Framing Effects on Blame Attributions and Attitudes Towards Muslim Americans. Her project focuses on the ways that news frames influence how the public identifies the causes of, and attributes blame for, contemporary problems in the United States.

Siobhan Mattison of the Anthropology Department won a workshop award for her work The Dynamics of Gender in Matrilineal Kinship Systems. Her project focuses on gender roles in systems of kinship that are biased toward females. Her workshop in February 2017 will bring together leading experts in the fields of kinship and gender to evaluate current thoughts and evidence surrounding the relative importance of different caregivers in matrilineal kinship systems and to shed light on the causes and outcomes of female autonomy more generally.

Mattison said she’s excited about winning the award.

“I’m thrilled for the support of the Women In STEM and the Advance at UNM project, especially to address a question about how women and men contribute differently to systems where women form the economic and domestic core,” she said.

The competition for the 2017 WIS awards will be announced in December.