Principal Facilitators

The Center for the Improvement of Mentored Experiences in Research (CIMER) relies upon a talented and experienced team of Principal Facilitators to facilitate our workshops and work with our institutional clients.

Lori Adams, PhD (University of Iowa)

Lori Adams, PhD serves as both a Lecturer and Program Director at the University of Iowa (UI) where she directs several undergraduate research programs, is the instructor-designer for numerous STEM focused student development courses including an adaptation of “Entering Research”. Dr. Adams earned a BS in Crop Science from the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana, a PhD in Genetics from Texas A&M in College Station, TX, and was a post-doctoral research scientist at the Boyce Thompson Institute in Cornell and then later at University of Wisconsin-Madison. At the UI, Dr. Adams co-directs the NSF-funded LSAMP-IINSPIRE Alliance program as well as the NIH-funded Iowa Biosciences Academy (IBA) IMSD program whose mission is to increase the diversity of students earning PhDs in the Biosciences. Lastly, Dr. Adams is the Director of the Latham Science Engagement Initiative and is piloting a program that facilitates undergraduate interactions across STEM disciplines and challenges students to communicate the broader impact of scientific research to non-science audiences. Because her work revolves so heavily around undergraduates doing research in laboratories on campus, she has a strong interest in being a part of the movement to create a mentoring culture on campus. For the past three summers, she has implemented the 8-week “Entering Mentoring” summer seminar series for graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and faculty that are mentoring undergraduate researchers. Dr. Adams is recognized as a National Academies Education Mentor in the Life Sciences and a NIH National Research Mentoring Network Master Facilitator.


Pam Asquith, PhD (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Pam Asquith, PhD is the Program Lead for ICTR cross-CTSA mentorship initiatives. In this role, she supports ICTR’s mentorship work in the School of Medicine and Public Health and other emerging campus efforts, and facilitates career training opportunities for graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and junior faculty and facilitates train-the-trainer workshops at the national level. Dr. Asquith has been involved with research mentoring initiatives at UW-Madison since 2009. Pam has been a Master Facilitator for the National Research Mentoring Network and with the Center for the Improvement of Mentored Experiences in Research. Pam is co-author of Mentor Training for Clinical and Translational Researchers  and Mentoring Up for Postdocs. She is also co-author on several manuscripts reporting on the merits of formal mentor training and trained facilitators. Prior to her current role, Pam served as the Administrative Director of the ICTR Research Education and Career Development Core (now Workforce Development) and subsequently served as Administrator of the Health Disparities Research Scholars Postdoctoral Training Program and Associate Director of Mentoring Programs in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology. She returned to ICTR in her current role in August of 2020.


Joseph Ayoob, PhD (University of Pittsburgh)

Dr. Ayoob is an Associate Professor in the Department of Computational and Systems Biology and the Faculty Fellow for the Center for Mentoring at the University of Pittsburgh.  He also serves as an online mentor for the National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN), has been named an NRMN Master Mentor, and is an NRMN Certified Facilitator of Entering Mentoring and Entering Research Training.  Dr. Ayoob has over a decade of experience directing programs for the mentoring and training of graduate, undergraduate, and high school students, and since 2019, has been offering mentor and mentee training to the Pitt community and beyond.


Diana Azurdia, PhD (University of California, Los Angeles)

Dr. Diana Azurdia serves as the Director for Recruitment and Inclusion for Graduate Programs in Bioscience (a consortium of seven PhD programs with over 800 students and faculty) at the University of California, Los Angeles. In this role, Dr. Azurdia leads the development and implementation of a strategic plan to enhance diversity in the biomedical graduate student population. She uses her platform as a National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN) Master Facilitator to promote inclusive mentoring practices at her home institution where she is the principal investigator of the UCLA Entering Mentoring Training Program which provides mentor and mentee training to scientists at all career stages.  Additionally, Dr. Azurdia works with the Center for the Improvement of Mentored Research Experiences (CIMER) to deliver research mentor training and facilitator training nationally. She earned her Ph.D. in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry from UCLA and graduated with a B.S. in Biochemistry from CSU Los Angeles. Dr. Azurdia is a first-generation Guatemalan-American and the first in her family to attend college. As the beneficiary of broadening participation programs, she believes that initiatives that promote access to STEM degrees are important for equal representation of all identities in science, the creation of innovations that serve all communities and income equity.  


Bruce Birren, PhD (Broad Institute)

Bruce Birren is an Institute Scientist at the Broad Institute and Director of the Broad’s Genomic Center for Infectious Diseases. He founded the Broad’s Diversity Initiative and an institute-wide mentoring program. He facilitates workshops for faculty and trainees to increase the effectiveness of research mentoring relationships, with a focus on culturally aware mentoring. He also designs and leads workshops and longer-term interventions to help organizations promote a culture of inclusion. He works with the Scientific Mentorship Initiative of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and serves as a Master Facilitator for the National Research Mentoring Network and the Center for the Improvement of Mentored Experiences in Research.


Sherilynn Black, PhD (Duke University)

Sherilynn Black, PhD is the Associate Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement at Duke University. She provides leadership in faculty advancement and development for pretenure, mid-career, and non-tenure system faculty. She has expertise in creating interventions to increase representation and equity among faculty and students across disciplines, and leads work nationally to catalyze systemic change in academia. Dr. Black is an Assistant Professor of the Practice of Medical Education and engages in social neuroscience research on the effectiveness of interventions to promote diversity and equity in academia. She served as the founding Director of the Office of Biomedical Graduate Diversity for Duke University School of Medicine and was a Principal Investigator of the NIH-IMSD funded Duke Biosciences Collaborative for Research Engagement (BioCoRE) Program. She holds national appointments with NIH, HHMI, AAMC, Burroughs Wellcome Fund, the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, and the Society for Neuroscience. She currently serves on the Advisory Committee to the Director of NIH (Working Group on Diversity) and has won a number of distinctions, including the Samuel Debois Cook Society Award, the Deans Award for Inclusive Excellence in Graduate Education, and the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Award. She was named one of Cell‘s ‘Most Inspiring Black Scientists in America’. Dr. Black earned her BS in Psychology and Biology with highest honors at UNC-Chapel Hill as a Morehead-Cain Scholar. She earned her PhD in Neurobiology at Duke University and completed additional studies in educational statistics and intervention assessment in the School of Education at UNC-Chapel Hill.


Janet L. Branchaw, PhD (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Janet L. Branchaw is an Assistant Professor of Kinesiology in the School of Education and the Faculty Director of the Wisconsin Institute for Science Education and Community Engagement (WISCIENCE) at the University of Wisconsin–Madison (UW–Madison). She earned her B.S. in Zoology from Iowa State University and her Ph.D. in Physiology with a focus on cellular neurophysiology from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. After completing postdoctoral training and a lectureship in undergraduate and medical physiology at the UW–Madison’s School of Medicine, she joined the University’s then Center for Biology Education, which she now directs as WISCIENCE. Her research as a faculty member in the Department of Kinesiology and her programming work at the Institute focus on the development, implementation, and evaluation of innovative approaches to undergraduate science education, with special emphasis on undergraduate research, assessment of student learning, and broadening participation in science.

Dr. Branchaw led development of the original and second edition of the Entering Research curriculum for undergraduate and graduate research trainees, as well as development and validation of the Entering Research Learning Assessment (ERLA). She co-developed the second edition of the Entering Mentoring curriculum to train the research mentors of undergraduate students in STEM and the adapted curriculum to train the mentors of graduate student researchers in the biomedical sciences. She has developed and directed Research Experience for Undergraduate (REU) and Undergraduate Research and Mentoring (URM) programs funded by the National Science Foundation and served as the Chairperson of the Biology REU Leadership Council. She served on the National Academies Consensus Study Committee that generated the “Undergraduate Research Experiences for STEM Students: Successes, Challenges, and Opportunities” report (2017), and served as the Associate Director of the National Institutes of Health’s National Research Mentoring Network’s (NRMN) Mentorship Training Core. Dr. Branchaw currently oversees Mentee Training Initiatives at the UW–Madison’s Center for the Improvement of Mentored Experiences in Research (CIMER) and is leading UW–Madison’s Howard Hughes Medical Institute Inclusive Excellence project to catalyze institutional change to support 2- to 4-year STEM transfer students.


Angela Byars-Winston, PhD (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Angela Byars-Winston is an Associate Professor in the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW) Department of Medicine and Director of Research and Evaluation in the UW Center for Women’s Health Research. She is a counseling psychologist whose work has focused on testing the validity of theoretical models to explain and predict academic and career outcomes using social cognitive theoretical approaches. Her research interests include the examination of cultural influences on academic and career development, especially for racial and ethnic minorities and women in the sciences, engineering, and medicine. Since 2010, Dr. Byars-Winston has been PI on a multi-year NIH R01 grant to identify and measure critical factors in mentor training interventions for mentors in biological science. A renewal for this R01 grant was awarded in 2014 with Dr. Christine Pfund to focus on research mentor cultural diversity awareness. Dr. Byars-Winston has primarily mentored graduate-level students in the behavioral sciences for both academic and clinical careers. She has facilitated several mentor and mentee training workshops, focusing specifically on trainings to build culturally responsive mentoring and mentee research self-efficacy. Dr. Byars-Winston is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association and a member of the Board of Higher Education and Workforce (BHEW) of the National Academy of Sciences.


Philip Cheng, PhD (Henry Ford Health System)

Philip Cheng, PhD is an Assistant Scientist at the Henry Ford Health System. Dr. Cheng is a licensed clinical psychologist, and has expertise in sleep and circadian medicine. His program of research examines the biopsychosocial dimensions of sleep and circadian disorders (e.g., insomnia, shift work disorder), with a focus on translation science that produces feasible and widely accessible interventions. Dr. Cheng is currently funded by the NIH to further characterize pathophysiological phenotypes of shift work disorder.

Dr. Cheng is experienced in facilitating research mentor training and mentee training nationally, via both the synchronous online environment as well as in-person workshops. He has worked with both the National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN) from 2014 to 2019 and with the Center for the Improvement of Mentored Research Experiences (CIMER) since 2018. Dr. Cheng also has specific interests in cultivating culturally aware and culturally responsive mentoring through an experientially-based curriculum, and has curricular expertise in the Culturally Aware Mentoring module offered through NRMN. He is also developing curriculum that target issues specific to the LGBT+ communities. His style and philosophy of social justice education draws from a dialogue-based approach, cultivated through his experiences with University of Michigan Program on Intergroup Relations. Dr. Cheng received his Bachelor of Science in Biopsychology, Cognition, and Neuroscience, and his doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the University of Michigan. 


Kelly Diggs, PhD (Kelly A. Diggs Consulting, LLC)

Kelly Diggs, PhD is the founder and CEO of Kelly A. Diggs Consulting, LLC, a consulting and media company whose goal is to broaden accessibility to science careers through science outreach, diversity training, and professional development. 

She is also a Master Facilitator with the National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN) and a Certified Trainer with the Center for the Improvement of Mentored Experiences in Research (CIMER), where she leads both in-person and virtual workshops for research mentors across career stages and disciplines nationwide. She has led trainings at national scientific conferences for the American Society for Microbiology, the Society for Neuroscience, the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students, and others as well as numerous colleges, universities, and medical institutes. Her curricular expertise includes Entering Mentoring, Facilitator Training for Entering Mentoring, and Culturally Aware Mentoring.

Dr. Diggs earned her BS in Biology from Alabama State University (2005) and her PhD in Biology and Biomedical Sciences from Washington University in St. Louis (2010). She was also the recipient of the NIH-Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award, Chancellor’s Diversity Graduate Fellowship, and a National Cancer Institute Postdoctoral Supplement. In her previous role, she served as the Education and Mentoring Fellow with the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) and spearheaded an NSF-funded program to develop ASM’s mentoring capacity, to advance investigator-educator collaborations and interdisciplinary research, and to broaden participation of underrepresented individuals in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. 


Lindsay Frazier, MD ScM (Harvard Medical School)

Dr. Frazier is Professor of Pediatrics and an Institute Physician at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. She received her MD from Dartmouth Medical School, and completed residency and fellowship at Boston Childrens Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Dr. Frazier holds a master’s degree from the Harvard Chan School. Dr. Frazier is an expert in germ cell tumors, and leads the Malignant Germ Cell International Consortium comprised of members from 15 countries spanning all medical and scientific disciplines. Dr. Frazier is passionate about the mentorship of young investigators and received the Mentor of the Year award from the Childrens’ Oncology Group.  Dr. Frazier was trained by the CIMER group and has since implemented it at DFCI, Boston Childrens and to national audiences via the several oncology societies. Dr. Frazier co-leads the Dana-Farber faculty committee on Inclusion, Diversity and Equity.

Email: Lindsay_Frazier@DFCI.HARVARD.EDU

Evelyn Frazier, PhD (Florida Atlantic University)

Evelyn Marques Frazier, Ph.D., is a National Research Mentoring Network Master Facilitator for the Entering Mentoring and the Entering Research curricula, University Instructor, and Coordinator of the Honors Research Thesis Pathway Honors Program in the Department of Biological Sciences at Florida Atlantic University. The undergraduate research programs were developed under an NSF-Undergraduate Research and Mentoring award (2009-2013) to increase the participation of underrepresented groups in undergraduate research and create a culture of research among undergraduate students. The program has trained over 200 students in 10 years. She is now expanding undergraduate research training to freshman and transfer students through the NSF-LEARN Program (2016-2020) in the College of Science. Her institutional goal is to build upon successful programs and bring more research opportunities to undergraduate students at FAU through NSF and NIH training grants. Her research interests also involve developing educational programs for FAU students and the community, to promote the conservation of the two threatened species that occur in the FAU Boca Raton campus, the gopher tortoise and the burrowing owls. She is an insect ecologist focusing on insect plant-interactions with experience in South American tropical ecosystems and the conservation of gopher tortoises in Florida. Dr. Frazier is also a Summer Institute on Scientific Teaching Alumni (2006, 2007, 2012) and has modified her courses to promote active learning. She has been teaching introductory biology courses with large enrollment classes for over 20 years and has been changing her courses to incorporate more active learning in the classroom. Her other research interests are in biology education and developing undergraduate research mentoring programs. 


Steve Lee, PhD (Stanford University)

Steve Lee is the Assistant Dean of Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity in the School of Humanities and Sciences. In this role, he leads efforts in the area of student inclusion, diversity, and equity through recruiting, retaining, and supporting a diverse student body, particularly at the graduate student level.

He also serves with NRMN (National Research Mentoring Network) and CIMER (Center for the Improvement of Mentored Experiences in Research) as a Principal Facilitator to provide trainings for mentors and mentees, and served in an NIH review committee for TWD (Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity) programs for four years.

Previously, Steve was the Graduate Diversity Officer for the STEM Disciplines at UC Davis, the assistant director for a graduate diversity program at Northwestern University, and on the faculty at Roosevelt University and Wheaton College. He earned a PhD in organic chemistry from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and BS in chemistry from Carnegie Mellon University.


Kermin J. Martínez-Hernández, PhD (K-21 Consulting LLC. & St. John Fisher College)

Kermin J. Martínez-Hernández is the founder of K-21 Consulting LLC and an Associate Professor in the Chemistry Department at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, New York. He is an active NRMN & CIMER Facilitator across the U.S. and Puerto Rico. He has vast experience facilitating: Entering Mentoring, Facilitator Training for Entering Mentoring, and Culturally Aware Mentoring. He has also done synchronous online research mentor training (RMT) to mentors participating in the NSF Research Experiences of Undergraduate (REU) programs including graduate students, postdocs, and faculty. He has led trainings at national scientific conferences including the American Society for Microbiology, the Society for Neuroscience, Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), and others as well as several colleges and universities.

He teaches general chemistry classes and organizes teacher workshops about differentiated instruction and problem-based learning. His chemical education research focus is on the assessment of the implementation of problem-based learning at the middle, high school, and college levels. He is conducting research in nanotechnology with undergraduate students, his research project is “Encapsulating Ibuprofen using Beeswax Microspheres”. He is currently the Principal Investigator of the Robert Noyce INSPIRE Scholarship Grant – Inspire and Prepare Noyce Scholars to Teach in Rural Environments (NSF Award #​​1852690).

He has also developed other workshops and panel sessions for SACNAS related with mentoring such as “Expand Your Network: How to Identify Advisors, Mentors, Sponsors for a Successful Career” and “Stories from the Other Side of the Blurry Tunnel, It Gets Better after All!” where he provides advice and mentoring to undergraduate/graduate students. He holds degrees from Purdue University (Ph.D.), University of Puerto – Mayagüez (M.S.), and University of Puerto – Mayagüez (B.S.). 


Melissa McDaniels Head Shot 2021Melissa McDaniels, PhD (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Melissa McDaniels is Associate Executive Director & Scientist at the Center for the Improvement of Mentored Experiences in Research (CIMER, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is a co-investigator and community advancement manager for the NIH-supported National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN, She is also leading a project as a part of the American Physical Society’s NSF INCLUDES Inclusive Graduate Education Network (IGEN). From 2013-2020, in her role as member of the Michigan State University Graduate School leadership team, Dr. McDaniels worked to support graduate students and postdocs at Michigan State as they develop their capacities as postsecondary instructors and mentors. From 2008-2012, McDaniels served as Director of Michigan State University’s NSF ADVANCE Grant where she spearheaded the institution’s efforts to diversify the faculty in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields. In this role she was responsible for the development and implementation of MSU’s new faculty mentoring policy. Prior to working at MSU, she held full time positions at Northeastern University, Boston College, and National Geographic Society. McDaniels has over twenty years of experience in graduate student and faculty development, undergraduate and graduate teaching and learning and organizational change. She has had the pleasure of doing research and consulting domestically and internationally. McDaniels holds degrees from Michigan State University (Ph.D.), Boston College (M.A.), and University of Michigan (B.A.).

Rick McGee, PhD (Northwestern University)

As Associate Dean for Professional Development, Rick McGee’s primary role is to assist junior faculty in their initiation of their first faculty position in which research is the primary or secondary role. Much of this involves facilitation of small groups working on research proposals over several months. Dr. McGee also leads the Collaborative Learning and Integrated Mentoring in the Biosciences (CLIMB) for PhD students during their first 3 years of training. From a research perspective, they have 2 major threads of NIH-funded research. An empirical side where they are using annual in-depth interviews to follow and understand career decision making of a highly diverse group of biomedical PhD students from the start of their PhD through completion and beyond. The applied line of their research is testing a novel group coaching model to augment what PhD students and postdocs receive from research mentors. The goal of this research is to see if it is possible to improve the persistence and success of underrepresented minors and women into faculty careers.


Anna B. O’Connell (O’Connell Consulting Services, LLC)

Anna is a higher education consultant at ABO Consulting and a Master Facilitator with the Center for the Improvement of Mentored Experience in Research at UW-Madison (CIMER). For more than a decade Anna served as Director of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Biological and Biomedical Sciences Program where she was responsible for admissions, first year training for new PhD students, and student affairs for all biomedical students. In her consulting business Anna continues to focus on STEM training climate. She works with STEM departments, faculty, and students on mentorship evaluation, wellbeing for trainees, and equity at the individual laboratory and departmental level. She is currently working to understand what shapes the day-to-day climate in research laboratories and how this can be leveraged to enhance trainee wellbeing and persistence in STEM. As a Master Facilitator with CIMER Anna leads mentorship education workshops and consults with institutions on building a culture of mentorship across the organization.


Email:  | Twitter: @annaboconnell

Web:  | LinkedIn: @annaboconnell

Christine Pfund, PhD (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Christine Pfund, Ph.D. is a senior scientist with the Wisconsin Center for Education Research and the Department of Medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW). Dr. Pfund earned her Ph.D. in Cellular and Molecular Biology, followed by post-doctoral research in Plant Pathology, both at University of Wisconsin-Madison. Dr. Pfund’s work focuses on developing, implementing, documenting, and studying interventions to optimize research mentoring relationships across science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine (STEMM). Dr. Pfund co-authored the original Entering Mentoring curriculum and co-authored many papers documenting the effectiveness of this approach. Dr. Pfund is the principal investigator of the National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN) Coordination Center. She is also director of the Center for the Improvement of Mentored Experience in Research at UW-Madison (CIMER). She is a member of the National Academies committee that recently published the consensus report and online guide, The Science of Effective Mentorship in STEMM.


Brian Popp, PhD (West Virginia University)

Brian was born and raised in Dayton, OH. He received his B.S. and M.S. degrees in Chemistry from Wright State University in 2001 and 2002. He continued his graduate work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison under the mentorship of Prof. Shannon Stahl and received his PhD in 2007. In 2008, he moved to Rice University as a J. Evans Attwell-Welch Postdoctoral Fellow in the laboratory of Prof. Zach Ball. He began his independent career in the C. Eugene Bennett Department of Chemistry at West Virginia University in 2011. He was promoted with tenure to associate professor in 2019. Since joining WVU in 2011, Brian has established an active, externally funded research group focused on developing new and improving existing synthetic methods relevant to the production of chemicals for commodity, agrochemical, and pharmaceutical industries. He received the prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER award in 2018 and the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund Doctoral New Investigator award in 2013. Dr. Popp has participated in research training activities at the undergraduate and graduate level. He was named Director of Graduate Studies for the Department of Chemistry in July 2019. He was awarded, as lead investigator, a National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) site in Chemistry in 2019. Prior to this, he was the research director and assistant administrator for the same site from 2016-2018.


Amy Prunuske, PhD, (The Medical College of Wisconsin-Central Wisconsin)

Amy Prunuske is an Associate Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the Medical College of Wisconsin-Central Wisconsin. Dr. Prunuske teaches and mentors first and second year medical students and is the co-director of the Physician in the Community program.   Her research interests are diverse and focus on medical education and community-engagement in rural areas.  She is a Master Facilitator with the National Research Mentoring Network.


Amber Smith, Ph.D. (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Amber R. Smith is the Associate Director of the Wisconsin Institute for Science Education and Community Engagement (WISCIENCE) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison). She earned her B.S. in Biology from Carroll College and her Ph.D. in Plant Breeding Plant Genetics from the University of Wisconsin – Madison.

As a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Biology Education (now WISCIENCE), Dr. Smith developed first-year transition programs for Biology students at UW-Madison before continuing her professional development work as an instructional consultant in the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching (CRLT) at the University of Michigan. At CRLT she led inclusive teaching professional development trainings to graduate student instructors, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty. Dr. Smith returned to UW-Madison to direct campus-wide programming for research mentor and mentee training through WISCIENCE. In this role, she supports undergraduates to find and succeed in research opportunities through a series of professional development seminars and workshops using the Entering Research curriculum. Additionally, she directs an NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates program at UW-Madison to broaden access to research opportunities for underrepresented students. Dr. Smith offers mentor training opportunities for graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty mentors through the Entering Mentoring seminar, Culturally Aware Mentor training, and tailored mentor/mentee training workshops for graduate training programs. Dr. Smith co-authored the second edition of the Entering Research curriculum to support undergraduate and graduate trainee development. She is helping to lead the transfer student success programming for UW-Madison’s Howard Hughes Medical Institute Inclusive Excellence project to support 2- to 4-year STEM transfer students.


Christine Sorkness, RPh, PharmD (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Christine Sorkness, RPh, PharmD, is UW Institute of Clinical and Translational Research (ICTR) Senior Associate Executive Director and oversees the Translational Endeavors efforts. She serves as co-director of the ICTR Collaborative Center for Health Equity. She has a special interest in health disparities in asthma, in which she has conducted both clinical efficacy and comparative effectiveness trials. Dr. Sorkness is affiliated with the UW Allergy, Pulmonary, and Critical Care Division, with more than 25 years of NHLBI-funding as either a co-investigator or co-principal investigator. She is a co-investigator with the NIAID Inner City Asthma Consortium. A long-standing member of the UW Health Sciences IRB, she has also served on several NHLBI-appointed Data and Safety Monitoring Boards for multi-center national trials. Dr. Sorkness holds professorships in both the UW School of Pharmacy and the School of Medicine and Public Health. She provided instrumental leadership in support of the UW Mentoring Trial and the development of a legacy web-based mentoring resource. The implementation and dissemination of the mentoring initiatives at UW ICTR have benefited from Dr. Sorkness’ extensive mentoring experience and long-standing dedication to training diverse clinical and translational researchers. Dr. Sorkness is a past Lead Team Member with the CTSA Workforce Domain Task Force. She is an investigator with the NIGMS National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN), and is a Master Facilitator.


Emily Utzerath, MA (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Emily Utzerath has over 15 years of experience in the professional development field. She is known for transforming chaos into calm. Her superpower is connecting ideas, people, and spaces. Emily is an architect of systems that foster transparency, inclusivity, and efficiency. She applies this approach to developing programs, managing projects, and fostering communities of practice. 

As an Assistant Director at the University of Wisconsin’s School of Medicine and Public Health, Emily works across multiple projects including the UW Institute for Clinical and Translational Research, the NIH-funded National Research Mentoring Network, and the Center for the Improvement of Mentored Experiences in Research. She has co-authored papers on increasing cultural awareness in mentoring and building a sustainable national infrastructure to expand mentor training.

Prior to joining the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, she was the Assistant Director of an early-career faculty development program at UW, a Historian and Museum Educator at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and an Art Curator at a contemporary art space in Munich. 

Emily is a trained life & leadership coach, facilitator, and yoga teacher, which deeply informs her work of advancing the science of mentorship locally and nationally. 

Emily has a master’s degree in German Studies from the University of Colorado Boulder and a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is based in Houston, Texas.


Etta Ward (Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis)

Etta Ward is the Assistant Vice Chancellor for Research Development in the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research at Indiana University- Purdue University Indianapolis. Ward has led research development programs and operations in the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research for twenty years. Ward’s primary role is to advance the IUPUI research mission through faculty research and professional development. She promotes effective mentoring as a strategy for personal and professional success, which has been central to many efforts and grown well beyond the boundaries of academia. As a Certified Facilitator of Entering Mentoring, Ward has built a body of work around effective mentorship – especially targeting minoritized populations. She promotes competency-based and culturally aware mentoring strategies that bolster inclusive mentoring cultures. Ward views this work as her professional calling, with potential to impact mentoring generations into the future. She values opportunities to pay-it-forward by sharing her insights and passion with diverse audiences from all career stages, disciplines, and professions.


Sonia Zárate, PhD (Howard Hughes Medical Institute)

Sonia Zárate, is the Senior Program Lead for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Scientific Mentorship Initiative (HHMI SMI). The SMI builds on the success of the Mentorship Skills Development course offered to advisers of the Gilliam Fellows and is charged with establishing and providing professional development in effective mentorship for all HHMI scientists ( Prior to her role in the SMI, Dr. Zárate lead HHMI’s Gilliam Fellowships for Advanced Study program and worked alongside the Center for the Improvement of Mentored Experiences in Research (CIMER) to deliver the Mentorship Skills Development course. A Master Facilitator for the National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN) and a Principal Facilitator for CIMER, Dr. Zárate sees mentorship development as a driver for culture change with the potential to make the scientific enterprise diverse, equitable and inclusive. Prior to her current appointment at HHMI, Sonia was the Director for the Office of Undergraduate Research at the University of San Diego (USD) and the Associate Director for the Undergraduate Research Center-Sciences at UC Los Angeles. Dr. Zárate is immediate past President for the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (; a 48-year-old multi-disciplinary scientific society that sits at the intersection of science, culture, and community. Dr. Zárate is a trained molecular biologist; her graduate studies focused on defense signaling in plant innate immunity and her postdoctoral work was in Chemical Ecology.