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News & Press: Events

2020 Distinguished Service Award Recipient Announced

Tuesday, December 17, 2019  
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December 17, 2019

The recipient of the National Postdoctoral Association (NPA) 2020 Distinguished Service Award (DSA) is Lisa Schwiebert, Ph.D., professor of cell, developmental and integrative biology and senior associate dean for graduate and postdoctoral affairs at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). The DSA represents appreciation for an individual or entity that has demonstrated either a profound, sustained, or leadership contribution to improving the postdoctoral experience. The DSA will be presented at the 18th Annual Conference, March 27-9, 2020.

Schwiebert is professor of cell, developmental and integrative biology, and senior associate dean for graduate and postdoctoral affairs at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). As a faculty member, Schwiebert maintains a strong research and training record. Collectively, she has published over 100 manuscripts, abstracts, reviews and book chapters in the areas of asthma, cystic fibrosis, and immunology. Her laboratory was the first to demonstrate the effects of aerobic exercise on cellular and molecular responses in a mouse model of allergic asthma. These seminal findings led to the initiation of clinical trials that examined the effectiveness of aerobic exercise as an adjunct therapy for the treatment of asthma in adult and pediatric subjects. With regard to training efforts, Schwiebert has served as the primary mentor for graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and clinical fellows. Throughout these efforts, she prepared trainees to enter a variety of career paths, including biopharma, research policy, teaching and academic research. She has also served / is serving on more than 20 graduate student dissertation and postdoctoral career development committees and is preceptor on five UAB NIH-funded training grants. In addition, she has been instrumental in mentoring junior faculty through the development and facilitation of the annual UAB Mentoring Academy since 2013. During her career, Schwiebert has been well-known for her mentoring and collaborative efforts. She was recognized formally for these efforts upon receipt of the 2015 UAB Woman Faculty Member of the Year, the 2015 UAB School of Medicine Senior Faculty Mentoring Award, the 2015 Dr. Sam Brown Bridge Building Award from the UAB School of Public Health, and the 2016 UAB Graduate School Dean’s Award for Excellence in Mentorship.

In her role as senior associate dean, Schwiebert and her staff work with graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, faculty members, and administrators campus-wide to facilitate and enhance trainee recruitment, oversight and career development. She has developed and also directs a year-round curriculum, including courses in lab management, grant writing, translational science and job skills, and oversees award programs that emphasize career preparation for basic science and clinical postdoctoral fellows as well as graduate students. As an example of her administrative efforts, Schwiebert led the development of the NIH-funded IRACDA program, the Mentored Experiences in Research, Instruction and Teaching (MERIT) Program; she currently serves as its program director. The IRACDA-MERIT program provides teaching experiences to postdoctoral fellows at UAB in partnership with institutions that serve under-represented students within Alabama. She also represents UAB at the national level through her service on the Association of American Medical Colleges – Postdoctorate Leaders Section and on NIH training grant review committees. Under her leadership, The Scientist consistently ranked UAB in the top ten of academic institutions for postdoctoral training from 2010-2013; in 2013 the final year of the survey, UAB ranked first among all academic institutions nationwide.

Schwiebert was nominated by an impressive number of 18 individuals: Hope Amm, assistant professor; Etty (Tika) Benveniste, Ph.D., senior vice dean for basic sciences, School of Medicine, associate vice president for medicine and basic sciences, Charlene A. Jones Endowed Chair in Neuroimmunology, professor, Department of Cell, Developmental and Integrative Biology, co-director, UAB Multiple Sclerosis Center, associate director, Basic Science Research, O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center; Burthia E. Booker, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow; James F. Collawn, Ph.D., professor and vice chair for research and faculty development, Department of Cell, Developmental and Integrative Biology; Camerron M. Crowder, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow; Jessica M. Faupel-Badger, Ph.D., MPH, program officer, IRACDA programs at the National Institute of General Medical Science, NIH, 2014-2018, elected member, AAMC Great Group postdoctorate leaders section, 2014-2017; Tabitha M. Hardy, Ph.D., assistant dean for student development and academic affairs, director, Preparing Future Faculty and Professionals, advisor, Underrepresented Professional and Graduate Student Organization; Melissa LaBonty, Ph.D., UAB postdoctoral association chair 2019-2020, postdoctoral fellow; Keith Micoli, Ph.D., assistant dean, postdoctoral affairs; Heather Ray, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow; Graham Ripley McGinnis, Ph.D., assistant professor; Brandon Roberts, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow; Will Ryan, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow; Jessica Scoffield, Ph.D., assistant professor, Department of Microbiology; Christine M. Sestero, Ph.D., associate professor of biology; Ashley Turner, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow; Sparkle D. Williams, collegiate assistant professor, ISC Division Leader, Academy of Integrated Science; J. Michael Wyss, Ph.D., chair of the faculty, professor of cardiology, cell, developmental and integrative biology, medicine, biology and neurobiology and psychology, chair CIRB, director, Center for Community OutReach Development, director, UAB STEM Center, UAB ombudsman; and Bradley Yoder, Ph.D., professor and chair, Department of Cell, Developmental and Integrative Biology, UAHSF Endowed Chair in Biomedical Research, director, Hepatorenal Fibrocystic Disease Core Center, director, T32 Training Program in Cell and Molecular Biology.

One letter states “Dr. Schwiebert constantly advocates for fair salaries, contracts, and benefits for postdocs. In addition, she has implemented several professional development courses, including Grant Writing, Lab Management, and Job Skills, and organizes professional development seminars that assist postdocs with career and financial planning.” Another said, “Some of the important advances she led at UAB include strengthening the benefits offered to postdocs, including matched retirement contributions, increased opportunities for postdocs to take formal coursework for credit, and creating a true career development program.”

“Since taking that faculty position nearly 20 years ago, Dr. Schwiebert has been a model of excellence in research, teaching and mentoring,” one letter states. “Her collaborative research led to over 100 peer reviewed papers, but it also greatly facilitated the research of many other faculty members, who she was always been eager to assist with her knowledge, lab space and resources.”

One nominee went on to say “I admire that Lisa’s dedication to the improvement of trainee experiences has extended beyond postdocs themselves. She has also recognized the critical role that the mentor-mentee relationship plays in the success of postdoctoral fellows.”

The nomination packet included various examples of programs that Schwiebert has been a part of at UAB and how they have impacted the postdocs at the institution. “Her unwavering commitment to mentorship, diversity, and inclusion is demonstrated most clearly in her service as the founder and director of the MERIT program for postdoctoral fellows at UAB, an NIH K12 IRACDA program, and the guidance on best practices she provides to other IRACDA programs Nationwide.”

“Dr. Schwiebert has also been instrumental in the development of multiple curricular enhancements for post-doctoral fellows, providing far more opportunities for trainees who do not see themselves in full-time academia, to be exposed to other vibrant and stimulating career options. For example, she was instrumental in developing an MBA ‘For Scientists’ program for newly graduated Ph.D. students, she has brought an NIH funded MERIT program to UAB, allowing post-docs particularly from under-represented minorities to gain teaching experience at the college level, and instituted an annual series of seminars bringing in recent UAB PH.D graduates to talk about diverse alternative career options. She also initiated the annual mentoring week for all faculty to learn how to mentor students and other laboratory and/or research personnel.”

One nominee concluded her letter by sharing, “My previous success as a postdoctoral scholar and now an Assistant Professor is a direct reflection of Dr. Schwiebert’s dedication to Postdoctoral Education at UAB. Dr. Schwiebert’s strong commitment to training postdoctoral scholars makes her highly deserving of the National Postdoctoral Association Distinguished Service Award.”

The NPA applauds Schwiebert for her numerous contributions and the profound impact they have had on the postdoctoral experience.

Past recipients of the Distinguished Service Award are*:

2019 - Mary Anne With, Manager, postdoctoral program, Los Alamos National Laboratory

2018 - Sam Castañeda, Director, Visiting Scholar and Postdoc Affairs Program, University of California, Berkeley

2017 - Postdoc Executive Committee, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

2016 - Nancy Schwartz, Ph.D., Dean for Postdoctoral Affairs and Co-Director of the Office of Graduate Affairs, University of Chicago, Professor in the Departments of Pediatrics and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Director of the Kennedy Research Center

2015 – Center for Cancer Training, National Cancer Institute

2014 – Shirley M. Tilghman, Ph.D.

2013 - Burroughs Wellcome Fund

2012 - Philip S. Clifford, Ph.D., Associate Dean of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Professor of anesthesiology and physiology, Medical College of Wisconsin

2011 - Science Careers and The Gladstone Institutes

2010 - Trevor M. Penning, Ph.D., Professor of pharmacology, biochemistry and biophysics, and OB/GYN, and Director of the Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology (CEET), School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania

2009 - The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

2008 - Shirley Malcom, Ph.D., Director, Education and Human Resources Programs, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)

2007 - Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology

2006 - Laurel L. Haak, Ph.D., Science Director, Discovery Logics

2005 - National Academies' Committee on Science, Engineering and Public Policy

2004 - Ruth Kirschstein, M.D., Senior Advisor to the Director, National Institutes of Health

*Title and institution listed here reflect the title at the time award was given, and may have changed since then.