Dennis W. Darnall Faculty Achievement Award
We are pleased to announce that Michelle Nishiguchi is the 2011-2012 recipient. As a distinguished and internationally esteemed research scientist and an inspired teacher and mentor to students and faculty alike, Dr. Nishiguchi has become one of the most respected scholars at New Mexico State.
Dr. Nishiguichi (or Nish) joined the faculty as an assistant professor in 1999 receiving promotions to Associate Professor in 2005 and to Professor in 2009. New Mexico State has presented her with the ideal opportunity to fulfill her lifelong ambitions to teach, mentor undergraduates and graduate students, and do original research on marine organisms as a way of understanding the evolution of disease.
Her teaching exceeds the campus’ highest standards. She has taught 17 different formal courses and seminars, one lab course, and one field course; as well as a Biochemistry course. Six of these are courses she initiated and developed. According to her students’ evaluations, her courses combine her mastery of theory and current research with dynamic classroom energy and contagious excitement. Letters by former students attest to how she inspires and guides them effectively through challenging genetic and evolutionary theory. One of the ways Nish stimulates students is by confronting them with compelling questions about life and existence. In recognition of her excellence in teaching, She was named a 2011 Education Fellow in the Life Sciences by the National Academies, the parent organization of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, and the National Research Council.
Her fame as a graduate research mentor has spread far and wide. When prospective graduate students and postdoctoral students think of pursuing training in marine biology, Michele Nishiguchi is near the top of everyone’s lists as a prospective mentor. Since coming to NMSU she has attracted an unbroken chain of outstanding U.S. and international students who have contributed to her laboratory’s research efforts and who have received in exchange the finest possible mentoring and guidance. To date, nine M.S. students have completed their degrees under her mentorship, and most of them have gone on to pursue doctorates. Six Ph.D. students have also completed their degrees with her and are now pursuing professional careers in science. Four additional Ph.D. students are currently working with her on their degrees. She has also trained three postdoctoral fellows, two now hold positions as research scientists and one is continuing her postdoctoral training on campus. Nish takes great pride in her graduate students’ successes. They have presented their research at national and international conferences and have authored or co-authored research articles in many top-tier journals.
She has also been a prolific mentor for junior faculty in several departments, helping them navigate the shoals of research funding, journal-article preparation, as well as promotion and tenure. Particularly among women faculty members, she has become an important role model, advocate, and leader, especially in her work for the ADVANCE Program.
Nish has been one of the strongest supporters on campus of increased diversity in research. For many years she has trained and mentored undergraduates from underrepresented minority groups in her laboratory with support from her grants. In addition, she has participated in minority research-training grants from the National Institutes of Health, including the Bridges to the Baccalaureate program and the Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) program. She has also received support from the Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE) program to support both her undergraduates and graduate students. Nish has also trained numerous participants in the Undergraduate Research Scholars program supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and nine undergraduate Honors students have done their research and written their Honors theses in her laboratory.
Nish combines her research with her deep commitment to the students she trains in her laboratory. Together their hard work and determination have resulted in a body of unique and extremely important contributions to her discipline of microbiology and evolution. Because of these contributions, she is viewed across the world as the biologist who deciphered the mechanisms of bacterial infections in marine animal hosts. She acquired grant support for this work almost as soon as she arrived at NMSU, and she has had an unbroken series of major research grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation totaling $4.7 million with $2 million in additional grants pending. She has collaborated in obtaining additional grants for major, shared instrumentation, housed in campus core facilities across campus.
She collaborates with many national and international colleagues (recently France, Spain, India, Thailand, Australia). Her expertise is often sought whenever there is a question regarding the evolutionary and ecological links between host organisms and bacterial populations. Indeed, Nish receives many invitations every year to be the plenary speaker at conferences and symposia throughout the world and in the U.S. (e.g. the prestigious Gordon Conferences). To date she has given 64 invited lectures and seminars, presented over 200 contributed talks at scientific conferences, 33 reviewed articles in 24 of the best journals of her field, eight book chapters and review articles, and 14 major, multi-year federal grants. All of these attest to the high quality and importance of her research, and to the high esteem in which she is held by colleagues in her field.
On campus, Nish has been a tireless participant in university, college, and departmental governance:
- leader of the Biosciences Cluster
- elected twice to both the University Research Council and the Faculty Senate
- served on 18 university and college committees. Among these are the Provost Search Committee, the Faculty Affairs Committee, the University Affairs Committee, the Arts and Sciences Dean’s Committee for Diversity, and several committees for the ADVANCE Program.
- Served as Department head and Associate Department Head
She is a member of eight professional societies and participates avidly in all of them.
- a past national chairperson
- previously served as a program officer.
- has organized seven conferences, seminars, and symposia internationally.
- has reviewed manuscripts for 35 journals,
- serves on the editorial board of two of these and as associate editor of one.
- has reviewed chapters for five textbook publishers.
- As a grant proposal reviewer, she serves seven agencies, especially the National Science Foundation on which she also serves as a member of seven separate review panels.
Nish continually accepts invitations to appear before community groups and schools as well. Every year she is invited to speak before the Generaciones Mother-Daughter Program, part of the Chicano Programs Summer Science Institute for students with disabilities. She has also spoken numerous times to the Mexican-American Engineers and Scientists, the Women’s Studies Task Force, and church and civic groups.
Campus wide recognition of this award will be part of the Fall 2012 Opening Convocation.