Margarita L. Dubocovich, PhD, has been honored with the 2024 ACTS Award for Contributing to the Diversity and Inclusiveness of the Translational Workforce. This is her acceptance video, which was played at the award ceremony.

Dubocovich’s Contributions to Translational Workforce Diversity, Inclusion Honored

By Dirk Hoffman

Published April 3, 2024

Margarita L. Dubocovich, PhD, has been honored by the Association for Clinical and Translational Science (ACTS) as the 2024 recipient of its Award for Contributing to the Diversity and Inclusiveness of the Translational Workforce.

“Dr. Margarita Dubocovich’s dedication to fostering diversity and inclusion within the translational workforce sets a remarkable standard for mentorship and leadership. Her tireless efforts not only advance scientific discovery, but also empower the next generation of clinical and translational scientists ”
UB’s vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

Dubocovich, a SUNY Distinguished Professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, received the award April 3 at Translational Science 2024, the annual meeting of ACTS, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The ACTS Award for Contributing to the Diversity and Inclusiveness of the Translational Workforce recognizes individuals who, through their careers of mentoring, policymaking or team building have contributed to a more inclusive and diverse workforce. Success may be evidenced by a track record of contributing to the career development of their own mentees or to the workforce of their organization.

“Dr. Margarita Dubocovich’s dedication to fostering diversity and inclusion within the translational workforce sets a remarkable standard for mentorship and leadership,” said Allison Brashear, MD, MBA, UB’s vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School. “Her tireless efforts not only advance scientific discovery, but also empower the next generation of clinical and translational scientists.”

Dubocovich said she is very honored to receive the award.

“Receiving The ACTS Award for Contributing to the Diversity and Inclusiveness of the Translational Workforce is an incredible honor that embodies all the work I have done throughout my career not only in neuropharmacology and neuroscience with focus in translational research, but in mentoring the next generation of  clinical and translational scientists, providing professional development and creating programs and initiatives to develop new talent in the biomedical, behavioral and STEM workforce,” she said.

“My contributions have been modeled by my own experiences interacting with inspiring educators and world-renowned scientists who provided encouragement, advice, and opportunities to engage and further advance my career goals,” Dubocovich added. “This award symbolizes and embraces the value of mentoring and inclusiveness in fostering the next generation of the translational workforce.”

Named to Diversity and Inclusion Post in 2012

After 26 years at Northwestern University, Dubocovich was recruited to the position of chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the Jacobs School in 2008.

During her tenure, “Dr. Dubocovich developed the scientific vision for a major expansion and restructuring of the department, raising the bar for the department’s research, enhancing our undergraduate and graduate teaching programs, and bringing her success in mentoring to UB,” according to a letter of support for the award from Michael E. Cain, MD, former dean of the Jacobs School.

Because of her tireless focus on and success in increasing diversity and inclusion in STEM, Dubocovich was named the Jacobs School’s inaugural senior associate dean for diversity and inclusion in 2012.

She was charged with establishing and directing the Office of Inclusion and Cultural Enhancement at the Jacobs School, becoming the first diversity officer at UB.

During her tenure as senior associate dean (2012-2022), she developed and implemented innovative educational programs to achieve excellence through diversity and inclusion in the biomedical and STEM workforce, developed guidelines and resources to attract a diverse faculty, and expanded her already prominent role in mentoring junior faculty, according to Cain’s letter of support.

Internationally Renowned Scholar on Melatonin

An international scholar on the brain hormone melatonin and its receptors, Dubocovich’s pioneering work revealed melatonin’s impact on circadian rhythms, sleep disorders, depression, reproduction, body weight and torpor.

She is credited with discovering key molecules that either mimic the effect of melatonin to signal darkness, or counteract its effects to mimic light, like luzindole a competitive melatonin receptor antagonist with antidepressant-like activity in mouse models.

These prototype molecules are used in labs around the world to further understand melatonin’s role in physiological function. 

Throughout her career, Dubocovich has demonstrated exceptional leadership in the development of mentoring programs that foster inclusion and diversity in biomedical and STEM fields.

“She is passionate about mentoring students, junior scientists and faculty of all backgrounds, inspiring them to love and excel in science and providing guidance and support to reach their goals whether in academia, industry or government,” said Diana N. Krause, PhD, adjunct professor of pharmaceutical sciences, University of California, Irvine.

In 2007, Dubocovich instituted the Collaborative Learning and Integrated Mentoring in the Biosciences (CLIMB) program for doctoral students at Northwestern University, to empower students by providing an environment where they are welcome to share their challenges and successes with peers and avenues for advancement with the steps necessary for them to succeed, thus counteracting a “sink or swim” mentality.

The CLIMB Program expanded at UB to include four divisions creating a pipeline from undergraduate student to faculty: CLIMB UP (undergraduate program), CLIMB Pathways (master’s program), CLIMB HI (high impact for doctoral students) and CLIMB NS or Next Step (postdoctoral researchers and junior faculty). The program was expanded across campus to serve all UB schools that provide degrees in STEM disciplines.

During Dubocovich’s tenure as CLIMB director at two institutions (Northwestern University: 2007-2008; University at Buffalo: 2009-2022), the CLIMB Program impacted the careers of 681 scholars, 445 women in STEM (65% of participants) and 321 underrepresented in STEM (47% of participants).

In 2020, CLIMB was named an “Inspiring Program in STEM” by Insight into Diversity magazine.

Secured Funding for Professional Development

Dubocovich also co-founded, co-directed and obtained institutional funding for UB’s Institute for Strategic Enhancement for Educational Diversity (iSEED) to further establish diverse communities of scholars from undergraduate to faculty across UB, thus complementing the CLIMB program.

Dubocovich not only created the various CLIMB divisions and their communities of scholars, but she also secured external funding for each educational level to facilitate recruitment, retention and to provide extensive research, career and professional development.  These national awards include the Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD) from the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Institute of General Medical Sciences [R25-IMSD (2012-2021); T32-IMSD (2022-present)] to fund incoming doctoral students engaged in biomedical, behavioral and STEM science, and the ASPET-SURF award for undergraduate summer scholars (2010-present).

Her efforts in promoting diversity in the biomedical workforce were acknowledged with the 2013 Jacobs School Dean’s Award for her leadership in promoting the use of a holistic review process to increase enrollment of graduate and professional students from underrepresented groups in the Jacobs School.

She served as the workforce development core director for UB’s Clinical and Translational Science Award from the NIH’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences from 2015 to 2022, building with her team a robust and well-designed portfolio of 14 core competencies workshop series, totaling over 280 individual workshops to train the workforce in clinical and translational science competencies necessary to excel in translational research careers.

Dubocovich was also responsible for securing funding and leading the development of the training curriculum of the successful CTSA-linked KL2 mentored Career Development Award, which has provided research mentoring and professional development to junior faculty engaged in clinical and translational science research since 2015. The KL2 funded scholars are mentored together with institutionally funded scholars grouped under the CTSI K Scholars Program, which is also directed by Dubocovich.

Bestowed Numerous Awards Throughout Career

Her devotion to student and trainee excellence is recognized by all who know her and has resulted in numerous honors. At UB, she received the Distinguished Postdoctoral Mentor Award (2011), Excellence in Graduate Student Mentoring Award (2016), and the CSTEP Distinguished Research Mentor Award (2017).

In 2017, Dubocovich received the UB President’s Medal, the highest honor bestowed at UB, given in recognition of her extraordinary service to the university, her leadership in diversity, equity, and inclusion and her significant role in building pathways to success for underrepresented students.

Dubocovich has made significant contributions to the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET) and the American College of Neuropharmacology (ACNP) by promoting the careers of junior scientists, including underrepresented students and women in science. Early on she developed programs to attract junior fellows from diverse backgrounds by inviting them to participate in informational and professional development workshops, by advocating for travel awards and by providing opportunities to speak at national venues.

She received the inaugural ACNP Dolores Shockley Minority Mentoring Award in 2017, ASPET fellow in 2020, and the ASPET Julius Axelrod Award in Pharmacology in 2022. She was honored for her scientific discoveries with the prestigious Aaron B. Lerner Pioneer Award in Recognition of Outstanding Contributions to Melatonin Research (2011) and the PhRMA Foundation Award in Excellence in Pharmacology and Toxicology (2012).

Personal Journey Shaped Mentoring Passion

Dubocovich’s belief in the power of mentoring is rooted in her personal journey.

“When she started her education and developed a love for science in rural Argentina, a Hispanic woman in STEM was an anomaly and the terms ‘inclusivity’ and ‘diversity’ were not valued concepts,” Krause said.

“She knows firsthand the difficulties many of her mentees must overcome to enter and thrive in a high-level scientific environment and has applied this personal knowledge to her tireless advocacy for the effective mentoring of the translational workforce in her laboratory, within her university, in industry, and as a member of professional societies.”

ACTS presents its annual Translational Science Awards to recognize investigators for their outstanding contributions to the clinical research and translational science field. Individuals and teams are nominated by their colleagues and peers and may be selected from all industry segments.