Margarita L. Dubocovich, PhD.

Margarita L. Dubocovich, PhD, has received honors for her meritorious efforts to advance the field of pharmacology.

Scientific Society Names Dubocovich 1 of 19 Fellows

Published April 16, 2021

story by alexandra edelblute

Margarita L. Dubocovich, PhD, has been named a 2020 fellow of the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET) and a 2021 Scientific Achievement Award winner.


Dubocovich, SUNY Distinguished Professor of pharmacology and toxicology, will be recognized for both of these honors at the annual Experimental Biology 2021 conference, which will be held virtually April 27-30, 2021.

ASPET is a society of 4,000 members, and Dubocovich is one of only 19 fellows in the 2020 class.

Notable Contributions to Field of Pharmacology

The ASPET fellows program honors the society’s most distinguished members. Those selected as fellows have demonstrated excellence via their overall contributions to the field of pharmacology. 

Dubocovich has been recognized for her meritorious efforts to advance pharmacology through her scientific achievements, mentorship and service to the society.

She has published more than 400 scientific articles, reviews, book chapters and abstracts on the neuropharmacology of presynaptic monoamine and melatonin receptors. A world leader in melatonin receptor pharmacology, she discovered prototype MT1- and MT2-selective melatonin receptor agonists, antagonists and inverse agonist that have guided the field in the search for functional melatonin receptor responses. 

Findings by Dubocovich are key to the understanding of the role that melatonin receptors play in circadian rhythms, sleep disorders, depression and even cardiovascular disorders and cancer.

Dubocovich has received a number of honors and awards for her research, including the 2012 PhRMA Foundation Award for Excellence in Pharmacology and Toxicology and the honor of being named a fellow of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology in 2013.

A Commitment to Mentoring

Dubocovich founded CLIMB — the Collaborative Learning and Integrated Mentoring in the Bioscience Program — an innovative and inclusive program that provides intensive mentoring, career and professional development experiences for biosciences students from undergraduate through postdoctoral levels, as well as for junior faculty members.

The program, which has four divisions, received an award from INSIGHT into Diversity magazine. The award recognizes programs that encourage and assist students from underrepresented groups to enter the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Through all of her mentoring and professional development programs — particularly through CLIMB, the Institute of Strategic Enhancement of Educational Diversity and the CTSI K Scholars Program — she has provided guidance on research, careers and professional development to 553 mentees.

Additionally, Dubocovich has mentored 157 trainees on her own research team.

“In my lab I hosted 108 medical students, high school and graduate students for short research rotations. I trained 11 master’s students, nine doctoral students and 29 postdoctoral fellows and junior scientists for a total of 49,” she says. 

Dubocovich, who is the senior associate dean for diversity and inclusion, directs the Office of Inclusion and Cultural Enhancement. She works to achieve inclusive excellence through diversity and inclusion at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. A longtime champion of social justice and equality, she notes that more than half of all of her mentees have been women, and nearly half have been individuals from underrepresented groups in the STEM disciplines.

Dubocovich has received a number of teaching awards, including the 2011 Distinguished Postdoctoral Mentor Award, the 2016 Excellence in Graduate Student Mentoring Award, the 2017 CSTEP Outstanding Research Mentor Award, and the 2017 American College of Neuropsychopharmacology Dolores Shockley Minority Award for excellence in mentoring.

Delivering Norman Weiner Lecture

In addition to the honor of being named a 2020 ASPET fellow, the society has named Dubocovich a 2021 Scientific Achievement Award winner to recognize her excellence in the pharmacology field.

As an awardee, Dubocovich will deliver the Norman Weiner Lecture during the ASPET Annual Meeting at Experimental Biology 2021.

The lecture was established in memory of Norman Weiner, MD, past ASPET president and chair of the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Colorado. It honors his many contributions to both ASPET and to pharmacology research and education.

Her lecture will describe the cycle of discovery that led to the current understanding of melatonin receptors’ neuropharmacology, their impact on the modulation of circadian rhythms, and as targets for therapeutic drugs.

“Delivering the lecture is a distinct honor, as when I first came to the United States I joined the team of Dr. Weiner at the University of Colorado in Denver as a research associate — in May of 1980. Two years later I moved to Northwestern University, where I was appointed assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacology. When on Dr. Weiner’s team, I developed the methodology that led — in my lab at Northwestern University — to the first discovery of functional melatonin receptors in the rabbit retina. This discovery launched my career investigating the mechanism of action of melatonin and its receptors,” explains Dubocovich.

In 2011, Dubocovich was recognized for this discovery when she received the Aaron B. Lerner Award for Outstanding Contributions to Melatonin Receptor Research.

Many Years of Service at UB

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, becoming the first female-appointed department chair in the school’s existence.

Dubocovich was honored with the Jacobs School’s Dean’s Award in 2013 for her leadership in promoting the use of a holistic review process to increase enrollment of graduate students underrepresented in STEM fields and medical students underrepresented in medicine.

In 2014, when Dubocovich was named a SUNY Distinguished Professor, the highest rank in the SUNY system, she was the first female faculty member in the Jacobs School to receive this honor.

She received the UB President’s Medal in 2017, the highest honor bestowed at UB, given in recognition of extraordinary service to the university.

Active ASPET Member Since 1983

Dubocovich joined ASPET in 1983. She has served as an ASPET Executive Committee member in the Division of Pharmacology Education and organized and co-chaired several mini-symposia. 

Dubocovich also served on ASPET’s Executive Committee and as secretary-treasurer of the Division for Neuropharmacology. She was an organizer and co-chair of symposia, as member and chair of the ASPET Committee on Diversity, and she was also a member of the Committee on Women in Pharmacology. She was a member of ASPET’s Mentoring and Career Development Committees and the Global Partnerships Task Force. In spring 2021 she was appointed as a member of the ASPET fellows selection committee.

Additionally, Dubocovich was a councilor of the ASPET Great Lakes Chapter in Illinois and founded and served as president of the Upstate New York Pharmacology Society (ASPET Chapter).