Nicole Jimenez, PhD, a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix, was awarded an inaugural ExCEL Scholar Award by the Excellence in Career Enrichment Leadership Committee at Montefiore Einstein Cancer Center.
As a recipient, Dr. Jimenez was invited to the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City in March where she presented her work on three vaginal bacteria that are linked to the most common vaginal disorder, bacterial vaginosis – a risk factor for both cervical and endometrial cancers.
“Being given this award was genuinely inspiring because it meant that others were interested in my work in HPV infection and cervical cancer coming from the microbiome perspective – specifically a microbe called Fannyhessea,” Dr. Jimenez said. “It also put me in contact with many folks who have had long, illustrious careers in cancer research, and these interactions have furthered my understanding of this disease and opened avenues for future collaboration.”
Dr. Jimenez joined the College of Medicine – Phoenix in 2021 to work with Melissa Herbst-Kralovetz, PhD, a professor of basic medical sciences and OB/GYN at the college.
Dr. Herbst-Kralovetz wrote her letter of recommendation for the award, noting that Dr. Jimenez, “is incredibly versatile in having expertise in both data science and genomics. Coupled with wet bench expertise to perform bacteriology and cell culture work — she is truly a translational researcher that can perform her analyses start to finish.”
“Dr. Herbst-Kralovetz has pushed me many times to apply for grants, awards or speaking opportunities to garner research confidence,” said Dr. Jimenez. “She sees great potential in me that I sometimes need a little extra nudge to recognize. Postdoctoral researchers are at this transition stage in our research careers where we are trying to find our independence and our ‘research voice’. What drew me to Dr. Herbst-Kralovetz’s lab was our shared passion for women’s health and health disparities research, which makes us a great mentor/mentee team.”
The ExCEL Committee noted that they were “very impressed by Dr. Jimenez’s contributions to the study of the vaginal microbiome and its role in gynecological cancer progression.” They also pointed to her “focus on health disparities in Latinx and Native American communities in Arizona, as well as her efforts to advocate for the development of diversity, equity and inclusion programs,” as areas that made her an exceptional applicant.
A version of this story originally appeared on the UArizona College of Medicine – Phoenix website.