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Dubocovich honored for contributions to translational workforce diversity, inclusion

Margarita Dubocovich.

Jacobs School faculty member Margarita L. Dubocovich has received the 2024 ACTS Award for Contributing to the Diversity and Inclusiveness of the Translational Workforce. Photo: Sandra Kicman


Published April 8, 2024

“This award symbolizes and embraces the value of mentoring and inclusiveness in fostering the next generation of the translational workforce. ”
Margarita Dubocovich, SUNY Distinguished Professor
Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology

Margarita L. Dubocovich, 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.

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.

The award recognizes individuals who, through their careers of mentoring, policymaking or team-building, have contributed to a more inclusive and diverse workforce.

“Dr. Margarita Dubocovich’s dedication to fostering diversity and inclusion within the translational workforce sets a remarkable standard for mentorship and leadership,” says Allison Brashear, 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 says she was 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 says.

“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 adds. “This award symbolizes and embraces the value of mentoring and inclusiveness in fostering the next generation of the translational workforce.”

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.

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

Charged with establishing and directing the Office of Inclusion and Cultural Enhancement at the Jacobs School, Dubocovich became the first diversity officer at UB.

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.

In 2007, she instituted the Collaborative Learning and Integrated Mentoring in the Biosciences (CLIMB) program for doctoral students at Northwestern University. The program empowers 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.

During Dubocovich’s tenure as CLIMB director at Northwestern and at UB, which she led from 2009-22, the program impacted the careers of 681 scholars, 445 women in STEM (65% of participants) and 321 underrepresented in STEM (47% of participants).

Funding diverse scholars

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. 

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 (CTSA) from the NIH’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences from 2015-22, 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 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.

Her work with student and trainee excellence has led to numerous honors, including UB’s 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 the university, 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.

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).