• The San Juan Daily Star

RUM scientist tapped for NIH scientific review post

Dr. Maribella Domenech García

By The Star Staff

Dr. Maribella Domenech García, a professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez Campus (RUM by its Spanish acronym), was selected by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as a member of its Center for Scientific Review.

Her new role will be specifically in the Cellular and Molecular Technologies (CMT) Study Section, where she will be responsible for reviewing grant applications submitted to the NIH, and then making recommendations on them, according to their scientific value and potential contribution to the field of health science and engineering.

“I am the first professor at the Mayagüez Campus and the UPR to participate in the CMT, and one of the few researchers in [Puerto Rico] who has been selected to serve on review panels at the federal agency NIH,” Domenech García said in a written statement. “For me it is a great achievement, since it increases the representation and visibility of Latina engineers in that forum. I consider this new assignment to be an important part of my professional development and, without a doubt, a critical component to support my progress as a researcher and in collaborative projects associated with research centers in our institution. Likewise, I believe that it will help me stay at the forefront, especially when evaluating innovation as a criterion in proposals.”

Domenech García added that one of her greatest aspirations in the new position is to help minimize the implicit bias associated with minorities that often affects the perception of competitiveness of the proposals coming from underrepresented institutions.

The scientist, who is the principal investigator in several projects funded by the NIH, including a recent million-dollar project in the area of cancer health, noted that the process of reviewing research proposals in federal entities is based on the efforts of volunteer reviewers. In the case of the NIH, the experts in charge of this role are invited to serve as guest or permanent members and are selected for their competence, capacity and achievements, among other things, for the funds obtained in their investigative management.

“These merits have to validate an established and successful independent research track record in the field,” Domenech García said. “Reviewers are nominated by the agency’s scientific review officer to serve as a permanent member of a panel related to the investigator’s field. Then, it is evaluated by the agency, which accepts the person in his/her role with a service commitment for a period of no less than four years, no more than six.”

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