University of Alaska Fairbanks neuroscientist receives national mentor award

Marie Thoms

University of Alaska Fairbanks neuroscientist Kelly Drew has received a national biomedical research mentoring award from the National Institutes of Health’s Institutional Development Awards program.

“Professor Drew has had extraordinary success in mentoring students and post-doctoral scientists from under-represented groups, especially among Alaska Native communities,” said Brian Barnes, director of the UAF Institute of Arctic Biology, where Drew is a scientist. “We are very proud that she’s receiving this recognition.”

The Sidney A. McNairy Jr. Mentoring Award honors scientists who demonstrate research productivity through publications, presentations and successful mentoring of students and trainees. 2014_DrewKelly_McNairyAward_TPThe award is given by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health.

“This is a huge honor. Dr. McNairy is one of my heroes,” said Drew, who teaches in the UAF Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. “I think we both believe strongly that opportunity and diversity are good for science.”

Drew will receive the award and give a presentation highlighting her students and her research on therapeutic hibernation June 17 at the National IDeA Symposium of Biomedical Research Excellence in Washington, D.C.

“Kelly is an international leader in the neurobiology of hibernation,” said Barnes. “Her research goals include translating the neuro- and cardio-protection demonstrated in hibernating arctic ground squirrels into novel clinical applications for the treatment of stroke, heart attack and trauma.”

As a mentor, Drew said, her role is to help students discover their passion for science and then guide them around the obstacles that might otherwise prevent them from becoming outstanding scientists and mentors.

“Kelly puts a lot of effort into bringing students into her lab and letting them explore the wonders of biomedical research,” said Paul Layer, dean of the UAF College of Natural Science and Mathematics. “She fosters a sense of community for her students both inside and outside the lab.”

Many students who work with Drew go on to graduate and medical schools and beyond. Former student Alison Kelliher is now a family practice physician and tribal healer in Anchorage, Alaska. UAF alumna Adrienne Orr, who earned her doctorate from Stanford, is now a research and development project manager for a major private company, and Nikoosh Carlo, who earned her doctorate from the University of California San Diego, is director of the Alaska Arctic Policy Commission.

“I really appreciate our UAF students; they’re real, they’re not mainstream and they think not just outside the box but within a different box,” said Drew. “Diversity in our student community leads to a diversity of scientists, and that diversity leads to better scientific discoveries.”

Kelly Drew,, 907-474-7190.
Brian Barnes,, 907-474-7649.
Paul Layer,, 907-474-7608.