Written by Rafael Luna, PhD
After traveling throughout the United States telling stories and sharing good news about NRMN, I’ve seen the national reach of NRMN grow robustly in the last year. From 4,000 registrants in 2016 to 7,000 in 2017, NRMN has grown and continues to grow. This number is an incredible feat, since NRMN was initiated in the middle of 2014.
Within the last year, I have met with key strategic partners, opinion leaders, and existing biomedical networks that were not yet within NRMN. I searched throughout the entire United States for synergistic biomedical opportunities for collaboration to ensure NRMN is not duplicating efforts. I have traveled to Louisiana, Montana, Kansas, Mississippi, California, Wyoming, Idaho, South Dakota, Virginia, Puerto Rico, Ohio, Kansas and Nebraska within one year.
NRMN has been growing. I began to share our triumphs to Dr. Julie Kornfield, a chemical engineering professor at Caltech, who I met on a small plane heading to Idaho. I began an unexpected friendship and found an NRMN Ambassador in Dr. Kornfield, and a few days later in Dr. Zuleikha Kurji, an Assistant Professor at Saint Mary’s College (Hispanic Serving Institution). They quickly pointed out the impressive linear trajectory of NRMN. They are both chemical engineering professors and the key word was linear. They continued by explaining to me the concept of geometric growth in chemical engineering, also known as exponential growth, and how to make the transition from linear to exponential.
Dr. Kornfield believes that NRMN needs active networking participants and ambassadors. She pointed out that NRMN Ambassadors would grow the network by having mentees and mentors bring their biomedical networks into the NRMN portal. Immediately, she stated that she will become an NRMN Ambassador, and gave us her thoughts:
“I had the pleasure of meeting Rafael on my way to a workshop in eastern Washington state. The conference was in a relatively sparsely populated area that was a perfect setting to appreciate the importance of the National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN) as Rafael explained it to me. Budding scientists and biomedical engineers who don’t have access to a research university need mentors. Through NRMN, someone like me in a remote Ivory Tower can serve as a mentor to trainees I wouldn’t meet otherwise. When I got back to Caltech from the trip, I immediately joined the Network and started telling my colleagues, student affairs staff and students about it. I’d like to help NIH grow the network to tens of thousands of mentors and mentees.”
Before I boarded that flight to Idaho, I thought to myself: “In my role of NRMN, I haven’t met or interacted with biomedical scientists from Idaho.” After just a couple of days, I had met hundreds of biomedical scientists and students from this wonderful state, including Drs. Kornfield and Kurji. I am invigorated, renewed and inspired by this unique intersection of mentors and mentees throughout our wonderful country filled with biomedical possibilities and discovery. It is this discovery of new strategic partners that I relish. Be prepared to experience the NRMN growth via geometric growth.