Our Team

A Commitment to Diversity

Our National Resource Mentoring Network-Resource Center team brings together uniquely qualified biomedical and information technology professionals with unmatched expertise and experience in developing, implementing, and testing interventions aimed at improving mentorship and networking among diverse mentees across a wide range of career stages, disciplines and venues. Collectively, our core team has decades of professional experience and engagement in interdisciplinary scholarship related to mentorship and networking. Further, we will connect and integrate our vast network of NIH-funded training programs, minority serving institutions, and other private and public organizations with experience in mentoring URM and non-URM students and professionals.

The National Research Mentoring Network builds on the foundation of trust, inclusion, and collaboration, we welcome partners from across the nation with diverse perspectives to join the NRMNetwork to establish new and improved national networking initiatives and create the capacity necessary to support diverse mentees across the nation. Ultimately, NRMNet is a sustainable network of mentors and mentees widely distributed across disciplines, geography, institutions, and cultural, racial, ethnic groups, and sexual orientation, yet tightly-knit and unified in mission and principles.

Principal Investigator

Jamboor Vishwanatha, Ph.D.

Dr. Vishwanatha is the principal investigator of the National Research Mentoring Network Resource Center. He is also a Regents Professor and Vice President, and Founding Director of the Texas Center for Health Disparities at the University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth. Additionally, he is the principal investigator of the NIH Specialized Center of Excellence in Health Disparities.
Web Developer

Jay Johnson

Jay Johnson is the Web Developer for the National Research Mentoring Network’s networking & mentoring platform, MyNRMN.

Jay Johnson is also the Principal Application Developer for Vanderbilt University’s Biomedical Informatics Mentoring Lab. He has led the development effort for MyNRMN for the past 5 years and has been a leader in education technology since 2006. Jay’s creativity and commitment to quality is evidenced in MyNRMN’s many useful features, including the new Guided Virtual Mentorship platform! When he’s not working on elegant solutions Jay can usually be found in his home studio writing and recording his own musical creations.


Toufeeq Ahmed, Ph.D.

Dr. Toufeeq Ahmed is the co-investigator and an Associate Director for the National Research Mentoring Network Resource Center. He is also Assistant Professor of Biomedical Informatics and directs the Education Informatics program at the Health Informatics Technologies and Services division of the Vanderbilt University
Medical Center.
Sr. Application Developer

Zainab Latif, MCS

Zainab Latif is the Sr. Application Developer for the National Research Mentoring Network’s networking & mentoring platform, MyNRMN.

Zainab has a Masters of Computer Science specializing in database systems and software engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, IL. Zainab obtained her bachelor’s degree in computer science from Al-Nahrain University in Baghdad, Iraq.

Zainab is a Senior Application Developer at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in the Biomedical Informatics Department, bringing with her more than 12 years of experience in the programming field. Zainab joined the NRMN Team in November 2019.

Communications Manager

Alexis Short

Hey there! I’m a Strategic Communications Leader and Digital Marketing Maverick on a mission to infuse creativity into every pixel. With a passion for fostering diversity in STEM, I’ve carved a niche as a results-driven innovator. Educationally, I earned my vibrant B.A. in Emerging Media & Communication from the University of Texas at Dallas 2016


At the National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN), I led groundbreaking initiatives as the Digital Communications Strategist and Editor in Chief, redefining our digital impact and securing multimillion-dollar grants. My journey includes roles like Social Media Coordinator & Associate Editor at NRMN, where I crafted engaging content and managed data-driven social media campaigns.


Beyond design, I’ve delved into the realm of data, wielding analytics tools like Google Analytics and diving into the intricacies of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Writing is my forte, and grew in my role as Editor in Chief at NRMN, where I shaped impactful content, managed newsletters reaching thousands of subscribers nationally, and crafted compelling email marketing campaigns.


My journey also includes being Director of Digital Communications at talkSTEM and Interactive Marketing at Identity Media Services, showcasing my versatile flair for design-focused media magic, data-driven decisions, and impactful writing.


Armed with a palette of Adobe Creative Suite wizardry, Salesforce symphonies, and WordPress wonders, I paint a vivid picture of success via digital storytelling. Whether shaping innovative campaigns, interpreting data trends, or crafting a captivating digital presence, I’m your go-to creative collaborator. 


With a personality as vibrant as my designs, I bring a blend of strategic acumen, design prowess, data insights, and impactful writing to the dynamic world of media. Ready to embark on the next creative journey, let’s craft magic together! ✨🎨📊✍️


Damaris Javier, MA

Damaris Javier, M.A. (she, her, ella) has been part of the NRMN community since 2015.  Her passion has centered around supporting individuals within Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, Medicine (STEMM), and biomedical/ behavioral fields, especially individuals historically marginalized in these career fields. Her experiences have focused on K-12 education Higher Education, and STEM education with expertise in student development, local and national program development and management, mentorship, course and training development, career development and progression, partnership development, health equity as well as recruitment, retention, and engagement efforts. Damaris serves as a Co-Investigator for the National Research Mentoring Network-Resource Center (NRMN-RC). Damaris Javier also serves as the Associate Director for Research Training Programs at the Institute of Health Disparities (IHD), engaging in the strategic and creative direction of all research training intended to increase diversity in the biomedical research workforce and reduce health disparities. She is also an MPI for an NIH-funded project to develop and disseminate nationwide a Structural Racism course to enhance training and ultimately foster recruitment and persistence of individuals within the biomedical research workforce. Damaris Javier is also a trained Entering Mentoring and Entering Research Facilitator. Previously, Damaris Javier served as the Director for the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs at Columbia University, Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. In this role, she directed diversity programs for underrepresented middle school, high school, and undergraduate populations interested in STEM and health professions. She also directed recruitment/retention initiatives for underrepresented medical, health professions and STEMM individuals at Columbia University, Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.  Damaris Javier holds a master’s in Higher and Postsecondary Education from Teachers College Columbia University and a Bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education and Mathematics, minor in Economics from the University of Vermont. She is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Higher Education at the University of North Texas. Her interest surrounds effective methods and interventions, including those that tackle systemic barriers, to influence persistence, equity, and inclusivity within STEMM and biomedical/ behavioral fields.
Sr. Program Manager

Katie Stinson, MLIS

Katie Stinson is a Sr. Program Manager with Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Department of Biomedical Informatics, where she works on multiple NIH funded projects including NRMN, NRMN MISSION, and AIM-AHEAD. Her work is largely focused on writing manuscripts, software training, and program management and development. Katie began her career in advertising and transitioned to supporting the STEM workforce after completing her Masters in Library and Information Science from the University of North Texas. Katie also has a Bachelors in Journalism from the University of North Texas.
Senior Administrative Coordinator

Luz Henriquez

As a scientist specializing in Biology and Chemistry, I’m driven by a passion for improving both health and financial well-being. With extensive experience in the medical field and the mortgage industry, I’ve honed a unique skill set that blends scientific expertise with administrative prowess.


In my current role as an Senior Administrative Coordinator with NRMN, I thrive in planning conventions, managing IT operations, and facilitating seamless administrative processes. Previously, my journey included impactful positions such as Spanish Medical Interpreter at Teneo Language Solutions and Loan Officer at Mr. Cooper Mortgage, where I excelled in fostering meaningful client relationships and delivering exceptional service.


With a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Texas Woman’s University and certifications including Texas Emergency Medical Technician and NMLS Mortgage Loan Originator licenses, I’m equipped with the knowledge and skills to make a difference in both the scientific and financial realms. Energetic, adaptable, and committed to excellence, I’m ready to bring my diverse expertise to new challenges and opportunities.

Postdoctoral Training Branch Program Director-NIGMS

Mercedes Rubio, Ph.D.

Mercedes Rubio, Ph.D., is a program director in the Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity, where she handles the National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN) of the NIH Common Fund Enhancing the Diversity of the NIH-funded Workforce Initiative, the Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Awards (IRACDA), the Bridges to the Baccalaureate, and the Research to Understand and Inform Interventions that Promote the Research Careers of Students in Biomedical and Behavioral Sciences portfolios. She also will serve in the role of program officer in the NIGMS Postdoctoral Research Associate (PRAT) Program.

Before joining NIGMS, Rubio was chief of the Psychopathology Risk and Protective Factors Research Program at the National Institute of Mental Health and was assistant director of that Institute’s Individual Research Fellowship Program. Rubio earned a B.A. in sociology from California State University, Bakersfield, and a Ph.D. in medical sociology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where she also completed postdoctoral training in nursing in the area of HIV intervention and health disparities.

To contact Rubio, send email to rubiome@nigms.nih.gov.

If you’re a reporter wishing to interview Rubio, contact the NIGMS Office of Communications and Public Liaison at info@nigms.nih.gov or call 301-496-7301.

Chief of the Postdoctoral Training Branch Program Director-NIGMS

Michael Sesma, Ph.D.

Michael Sesma, Ph.D., is chief of the Postdoctoral Training Branch in the Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity (TWD), where he oversees postdoctoral programs for research training, postdoctoral fellowships, career development programs, as well as the Innovative Programs to Enhance Research Training (IPERT) and research programs in training interventions. Sesma also is program officer for the Genetics of Behavior and Circadian Biology Research grant portfolio in the Division of Genetics and Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology. Sesma began his NIH career at NIGMS in 1994 as a scientific review administrator in the NIGMS Office of Scientific Review and a program director in the Institute’s Division of Genetics and Developmental Biology. He moved to the National Institute of Mental Health in 2002, where he was chief of the Research Scientist Development Program in the Office for Special Populations. He returned to NIGMS in 2012 as a branch chief in TWD.

Sesma earned his B.A. in biology and psychology from the University of California, San Diego, and the Ph.D. in psychology from the University of California, Riverside. He conducted postdoctoral research at Vanderbilt University. Prior to joining NIH, Sesma served on the faculty at the University of Missouri-St. Louis School of Optometry and the Department of Psychiatry at Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine.

To contact Sesma, send email to msesma@nigms.nih.gov.

If you’re a reporter wishing to interview Sesma, contact the NIGMS Communications and Public Liaison Branch at info@nigms.nih.gov or call 301-496-7301.

CIO for University of California, Office of the President

Molly Greek

Molly Greek is the CIO for University of California, Office of the President and leads Technology Delivery Services (TDS). TDS is primarily responsible for the 140+ applications and systemwide services which include UCPath (HR and Payroll for the entire UC) and Apply UC (undergraduate admissions for UC). Molly formerly worked at UC Davis Health, Hewlett Packard, EDFUND (student loan guarantor) and Franklin Templeton Mutual Funds. Molly was also a lecturer at CSU, Sacramento for six years and UC Davis extension.

Molly has an MBA from Golden Gate University and a Bachelor’s of Science from UC Davis. Molly’s areas of professional interest are promoting diversity and inclusion, the UC mission and cloud technology.

Professor of Biology & Associate Director of California State University Northridge

MariaElena Zavala, Ph.D.

​In 2016, California State University, Northridge biology professor Maria Elena Zavala, Ph.D., was named the first Latina fellow of the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB), a professional scientific society devoted to the advancement of the plant sciences worldwide. Dr. Zavala was named a fellow in honor of her service to the society and her distinguished and long-term contributions to plant biology.

The first Mexican-American woman in the country to earn a Ph.D. in botany, her research focuses on the manipulation of genes as a way to improve plant productivity by enhancing root growth. She’s also studying ways to make beans more nutritious and says plant research is critical in the effort to combat hunger around the world.

Zavala has taught at CSUN since 1988 and plays an integral part in building the national reputation of CSUN’s Department of Biology as a place where students, particularly those from underserved communities, thrive and successfully pursue advanced degrees at top-tier research institutions.

She has served as the director of CSUN’s Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARC) Undergraduate Student Training in Academic Research (U-STAR) program since 1990 and Research Initiatives for Scientific Enhancement (RISE) since 1993. Her work as a mentor and advocate for the countless students who have gone through these programs earned her recognition from the White House. In 2000, Zavala received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring from President Bill Clinton.