2019 Rising Star Awardees

The NORDP Board of Directors established the Rising Star Award in 2016 to recognize up to three members annually who have made outstanding volunteer contributions and show great potential for future contributions to NORDP and the Research Development Profession.    Awardees are announced at the NORDP annual conference, presented with an etched glass plaque, and receive free registration for the following year’s annual conference.

The 2019 Rising Star awardees are Joanna Downer, Samarpita Sengupta, and David Widmer.

Joanna downer, duke university

Joanna DownerJoanna joined NORDP in 2010. She has been a member and, since 2016, co-chair of the Professional Development Committee.  As such, she developed and contributed to numerous, significant enhancements to NORDP’s Webinar Program, including an RD webinar topic framework, standard evaluation, presenter instructions, and hosting scripts.  She now spearheads development and delivery of a growing number of webinars, organizes logistics, and works to continuously improve webinar content and process.  Joanna is also the Strategic Alliances Committee liaison to the National Association of Science Writers (since 2017) and a member of the NORDP Training Working Group (since 2018).  A regular NORDP Conference presenter and contributor to the listserv, Joanna has become one of NORDP’s go-to persons for RD best practices.  Joanna’s selection as the inaugural recipient of a NORD Research Grant in RD further exemplifies her commitment and capacity to advance our field.

Samarpita Sengupta, university of texas at southwestern medical center


Samarpita SenguptaA NORDP member since 2017, Samar is our Strategic Alliances Committee liaison to the National Postdoc Association.  Formerly a postdoc, she created an innovative RD internship / mentoring program for postdocs at UT-SwMC, presented the program at NORDP’s 2017 IDEA Showcase, and led trans-forming the program into a comprehensive, flexible pedagogy for NORDP members to implement at their institutions – to train postdocs, grad students and staff for RD positions.  Active in NORDP’s Member Services Committee (MSC), Samar works not only to increase the pipeline of new NORDP members, but also to support and retain members.  She co-chairs the MSC subcommittee that creates events and activities for First-Time Conference Attendees and is one of the architects of the current Ambassador Program.  She is active in NORDP Region VI, recently launched a Region VI newsletter, and is a regular contributor to the NORDP listserv.   Samar embodies many of the core qualities we value in NORDP: mentoring, service, knowledge transfer, and promoting the RD field to the uninitiated. 

david widmer, memorial sloan kettering cancer center


David WidmerDavid participated in the first (2011-12) Mentoring Program mentor/mentee class and has been “paying it forward” ever since.  As a Membership Committee member (2012-14), he worked on the analysis and reporting of NORDP’s first Salary Survey. In 2015-16, he was a member of the Effective Practices & Professional Development Committee, and its Online Professional Development working group.   David joined the Mentoring Committee in 2015, has mentored 4 mentees since 2016, became Committee co-chair in 2017, and serves on the MESHH working group that developed the NORDP mentorship on-boarding packet.  He and his Mentoring Committee co-chair have increased member interactions to include five working group teams focusing on items such as the annual Mentor/ Mentee pairing survey, and development of a National Research Mentoring Network – supported curriculum for mentoring in the RD field.  As a Conference Planning & Program Committee member since 2018, David has carefully interwoven mentoring throughout Conference engagement and programming (e.g., mentoring networking dinners, 1- and 2- hour presentations, lightning talks, roundtables).  David epitomizes the model organizational citizen for NORDP.