The Florida Education Fund has awarded McKnight Junior Faculty Fellowships to two Florida State University professors as part of their initiative to encourage exceptional teaching and research by faculty historically underrepresented in academia.
Michelle Parvatiyar, an assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition and Integrative Physiology in the College of Health and Human Sciences, and L. Lamar Wilson, an assistant professor in the Department of English in the College of Arts and Sciences, both received a one-year sabbatical to engage in research and training projects related to securing tenure and promotion.
“I am proud of the ongoing commitment of the Florida Education Fund to support the advancement of underrepresented junior faculty during this crucial time in their careers,” said Adrienne Stephenson, assistant dean of The Graduate School and university liaison to the McKnight Fellowship Program. “Their teaching, research and service contributions are critical in shaping the future of our students and higher education.”
Fellowship recipients receive a one-year release from normal job responsibilities and are compensated with regular salaries and benefits through the 2022-2023 academic year.
Parvatiyar’s lab seeks to understand the role of a protein called sarcospan and how it affects factors related to obesity and inflammation and can lead to cardiometabolic disease and impact cardiovascular risk. Her research primarily focuses on the development of therapeutic interventions to improve systolic function in dilated cardiomyopathies and other conditions culminating in heart failure.
“This award has allowed me to increase my bandwidth and focus exclusively on developing research and providing training and mentorship for graduate and undergraduate students working in my laboratory,” Parvatiyar said. “The timing is excellent since the pandemic eroded resources, interpersonal connections and collaborations that are incredibly important when establishing a research program.”
During her sabbatical, Parvatiyar will give a virtual seminar for the Sarcomere Society, based at the University of Washington, as well as two in-person lectures — one at Ohio State University and the other at Ohio University.
According to Parvatiyar, the McKnight Junior Faculty Fellowship is crucial for the advancement of her lab.
“The yearlong sabbatical from teaching allows me to participate in research projects in the lab to make sure needed data is collected for publications and grant applications,” she said. “I will use the available time to forge collaborations that can assist us where our expertise is lacking. I anticipate these collaborations will likely bolster our publication impact and success at obtaining extramural funding.”
Wilson, an award-winning author and filmmaker, also looks forward to the time away from teaching.
“I’m forever grateful for this time,” he said. “Our ancestors modeled what’s possible if we don’t get distracted from what matters, and I’m mining those narratives in my art and scholarship. I’m crafting poetic speakers and writing essays that keep their free Black energy, those epistemologies, alive.”
In addition to being an English professor, Wilson is also a filmmaker and documentarian with more than 18 years of experience working in newsrooms such as The New York Times and The Washington Post.
“The McKnight Junior Faculty Fellowship has offered me time to revise my second full-length poetry collection and draft two scholarly books and begin placing excerpts from a memoir focused on the two decades I spent in the nation’s top newsrooms while I find it a home,” he said.
According to Wilson, the fellowship has allowed him to “wrestle with language that not only documents this moment’s iconic parallels with the post-Civil War era known as Reconstruction, but also to inspire future generations.”
During the fall 2022 semester, Wilson participated in the inaugural Peer to Near Mentoring event hosted by Stephenson and Keith McCall from the Office of Graduate Fellowships and Awards.
“The evening was well spent, with current and past McKnight Junior Faculty Fellows from FSU and Florida A&M University, alumni, and doctoral and dissertation fellows creating community,” Stephenson said. “Attendees fostered connections for future mentoring relationships and engaged in dialogue about research interests and efforts, life during and beyond the Ph.D.”
For more information, visit fefonline.org.