In its inaugural year, the 2020 SOT Toxicologist Mentoring Award has been awarded to Ofelia A. Olivero, PhD, ATS, for her demonstrated and extensive commitment to mentoring researchers at various career levels and from diverse backgrounds.
Her outstanding scientific contributions have uniquely positioned Dr. Olivero to have a widespread influence in the lives and careers of young scientists, in both her professional and her volunteer capacities. Dr. Olivero is recognized for her protection of human health in the areas of HIV therapeutics, toxicology, and safety assessment. After receiving her PhD in cytogenetics in Argentina and serving as an Assistant Professor of Biology and Evolution at the Universidad Nacional de La Plata Facultad de Ciencias Naturales y Museo in La Plata, Argentina, Dr. Olivero conducted her postdoctoral training in carcinogenesis at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) within the National Institutes of Health. She then served as a Staff Scientist and Senior Staff Scientist at NCI, where she was the first to demonstrate the ability of antiretroviral drugs to bind the DNA of cultured cells and to interact with the genetic material of the fetuses of mice exposed in utero.
Dr. Olivero currently serves as Chief of the Intramural Diversity Workforce Branch of NCI. In this capacity, she implements strategies and initiatives to recruit and retain minority scientists at NCI. She has designed and runs two mentoring programs: the first, for postdoctoral trainees, is a 10-month training program in leadership, career development, mentoring, and soft skills; the second is an eight-month program designed to support staff scientists in finding career fulfillment.
In 2013, Dr. Olivero published a book entitled Interdisciplinary Mentoring in Science: Strategies for Success, which describes and instructs on team science and interdisciplinary mentoring. This text is a resource employed in many mentoring programs and has reached thousands of students. Dr. Olivero’s mentees range from high school students, to postdoctoral fellows, to staff scientists, many of whom have gone on to have successful careers in the sciences owing largely to her personal and professional guidance.
Dr. Olivero’s mentoring efforts are widespread and have been widely recognized. Dr. Olivero contributes her expertise to organizations such as the Association of Women in Science—which named her the 2013 Mentor of the Year—and the Society for the Advancement of Hispanics/Chicanos and Native Americans in Science—which presented her with the 2018 Distinguished Mentor Award. Dr. Olivero also chaired the Mentoring Program of the Environmental Mutagenesis and Genomics Society, as well as the Student Outreach Committee for the Genetic Toxicology Association.
An SOT member since 2004, Dr. Olivero currently chairs the Mentoring Task Force. She also is a Past President of the Hispanic Organization of Toxicologists Special Interest Group and a member of the Women in Toxicology Special Interest Group. She is a past Chair of the Committee on Diversity Initiatives and the co-founder of the SOT Mentoring Breakfast, which takes place during the SOT Annual Meeting and has matched over 300 mentees with mentors. Through Dr. Olivero’s guidance and encouragement, several of her mentees have accepted leadership positions within the Society.