On a fast track to faculty

Presidential Postdoctoral Fellows bring diverse perspectives and experiences to campus with the potential to advance their careers.
June 12, 2023

Since the University of Minnesota introduced the President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship Program (PPFP) in 2019, the College of Biological Sciences has welcomed four fellows, with a fifth starting next year. The program is designed to provide promising postdocs from diverse backgrounds underrepresented in higher education a path to faculty positions. “Increasing the diversity of our faculty is in the compelling interest of our university, our students, and society as a whole. It is important for our students to see themselves reflected in their interactions in our classrooms, labs, and college spaces—representational diversity matters,” says Interim Dean David Greenstein. “The PPFP program is one avenue for attracting outstanding postdocs and providing them with the opportunity to move into permanent positions within the college.” Learn more about the college’s PPFP participants.

Beatriz Baselga Cervera

Current role: PPFP fellow in Ecology, Evolution and Behavior
PPFP participant 2022-current

Beatriz Baselga Cervera holds a Ph.D. in microbiology and a D.V.M. from the Universidad Complutense of Madrid in Spain. She studies microbes to better understand the origin of traits and the diversity of life with interdisciplinary laboratory-field background and practice and previously worked as a postdoctoral associate in EEB before becoming a PPFP fellow this fall. Her passion to share her science is reflected in  10+ years performing community-centered outreach and communication, mainly targeting Spanish-speaking communities.

“What stands out so far is the support network of the program,” says Baselga Cervera. “The PPFP program, from the beginning, has organized informative sessions, networking and social events. I have also experienced a strong commitment on behalf of the department and school to help me push forward my research and apply for new funding.”

While beneficial for her research, it’s also been beneficial in preparing her to teach future scientists. 

“As a researcher in biology interested on unveiling the diversity of life, I seek to bring into the field all the existing perspectives to incite discovery and stimulate community development,” she says. “I want to grow and learn the necessary skills to become a successful faculty member who can balance teaching, research, mentoring and service. My goal is to promote novel approaches to scientific and biological understanding and engaging heterogeneous learners within and beyond the university. ”

A. Kelly Lane

Current role: assistant professor; Biology Teaching and Learning
PPFP participant 2020-2021

A. Kelly Lane knew she wanted to focus her research on equity and inclusion in higher education. The Department of Biology Teaching and Learning seemed like the perfect place to do that. After completing a Ph.D. in genetics at the University of Georgia and a postdoc in STEM education at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, she joined the department as a PPFP fellow.

“The Biology Teaching and Learning Department here at the U of M has a great reputation in my field,” says Lane. “The opportunity to have a faculty position in that department, even if it wasn’t immediate, was impossible for me to pass up.”

In addition to the chance to move into a faculty position, Lane reflects on how the program provided support at a critical point in her career.

“By the time I became a member of the faculty, I already knew where to go for help and how the department operated,” she says. “I also had significant experience in grant writing that I gained during my time in PPFP, which helped me start my faculty position with external funding and international collaborators. I wrote something like 15 grant applications for internal and external funding during my time as a Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow and several of those grants are now funded.”

Mingzi Xu

Current role: assistant professor, Ecology, Evolution and Behavior
PPFP participant 2019-2021

Mingzi Xu studies the evolution and genetics of sexual behaviors and mating preferences. For the newly minted faculty member, the appeal of participating in the PPFP was to both advance her research and help make her field more inclusive and welcoming.

“I was struck by how supportive my colleagues are in EEB,” says Xu. “It’s the most collaborative and integrative department I have ever seen and I really love it. Since my research bridges behavior and evolution, I found it really easy to integrate into the research community. It has helped me a lot in growing into a faculty role.”

With her recent move into a faculty position within the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior she sees how she can potentially make a lasting impact not only in her research but also in representation.

“Although some other sub-fields of biology have diversified quite a lot in the past years, evolutionary biology, and especially animal behavior, has remained quite white,” says Xu. “ I hope to support young minds of all skin colors and backgrounds interested in these fields.”

Jesús Pinto-Ledezma

Current role: PPFP fellow in Ecology, Evolution and Behavior
PPFP participant 2022-current

Jesús Pinto-Ledezma sees the University of Minnesota as a springboard for expanding his research network. He completed his Ph.D. at the Universidade Federal de Goiás in Brazil in 2017 and conducts research on biodiversity, with focus on understanding the ecological and evolutionary processes that underlie the biodiversity patterns and how environmental changes are altering those processes and ultimately the observed biodiversity patterns.  He has a passion for science and for diversity and inclusion in education and research.

“The major impact this position has had on me is the freedom I have to develop my research program and connect with researchers across the University of Minnesota, and researchers in other institutions at the global scale,” he says. 

While gaining a foothold with a broader research community, he also sees how his time as a fellow will make an impact on his career as an educator and citizen. 

“I aim to contribute to the education and the formation of the next generation of citizens, leaders, and scientists,” he says. “With the PPFP support, I started to advise and train both undergraduate and graduate students in macroecology and computational biology. Without this support, this would not have been possible.”

— Lance Janssen