Jennifer Mize Nelson, director of research strategy and infrastructure in the Office of Research and Economic Development, has been named interim director of the Nebraska Center for Virology. Her appointment was effective July 1.
Nelson, also a research associate professor of psychology, succeeds Deb Hamernik, associate vice chancellor for research, in the interim role. Charles Wood, Lewis Lehr/3M University Professor of virology, was NCV’s founding director and served in that role until 2019.
The NCV was established as a National Institutes of Health Center for Biomedical Research Excellence. Housed in the Ken Morrison Life Sciences Research Center, it connects scientists at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, the University of Nebraska Medical Center and Creighton University who study viruses in humans, plants and animals. Their work is aimed at developing new strategies for treating and preventing viral infections.
As interim director, Nelson is responsible for facilitating relationships between NCV faculty and research administrators; fostering collaboration among Morrison’s faculty, staff and students to enhance interdisciplinary research; developing plans to secure continued center funding; overseeing the center budget and staff; and paving the way for recruitment of a permanent NCV director.
Nelson brings significant research administration experience to the role. Since 2019, she’s served as ORED’s director of research strategy and infrastructure, where she develops strategies to strengthen the university’s research centers and core facilities, administers internal funding opportunities and supports priority research projects and partnerships. She will continue in this role as she leads the virology center.
Prior to her ORED post, Nelson was director of administration for the Center for Brain, Biology and Behavior, where she led operational, human resource and financial functions. She built bridges among researchers at UNL, UNMC and the University of Nebraska at Omaha to bolster center-related research programs and strengthened ties between CB3 and Nebraska Athletics. She also developed and administered pilot funding opportunities and oversaw the establishment and operation of the Magnetic Resonance Imaging Facility and Salivary Bioscience Laboratory, both of which saw increased external research funding under her leadership.
“With her extensive experience in research administration, and as an investigator on numerous NIH-funded projects, Jen is in a strong position to lead the Nebraska Center for Virology as it transitions to a new phase,” said Bob Wilhelm, vice chancellor for research and economic development. “I am confident her leadership will advance the goals of the center, which are more important than ever as the burdens of viral disease become increasingly clear.”
Nelson is an expert in child clinical psychology. She joined the university in 2009 as a postdoctoral fellow in the NIH-funded Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory, which investigates children’s cognitive development from birth into the school years. She later became the lab’s site director, overseeing NIH-funded R01 projects and managing the lab’s day-to-day operations. She continues to contribute to NIH-funded work focused on executive control, risk factors for childhood obesity, adolescent substance abuse and child behavioral health, among other topics.
Nelson has master’s and doctorate degrees in clinical child psychology from the University of Kansas. Her bachelor’s degree in psychology is from the University of California, Los Angeles.