Purdue Public Health researcher receives NIH Director’s New Innovator Award

Written By: Denise Buhrmester, buhrmest@purdue.edu

Natalia Rodriguez headshot

Natalia Rodriguez(Tim Brouk)

Natalia Rodriguez, assistant professor in the Purdue University Department of Public Health, has been selected as a 2023 NIH (National Institutes of Health) Director’s New Innovator Award recipient.

The NIH Director’s New Innovator Award is a component of the NIH Common Fund’s High-Risk, High-Reward Program, which supports exceptionally creative scientists conducting highly innovative research. The program seeks to identify scientists with high-impact ideas that may be risky or at a stage too early to fare well in the traditional peer review process. The program encourages creative, outside-the-box thinkers to pursue exciting and innovative ideas in any area of biomedical, behavioral or social science research relevant to the NIH mission.

The $2.3 million NIH Director’s New Innovator Award will fund Rodriguez’s research over the next five years. Her interdisciplinary research engages diverse communities in the design and implementation of innovative technologies to address health disparities. Currently, she is developing point-of-care cancer detection tools and innovative deployment strategies to address cervical cancer disparities. Ultimately, Rodriguez plans to expand her research beyond cervical cancer to improve health outcomes for vulnerable populations by facilitating preventative care delivery more broadly.

This is only the second time a Purdue faculty member has received the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award since it was established in 2007.

“I am extremely pleased Dr. Rodriguez’s innovative research is being recognized by the NIH,” said Marion K. Underwood, dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences. “Her findings will inform future community-based interventions to improve cervical cancer screenings and care among medically underserved populations in Indiana and beyond.”

Rodriguez holds a courtesy appointment in Purdue’s Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering and is an associate member of the Indiana University Melvin and Bran Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center. She received a career development award from the National Cancer Institute in 2019 and an Indiana CTSI Trailblazer Award in 2021 for a cervical cancer screening study in Lake County, Indiana.