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Standout scientist: Dr. Hector Aguilar-Carreño garners top SUNY fellowship

Dr. Hector Aguilar-Carreno

Dr. Hector Aguilar-Carreño, professor of virology in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, was chosen for this fellowship due to his demonstrated success in and bright potential for leadership. He is among only nine fellows across the entire SUNY system and Cornell’s sole representative in the program. Photo: Lindsay France/Cornell

Dr. Hector Aguilar-Carreño is no stranger to leadership roles — and in 2023, he adds the State University of New York (SUNY) Hispanic Leadership Institute’s select fellows program to the list.

“Leadership is something I’ve learned over time,” he says. “As a Principal Investigator, for example, or in the classroom — you lead by helping others build their independence and creativity, by being available, being engaged, and not steamrolling.”

Aguilar-Carreño, a professor of virology in the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine, was chosen for this fellowship due to his demonstrated success in and bright potential for leadership. He is among only nine fellows across the entire SUNY system and Cornell’s sole representative in the program.

“Dr. Aguilar-Carreño represents the best of Cornell. He is a highly accomplished scientist and educator, and I’m pleased that he will have this opportunity to further develop his already exceptional skills,” says Lorin D. Warnick, D.V.M., Ph.D. ’94, the Austin O. Hooey Dean of Veterinary Medicine.

Dr. Deb Fowell, chair of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, agrees. “Hector will bring unique insight with him to the program. I’m confident he will leverage this opportunity to continue his great work in our department and Cornell as a whole.”

Warnick and Fowell joined Dr. Avery August, deputy provost and professor of immunology, and Dr. Robert Weiss, associate dean for research and graduate education, to nominate Aguilar-Carreño for the fellowship.

Ongoing growth

Founded in 2018, the Hispanic Leadership Institute is a six-month program for faculty and staff of Hispanic descent to further develop their leadership abilities. During the fellowship, Aguilar-Carreño will spend nearly 200 hours attending training sessions, webinars, meeting with national and statewide Hispanic leaders, in addition to doing a deep dive on his own leadership style. His cohort includes individuals in a variety of fields, though he is one of only two who specialize in a scientific field.

“Given his passion, diverse experiences and exceptional potential, I am certain that Dr. Aguilar-Carreño will use his Hispanic Leadership Institute training to take him to the next level as a leader,” August says.

Aguilar-Carreño cites leaders like August, Fowell, Warnick, Weiss, and others as inspiration to explore his own growth — those who have good goals in mind, and care about the success of others, not just themselves.

“When they do so much and do it gladly, that is something to admire,” he says.

Natural next step

Embarking on this fellowship is a natural next step in Aguilar-Carreño’s professional journey. “I see it as a journey to truly discern where my passion lies,” he says.

Since joining the College of Veterinary Medicine in 2017, Aguilar-Carreño has led a strong research program in virology, focusing on basic mechanisms of viral entry into cells, viral assembly, vaccines, and antivirals. He has been deeply engaged in graduate education in infectious diseases and immunology, and has been a member of the college’s research council. In addition to chairing the college’s diversity, equity and inclusion committee, Aguilar-Carreño is also the co-director of the Program for Achieving Career Excellence, which is helping increase diversity among the biomedical junior faculty across Cornell — to name only a few of his forays into leadership.

“Dr. Aguilar-Carreño fosters creativity in his lab and is doing standout science. He is a natural leader in many ways,” Weiss says.

This trajectory will serve Aguilar-Carreño well as he spends the next semester in discussion and reflection with his cohort. “There is always room for growth,” he says, noting specific areas of interest in mentorship-as-leadership as well as leadership within his scientific field. “What I see as most important is to bring what I’ve learned back to Cornell and beyond, whether that’s through further opportunities here at the college or with the university as a whole, or at the national and international levels. It will equip me to be a better leader in many ways.”

By the time the program concludes, Aguilar-Carreño will have a written plan for his leadership growth, and will be expected to identify ways in which he can make a difference.

“Hector’s contributions to the department and dedication to his mentees, colleagues, and field are remarkable,” Fowell says. “We’re excited to see his continued growth as a leader at the College of Veterinary Medicine as well as Cornell.”

Written by Melanie Greaver Cordova