UNCP gets new director for grants office


Rivera ChantelDr. Chantal A. Rivera has joined UNC Pembroke as director of the Office of Sponsored Research and Programs. A Southport, N.C., native, Dr. Rivera is a research scientist and professional grant writer and administrator.

Sponsored Research and Programs is UNCP’s grants office and is a division of the School of Graduate Study and Research. Dr. Rivera reports to Dr. Rebecca Bullard-Dillard, dean of the school.

A Southport, N.C. native, Dr. Rivera comes to UNCP from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Md., where she was a scientific review officer of the Clinical Integrative Molecular Gastroenterology study section as well as various special emphasis panels. Prior to NIH, she received tenure as an associate professor at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in Shreveport, La.

At UNCP, Dr. Rivera will lead the office that is the connection between university faculty and administration and grant funding entities. The Office of Sponsored Research and Programs keeps faculty informed of grant opportunities and trains and assists them with the entire pre- and post-award process.

With a doctorate in pharmacology from UNC-Chapel Hill and more than a decade of research at Baylor College of Medicine, NASA, Louisiana State University and the Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner Research Institute, Dr. Rivera is pleased to be at UNCP.

“I have been working in grants all of my professional career, and when the opportunity at UNCP arose, I seized it,” she said. “I am from southeastern North Carolina, so I am familiar with UNCP and proud of its progress. I appreciate the university’s mission and its diversity.”

Dr. Rivera will work to energize faculty across campus to apply for more and larger research grants. “Our job is to ensure the university builds the best applications possible to maximize our success,” she said. “This will require organization and communication.”

The Office of Sponsored Research and Programs staff consists of a research and training coordinator and a grants development coordinator. Dr. Rivera and her staff will work on a broad array of opportunities across campus and in some specific areas.

“We will work with the Regional Center to bring more programs and to build partnerships with the Lumbee Tribe,” she said. “Health awareness is a priority as is economic development and entrepreneurship. We will also look for educational grants that have the potential to support academic programs and recruit students.”

Dr. Rivera’s scientific research concentrated on obesity and inflammatory responses associated with the liver. “After completing my graduate and post-doctoral studies, I became fascinated with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH ore= what used to be called the preacher’s wife syndrome),” she said. “My research demonstrated that reducing the ‘bad’ bacteria in the gut or eliminating the response to the toxins that are released from the bacteria prevents NASH in overweight mice.  ”

NASH is a build-up of fat and inflammation in the liver due to long-term consumption of a high fat/high sugar diet.  Dr. Rivera is a co-author in 34 peer-reviewed papers and is lead author in an article that has been cited more than 200 times by other scientists based on her work with NASH. Her work on liver disease included further studies of diet and mobility and work in NASA’s microgravity laboratories.

Outside the lab, Dr. Rivera taught physiology, toxicology, molecular pharmacology, and cell pathophysiology.  She has mentored students one-on-one and in small groups. Based on her work in the field of liver disease, she has been invited to give lectures in several countries around the world and across the United States.

For more information about the Office of Sponsored Research and Programs, please contact them at (910) 521-6494 or email osrp@uncp.edu.