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Comm Professor Jakob Jensen Wins 2015 NIH New Innovator Grant

Communication Professor Jakob (Jake) D. Jensen was awarded a highly coveted 2015 New Innovator Grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for his research program in skin cancer control.

jake jensen headshotThe New Innovator Grant, established in 2007, supports unusually innovative research from early career investigators. The grant provides Professor Jensen with 2.2 million dollars to pursue a 5 year research program.

“[The New Innovator Grant] has consistently produced research that revolutionized fields by giving investigators the freedom to take risks and explore potentially groundbreaking concepts.” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. “We look forward to the remarkable advances in biomedical research the 2015 awardees will make.”

Jake is the first faculty member from a College of Humanities to win a New Innovator grant. To win the award, he had to compete against faculty from all disciplines and make it through several rounds of rigorous peer review. 

Like the award, Jake’s work crosses several traditional boundaries. He is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication, a member of the Cancer Control and Populations Sciences Core at the Huntsman Cancer Institute, and the newly appointed Associate Dean for Research in the College of Humanities. He directs the Health Communication and Technology (HCAT) lab which designs and evaluates innovative communication solutions to public health problems.

Jake’s primary research program seeks to improve skin cancer control by redesigning telehealth systems, and enhancing lay ability to identify atypical moles. It builds on research he published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, which was initially supported by a Great Ideas in the Humanities Grant from the College of Humanities. Jake’s research suggests that groups of people might be better at finding atypical moles, the sort that can be skin cancer. The goal of the next five years is to validate that finding and then develop an infrastructure to support application.

It’s been a remarkable year for Jake. In July he was awarded the Golden Monograph Award for the top article in the field of communication, in August he was named Associate Dean for Research, and in November he and his partner, Professor Robin E. Jensen (Associate Professor, Communication) are expecting their second child. “I think we will be busy this year,” Jake laughed.

Since the inception of the award, six University of Utah faculty members have won New Innovator grants: Jakob D. Jensen (2015), June Round (2014), Adam Frost (2013), Ryan M. O’Connell (2013), Josh L. Bonkowsky (2012), and Jody Snow Rosenblatt (2007).

Mole crowdsourcing infographicNew Innovator FAQ

  • Professor Jensen is the first humanities scholar to win a New Innovator award.
  • Professor Jensen is the second communication scholar to win a New Innovator award. Dr. Emily B. Falk, Annenberg School of Communication, University of Pennsylvania, won a New Innovator grant in 2012 with her work on neuroscience and health communication.
  • Professor Jensen is the 6th faculty member to win a New Innovator grant at the University of Utah, following June Round (2014), Adam Frost (2013), Ryan M. O’Connell (2013), Josh L. Bonkowsky (2012), and Jody Snow Rosenblatt (2007). Previous winners from the University of Utah, including two graduates of the University of Utah, are listed below.
  • Professor Jensen has won other prestigious awards including:
    • 2014 – 2017 Presidential Scholar from the University of Utah
    • 2014-2015 University Faculty Fellow from the University of Utah
    • 2013 Young Scholar Award from the International Communication Association
    • 2011 Shooting Star Award from the American Advertising Federation

Previous University of Utah winners:

June Round
University of Utah
Project Title: Developing Therapies to Target the Microbiota

Adam Frost, M.D., Ph.D.
University of Utah School of Medicine
Project Title: Toward Atomic Resolution of Membranes and Membrane-Associated Machines

Ryan M. O’Connell, Ph.D.
University of Utah
Project Title: Utilizing TALEN Technology to Regulate Human microRNAs

Josh L. Bonkowsky, M.D., Ph.D.
University of Utah
Project Title: Trans-Cellular Activation of Transcription to Analyze Dopaminergic Axon Reorganization

Jody Snow Rosenblatt
University of Utah
Project Title: Identification of Signals that Extrude an Apoptotic Cell from an Epithelium

Utah Graduates (undergrad or grad) who have received a New Innovator:

Douglas B. Weibel, Ph.D.
University of Wisconsin, Madison
Project Title: Revisiting the Bacterial Cell Wall as a Target for New Antibiotics

Michael B. Major, Ph.D.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Project Title: Exploitation of Near-Haploid Human Cells for Functional Gene Discovery


Last Updated: 9/20/21