Dr. Oris Sanjur

Dr. Oris Sanjur

Acting Director, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

Dr. Oris Sanjur is the Acting Director of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, a unit of the Smithsonian Institution headquartered in Panama City, Panama. The Institute furthers the understanding of tropical nature and its importance to human welfare, trains students to conduct research in the tropics and promotes understanding of present and past biological diversity by increasing public awareness of the beauty and importance of tropical ecosystems.

Dr. Sanjur oversees more than 400 employees, an annual budget of $35 million, and the Institute’s research facilities throughout Panama and field sites in Africa, Asia and the Americas. In addition to its resident scientists, the Institute’s facilities are used annually by some 1,400 visiting scientists, pre- and postdoctoral fellows and interns from academic and research institutions around the world.

Dr. Sanjur’s relationship with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute spans three decades. In 1989, she was a research assistant for two years working on her undergraduate thesis project. After earning a B.S. in Biology from the University of Panama, she completed a PhD in Cell and Developmental Biology at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.

She returned to STRI as a postdoctoral fellow in 1998, studying the relationships between wild and domesticated crops such as squash and pumpkin. She then spent ten years as manager and researcher of the Molecular Evolution laboratory, after which she took on her most recent role as Associate Director for Science Administration at STRI. In this position, she became responsible for maintaining high standards of scientific operational support for the Institute’s research programs throughout a decade. She has also represented STRI in national and international events, highlighting the value of science and the importance of the research being conducted at STRI to increase our understanding of tropical ecosystems.

Dr. Sanjur’s commitment to the advancement of science has marked her entire career. She has published more than a 20 peer-reviewed articles and presented more than 20 papers at scientific meetings. She has sponsored postdoctoral students, advised predoctoral students, served on the Advisory Committee of master and doctoral students, and served as a mentor of more than a 100 undergraduate and predoctoral students from various countries. From 2006 to 2009, she served as President of the Panamanian Association for the Advancement of Science and currently serves on the board of the City of Knowledge Foundation, the Coiba National Park Biological Station, the National Scientific Researchers System and the Institute for Scientific Research and High Technology Services (INDICASAT AIP).

In 2013, she was selected as one of the ten pioneering women in science in Panama; in 2014, as one of the nine members of the National Electoral Board for the Panamanian Presidential elections; and she was honored as “Distinguished Woman of the Year 2015” by the Panamanian Association of Business Executives. In 2019, she was included in the book “Those Who Inspire – Panama” and was recently named one of the most powerful women in Central America by Forbes Magazine.

She is currently a member of the Panamanian Association for the Advancement of Science (APANAC), Ciencia en Panamá (CeP), the Panama Director's Association (ADP), and the International Women Forum (IWF).