2012 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program Awards
Christopher Anthony Abin, a Ph.D. student studying Microbiology, researches the way in which microbes respire chemical compounds of the toxic metalloid antimony (Sb), a process that occurs in much the same way humans breathe oxygen. Abin hopes that by acquiring a better understanding of how this process works in nature, it may have wide-ranging implications for the bioremediation of Sb-contaminated environments worldwide.
Eric Goolsby, a Ph.D. student studying Toxicology with an emphasis in ecological toxicology, is researching the evolutionary ecology of plants known as hyperaccumulators, which have evolved the ability to take up extremely high amounts of normally toxic metals (such as arsenic, nickel, and lead) without suffering toxic symptoms. His research explores micro- and macroevolutionary patterns of metal hyperaccumulation, as well as associated plant-soil-herbivore interactions and plant life history.
Dara Ashley Satterfield, a Ph.D. student studying ecology, researches infectious diseases in wildlife, especially how parasites of wild animals might spread or evolve in response to environmental changes. Satterfield works with Project Monarch Health to monitor the health and migration of monarch butterflies and the levels of the protozoan parasite Ophryocystis elektroscirrha that they carry to determine if the parasite levels correlate with altered monarch migration habits.
Troy Nathaniel Simon, a Ph.D. student studying ecology, investigates how ecological and evolutionary processes interact in nature to shape species evolution and ecosystem function in contemporary time. His research is conducted in the Northern Range mountain rainforest streams on the Island of Trinidad, where he investigates how the evolution of the small guppy, Poecilia reticulata, and stream ecosystem processes interact in nature.
Jacquelyn Brianna Freeman, a Ph.D. student studying plant biology, researches symbiotic interactions between plant roots and certain soil-dwelling fungi. Freeman is specifically interested in how plants and/or fungi "choose" their partners, whether these choices tend to maximize the plant's or the fungi's fitness and how plants can balance the need to allow in potentially beneficial fungi while still fighting off pathogenic fungi. Her long term goals include better understanding the genetic underpinning of these interactions to allow us to better utilize mycorrhizal fungi in agriculture, where we are increasingly faced with the need to grow more food with fewer inputs, such as nitrogen and phosphorous fertilizers.
Fellows receive a three-year annual stipend and education allowance for tuition and fees along with opportunities for international research and professional development, and the freedom to conduct their own research. Additional information about the GRFP program can be found at http://www.nsfgrfp.org/. The 2013 NSF GRFP Program Solicitation is available at http://www.nsf.gov/grfp.