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Science graduate students receive prestigious National Science Foundation fellowship

By Hannah Ashton

Four College of Science graduate students were selected for the prestigious NSF Graduate Student Research Fellowship Program in the 2022-23 school year. The program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in STEM who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees in the U.S.

Sunni Patton standing in front of a white wall wearing a black turtle-neck and glasses.

Sunni Patton

Sunni Patton is a microbiology Ph.D. student working with Rebecca Vega Thurber. She is interested in studying how natural phenomena, anthropogenic contaminants, and other environmental stressors influence marine microbial communities. Her work focuses on understanding microbiome resilience and sensitivity in response to environmental stressors in the endangered Caribbean coral, Acropora cervicornis.

Professor Thurber’s lab seeks the answers to crucial questions within virology, microbiology, coral reef ecology, animal physiology, as well as the evolution of symbiotic relationships. Its methods marry cutting-edge technology and interdisciplinary approaches in order to investigate viruses and microbes and how they impact the world around them.

Read about Patton's journey through coral research here.

Headshot of Caroline Hernandez outside on an overcast day infront of dark green foliage. She is wearing an orange-red tank top and clear-framed glasses.

Caroline Hernandez

Caroline Hernandez is a microbiology Ph.D. student working with Maude David. She is studying the interactions between sensory gut cells and neurons.

David’s lab is in pursuit of discovering how gut microbiomes directly influence behavior, particularly in the context of Autism Spectrum Disorder and Anxiety Disorders. Its work ranges from developing novel biocomputing methods to crowd-sourced data collection. David is especially interested in obtaining critical information from large datasets through machine learning algorithms.

Read more about Hernandez's path from being an art major to studying gut microbiomes here.

Headshot of Luke Bobay outside on a sunny day wearing a half-white half-brown shirt with brown sleaves.

Luke Bobay

Luke Bobay is an integrative biology Ph.D. candidate at the Hatfield Marine Science Center Plankton Ecology Lab. He studies anthropogenic impacts on trophic interactions and population dynamics. He is currently exploring the effects of climate change on northern anchovy populations off the coast of the Pacific Northwest.

The Plankton Ecology Laboratory gathers data applied to ecology, oceanography, the creation and upkeep of marine reserves, and potential environmental changes. It hosts several research projects, including one specializing in the underwater imaging of plankton and another examining trophodynamics in relation to plankton within food webs, providing necessary knowledge on these organisms in a variety of ways.

Headshot of Olivia Burleigh wearing a white striped shirt on a sunny day.

Olivia Burleigh

Olivia Burleigh is an integrative biology Ph.D. candidate working with Virginia Weis. She is studying cnidarian-algal symbiosis. Cnidarians include jellyfish, corals and sea anemones.

The Weis Lab is headed by Distinguished Professor Virginia Weis and examines the symbiotic relationship between coral and algae. Of the relationship, the lab seeks to learn more about how the two organisms recognize one another throughout the relationship, the function of the host’s immune system within the dynamic, and the processes that occur in the cells during the loss of algae, among other topics.