This semester, I had the pleasure of teaching an in person, Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experience (CURE). My students were amazingly dedicated and we managed to enjoy the company and camaraderie during this unusual semester. For all of my students, this was their only in person course.
Postdoc Scott Villa tried to blend in amongst the insects in his incubator today, wearing a monarch inspired mask. Unfortunately, the squash bugs were not fooled.
Scott works both in the de Roode lab, studying sexual selection in monarch butterflies and in the Gerardo lab, studying hybridization and speciation in squash bugs. Sometimes, he gets confused and mixes the two together.
After an unprecedented COVID-quarantine finish, Erica Harris, through the power of ZOOM, successfully defended her PhD thesis on the influence of gut microbes on monarch butterfly parasite resistance. Throughout her graduate career, Erica mentored numerous undergraduates in our lab and in the lab of her co-advisor, Jaap de Roode. She has also mentored students through such programs as ESA-SEEDs, which supports the mentoring of students from diverse backgrounds who are interested in ecology. In recognition of her commitment to mentoring, Erica received the Laney Graduate School Eleanore Main Student Mentor Award. Erica will continue her science career through a combined research-teaching postdoc at Spelman University.
The Population Biology, Ecology, and Evolution (PBEE) graduate program recently held a retreat for students, postdocs, and faculty to get together. We ended the event with a surprise celebration for Nicole in honor of her 7 years as a leader in the program. The graduate students and the Gerardo lab got together and discussed ways in which we can show how much we appreciate everything Nicole has done for the students. We decided on three items:
- A “graduation cap” for Nicole, where we make a hat decorated with tokens
representing labs in PBEE (right: top view of hat). We presented her with the hat at the retreat (top). The hat-making crew got to put our problem-solving skills to use several times during the process of making the hat (bottom), but we made it work in the end!
- A video montage composed of clips from Gerardo lab alumni and current PBEE students expressing their gratitude. The touching and kind words in this video are a reflection of how much of an impact Nicole has made as a mentor and program leader. I’m grateful to the many people who submitted a clip.
- A baking contest to celebrate Nicole’s love of and skill in baking. Nicole served as one of the judges, and there were a ton of delicious treats to start off dinner!
In addition to passing their quals, Kayla and Sandra also managed other accomplishments this semester. The Society for the Study of Evolution awarded Kayla an R.C. Lewontin Early Award grant to collect field samples for her dissertation research. Only 24 out of over 150 applicants received the award!
Sandra joined the biology department’s volleyball team (in the midst of quals), and they placed second in this year’s Staff Fest tournament! Below is Sandra in action (left) and showcasing her medal (right).
Wen-Hao recently successfully defended his PhD dissertation! The lab made him a graduation cap decorated with various aspects of his research, from hungry monarch caterpillars, to structures of cardenolide and DNA, to fungus-infected aphids. Jaap and Nicole bestowed the cap to Wen-Hao at the defense party, much to his surprise. We hope to keep the tradition going with all future graduates!
Kim Hoang’s NSF postdoctoral fellowship grant was recommended for funding. This fellowship will fund research with Kayla King at Oxford University. Upon leaving Oxford, Kim will return to the US, where she will continue her research and hopes to continue with working with the amazing students at the Global Village Project.