The Population Biology, Ecology and Evolution (PBEE) graduate program 2022 NCAA basketball tournament challenge winners were Jacoby Robinson for the men’s tournament and Levi Morran for the women’s tournament.
A graduate student in the Gerardo lab, Jacoby’s faith in his Jayhawks paid off as their championship win catapulted Jacoby past grad student David Jimenez-Vallejo for the win. Both Jacoby and David picked 3 of the Final 4 teams correctly in a crazy year for upsets.
On the other hand, Levi’s faith in his Hoosiers nearly sunk his bracket on the women’s side. However, South Carolina’s win in the championship was just enough for Levi to pass Daniel Weissman at the end.
Graduate student Sandra Mendiola received a fellowship from the United States Department of Agriculture to support her research on how symbionts influence the ability of squash bugs to vector plant pathogens. Congrats, Sandra!
Congratulations to grad student Sandra Mendiola for winning the Biology Graduate Award. This award recognizes her record of both scholarship and service to the Department, the Population Biology, Ecology and Evolution program, and Emory as a whole.
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.
Synéja and Whitney are both rising seniors at Spelman College. During the summer, with support from the LGS-SOAR program and under the guidance of postdoc Scott Villa, they spearheaded projects aimed at understanding the traits used in monarch butterfly mate choice. Synéja’s project looked at the role of male body size on mating success. Whitney’s project involved the role of male wing color and mating success. Despite being isolated at home, both did an amazing job analyzing videos of monarch behavior while coordinating experiments and data analysis with me via zoom.
Scott, their mentor, write, “without students like Synéja and Whitney, my research would have ground to a halt this summer.”
We look forward to bringing undergraduates back to the lab in the full once the pandemic is over, but, for now, we cherish the opportunities that we still have to work with such amazing students.
Zoom Science. Undergrads Syneja and Whitney meet with Scott, their summer research mentor.
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.
Note from former graduate student Kim Hoang to Erica upon her successful defense.
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!