Matan Shelomi, Kelly Hamby, Katharina Ullmann and Irina Shapiro Receive NSF Research Awards
April 21, 2011
Matan Shelomi is studying for his doctorate with major professor Lynn Kimsey. He is studying walking sticks. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
DAVIS--Four graduate students affiliated with the UC Davis Department of Entomology have received fellowship awards in the National Science Foundation's Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF GRFP).
They are Matan Shelomi, who studies with systematic entomologist Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology; Kelly Hamby, whose major professor is integrated pest management specialist Frank Zalom, professor of entomology; Katharina Ullmann, whose major professor is native pollinator specialist Neal Williams, assistant professor of entomology; and Irina Shapiro, who will begin her studies this fall with Ed Lewis, associate professor of entomology and nematology.
Shelomi, Hamby, and Shapiro are enrolled in the doctorate program, while Ullmann is seeking a master’s degree.
They are among 2,000 recipients of graduate research fellowship awards. Each will receive a stipend of $30,000 a year for up to three years.
Kelly Hamby is studying for her doctorate with major professor Frank Zalom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey) Irina Shapiro, shown here with a lubber (type of grasshopper), is studying for her doctorate with major professor Ed Lewis. (Courtesy Photo) Katharina Ullmann, shown here in a poppy and lupine field, is studying for her master's degree with major professor Neal Williams. (Photo by Neal Williams)
Shelomi, who received his bachelor’s degree in organismic and evolutionary biology from Harvard, is working on his doctorate studying the gut symbionts of the Phasmatodea (walking sticks). Specifically, he is looking for bacteria or fungi that can break down cellulose in leaves, or the toxic compounds in Eucalyptus for walking sticks that feed on it, such as the Australian species Extatosoma tiaratum.
In addition to the NSF GRFP, Shelomi also won a fellowship from the NSF East Asia and Pacific Summer Institutes (EAPSI). This summer, he will be spending 10 weeks in Japan, working under Hirofumi Watanabe in the National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences in Tsukuba. There he hopes to compliment his research in UC Davis by studying the cellulases and other enzymes directly.
Hamby is a graduate of UC Davis with a bachelor of science degree in environmental toxicology. Her research focuses on the spotted wing drosophila (Drosophila suzukii), first detected in California in the fall of 2008. The fly has become an important pest of berry and cherry crops, which have a combined farmgate value of $1.9 billion.
“My research is focused on the molecular biology and genomics of insecticide resistance in this fly,” Hamby said. “It is closely related to the model organism Drosophila melanogaster for which much is already known, so I hope to draw from those studies to enhance mine. I plan to monitor the genomic changes as resistance develops in both the field and the lab, and use this information to help growers manage insecticide resistance. “
Hamby was recently named the recipient of the Lillian and Alex Feir Graduate Student Travel Award in Insect Physiology, Biochemistry or Molecular Biology from the Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America. The branch is now nominating her for the national award.
Ullmann is a 2002 graduate of the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, where she received her bachelor of science degree in environmental biology, with honors, and a minor in French, with honors. Her research involves pollination ecology, including increasing floral resources for honey bees and native bees in agricultural landscapes and understanding how native bees persist in agricultural landscapes.
“Pollinators play an important role in crop production and in maintaining wildflower populations," Ullmann said. "However, habitat destruction and agricultural intensification has modified the floral resources available in agricultural landscapes. Ensuring that pollen and nectar resources are available throughout the year is important for both honey bees and wild native bees. Understanding how some bees species are able to persist in these intensified agricultural landscapes is also important."
In 2001, Ullmann was involved in a six-month study program on the ecology and conservation of Madagascar. Last year she received three bee-related scholarships to fund her research: the George H. Vansell Scholarship for $4,435, the John S. Harbison Scholarship for $1000; and the Teledyne Entomology Fellowship for $1000.
Shapiro is a 2010 graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park, with a bachelor of science degree in environmental science and policy (with a concentration in biodiversity and conservation biology) and a minor in Spanish language and culture. She will begin her doctorate program in entomology at UC Davis in the fall of 2011.
Two other entomology graduate students received honorable mention: Danica Maxwell, studying for her master’s degree with Michael Parrella, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology; and Meredith Cenzer, studying for her doctorates with Louie Yang, assistant professor of entomology.
The NSF is an independent federal agency created by the National Science Foundation Act of 1950. NSF's purpose is "to promote the progress of science; and to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare by supporting research and education in all fields of science and engineering."
The Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP), funded since 1952, is NSF’s oldest program. Since 1952, the GRFP has supported more than 42,000 U.S. citizens, nationals, and permanent residents to pursue advanced degrees in science and engineering, according to its website. Among its alumni: more than 30 Nobel Laureates, 440 members of the National Academy of Sciences, thousands of science and engineering faculty, and many notable individuals in industry, government, and the non-profit sector.
The list of the 2011 awardees is available on the website.
--Kathy Keatley Garvey
UC Davis Department of Entomology