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Entomology, Ecology Grad Students Win Prestigious Fellowships
Pennsylvania Ag Connection - 09/01/2022

Two graduate students who work in the laboratory of an entomology faculty member in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences recently received prestigious fellowships to further their graduate education and research.

Stephania Sandoval Arango, doctoral candidate in entomology and Fulbright fellow from Colombia, received an award under the Smithsonian Institution Fellowship Program, and Isabella Petitta, master's degree candidate in ecology, received a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

Sandoval Arango is advised by Margarita López-Uribe, associate professor of entomology and Lorenzo L. Langstroth Early Career Professor, and Petitta is co-advised by López-Uribe and Autumn Sabo, assistant professor of biology at Penn State Beaver.

The Smithsonian Institution Fellowship Program provides opportunities for independent research or study related to Smithsonian collections, facilities or research interests of the institution and its staff. These fellowships enable recipients to conduct independent research and to utilize the resources of the institution with members of the Smithsonian professional research staff serving as advisors and hosts.

Sandoval Arango will use this fellowship to visit the Smithsonian for six months to study the morphological and genome variation of the cuckoo bee (Triepeolus remigatus), a cleptoparasitic bee that likely has expanded its geographic range following the range expansion of its host, the squash bee (Eucera pruinosa). The Smithsonian fellowship will allow her to conduct molecular work necessary to generate data for her project, as well as examine the entomological collection at the National Museum of Natural History.

"This Big Ten Smithsonian predoctoral fellowship will give Stephania a unique professional development opportunity by working and experiencing the workplace in one of the biggest insect collections in the country," López-Uribe said.

With support from her NSF fellowship, Petitta will integrate principles from environmental management and plant ecology to study how fire, deer management and plant genetic diversity influence the fitness of blue lupine (Lupinus perennis) -- a native plant rare in Pennsylvania -- and its pollinators. She is broadly interested in wild bee community ecology and factors influencing pollination and bee species health.

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship program annually selects outstanding graduate students for the awards, which provide three years of funding to support participants' master's and doctoral degree studies. The fellowship is highly competitive; 12,000 students apply annually, and approximately 2,000 students receive awards, which are based on the applicants' abilities and accomplishments, as well as their potential to contribute to strengthening the vitality of the U.S. science and engineering enterprise.

"The prestigious NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program has a long history of selecting recipients who become lifelong leaders who contribute significantly to scientific advancements, teaching and solutions to societal problems," López-Uribe said. "I am very proud of this recognition for Isabella."

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