National Science Foundation Chooses Three Mac Grads

What do three recent Mac grads have in common with Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Google co-founder Sergey Brin, and Freakonomics co-author Steven Levitt? All are recipients of the highly prestigious NSF Graduate Research Fellowship.

The alumni recipients, all biology majors, are Alese Colehour ’09, Ben Freeman ’06, and Suzy Szumowski ’09. The fellowships, which provide $30,000 annually for three years, support outstanding graduate students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. In addition, they benefit from a $10,500 cost of education allowance for tuition and fees.

Colehour, who is in the University of Oregon biological anthropology program, says, “Macalester marks the beginning of my journey into a world of free and creative thought. The Macalester community taught me the value of being open to diverse cultural experiences, which I’m excited to continue exploring in graduate school. I am grateful in particular to my professors who continue to show interest in and support of my endeavors.”

Alese Colehour will conduct her research in the Ecuadorian Amazon, where she will participate in a project studying the Shuar people, indigneous people of Ecuador. Colehour will study how the Shuar use their surrounding vegetation for medicinal and other purposes, and how they are being affected by market integration into their society. 

Ben Freeman’s research focuses on ecological and evolutionary factors contributing to the high species diversity and biogeographic patterns of tropical birds. His PhD research will build on his previous studies of birds in Papua New Guinea and South America.

Suzy Szumowski’s research seeks to understand how pathogens that live inside of cells exit those cells when they are ready to be transmitted to a new host. The pathogens she works on are microsporidia, which have been implicated in honeybee colony collapse disorder and are a major health concern for immune-compromised people, such as AIDS patients.  

“The opportunity I had at Macalester to conduct a biological research project that was directly overseen by an attentive faculty member was absolutely invaluable,” says Szumowski, who is in the biological sciences at the University of California–San Diego. “That experience provided me with insight into what a research career involves and made me an attractive candidate.”

“The Graduate Student Fellowships are highly competitive,” wrote Mark Davis, chair of Biology. “We are especially proud of our three recent graduates who were granted this prestigious award.”

June 1 2011

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