SAN GERMAN, PUERTO RICO - Karyna Rosario and Erin Symonds from the Breitbart lab recently conducted a two-day outreach activity in the Laura Mercado Secondary School located in a rural area in San Germán, Puerto Rico to teach seventh graders about the world of viruses. The students learned about viruses and insects and had the opportunity to be virus hunters for a day.
The overarching goal was to have students collect insect specimens that will be processed in our lab as part of a current project investigating a novel group of single-stranded DNA viruses in invertebrates. The outreach activity was supported by an NSF Assembling the Tree of Life grant and conducted in collaboration with Dr. José L. Agosto Rivera, a professor at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus.
ST. PETERSBURG - Ms. Erin Symonds of the University of South Florida has been awarded a Fulbright Research Grant to Costa Rica to continue her doctoral research at the MarViva Foundation, where she will provide complementary, enhanced measurements and source identification of pollution from biological sources in order to improve watershed management practices. This research will support MarViva's Greater Tempisque River Watershed (GTRW) management project and will help to improve MarViva's understanding of fecal pollution in the GTRW and promote further water management actions.
As a PhD candidate, Erin represents the USF College of Marine Sciences, where her academic achievements have been noted inside and outside the classroom. Her doctoral studies are supported by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) STAR (Science to Achieve Results) Fellowship (2011-2013). In 2013, Erin was a member of a team awarded a USF Interdisciplinary Challenge Grant to execute a rapid assessment of microbial risk from consuming lettuce in the Cochabamba Valley of Bolivia. She is currently the student representative for the USF College of Marine Science Curriculum Committee. Erin has presented her research at National and International scientific conferences and has published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Additionally, she developed and instructs a course on water sciences intended for motivated high school students through Duke University's Talent Identification Program. As an active member in the community, Erin frequently promotes science education through involvement in the St. Petersburg Science Festival and as a guest speaker at local schools and organizations.
Upon completion of the Fulbright research grant, Erin will defend her dissertation graduate with her doctorate in Marine Science. As a PhD holding scientist, she intends to continue to dedicate herself to the protection of human and environmental health, formally and informally through education, research and capacity building as a post-doctoral researcher and later as a university professor and researcher. Erin received her bachelor's degree in Environmental Science and Biology from the University of Virginia and her master's degree from USF in Marine Science. Erin returned to USF for her doctorate after serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala, where she helped establish a water quality laboratory and monitoring program.
Dr. Linda Lucas, Director of the Office of National Scholarships said of Erin's award, "We are very proud of Erin's many significant accomplishments. She will be a wonderful ambassador from the US during her Fulbright experience." The Office of National Scholarships identifies, recruits and mentors high achieving students to apply for national merit scholarships across all disciplines. The scholarships and fellowships are for creative, motivated and academically strong students who are leaders in and out of the classroom.
The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The primary source of funding for the Fulbright Program is an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Participating governments and host institutions, corporations and foundations in foreign countries and in the United States also provide direct and indirect support. Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields. The Program operates in over 155 countries worldwide. The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is administered by the Institute of International Education.
ST. PETERSBURG, FL - Erin Symonds, a PhD student studying microbial water quality in Dr. Mya Breitbart's laboratory at the USF College of Marine Science has been selected as the 2016 recipient of the Raymond W. Sarber Award from the American Society of Microbiology. Erin will be presented with this prestigious award for microbiology research excellence and potential at an awards ceremony at the ASM Microbe 2016 meeting in Boston, MA in June.