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MPS doctoral student Emily Lanier awarded prestigious NSF fellowship

Emily Lanier, a Ph.D. student in the Molecular Plant Sciences Program (MPS) is a recipient of the 2019 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

The program, one of the country’s most prestigious and competitive awards for graduate students, directly supports graduate students in various science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

NSF Graduate Research Fellows benefit from a three-year annual stipend of $34,000 along with a $12,000 cost of education allowance for tuition and fees, opportunities for international research and professional development and the freedom to conduct their own research at any accredited U.S. institution of graduate education they choose.

Emily at the lab bench
Emily in the lab

Lanier is a dual major in MPS and the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, where she works in the lab of scientist Bjoern Hamberger.

She is pursuing a collaborative project between the labs of Dr. Hamberger and Dr. Michaela TerAvest, working to find new methods of producing plant-derived chemicals for pharmaceutical and industrial uses. The project combines Dr. TerAvest’s work in bioreactors that can “feed” microbes with electricity with Dr. Hamberger’s expertise in plant terpene chemistry.

Emily says, “Receiving this award is really exciting because it validates my aspiration to be a scientist working on the forefront of green chemistry and biology. It also gives me the freedom to pursue interesting collaborations such as this without worrying about funding sources.”

Emily with her mentors
Emily with her mentors, Bjoern Hamberger, left, and Michaela TerAvest, right

Bjoern Hamberger adds, “Michaela TerAvest and our team have been brainstorming how we could raise a project integrating both our very different technologies. This is when Emily bravely stepped in to effectively bridge between our labs. We are really excited about this project, which has the potential to open the door to a new area of research in Synthetic Biology, ‘Electro-terpenes’.”

“As a Ph.D. student in the inaugural class of the new Molecular Plant Sciences Graduate Program, this award to Emily is not only well-deserved, but illustrates the breadth of collaboration, the impact of her project, and her determination to advance our discipline. The MPS community applauds her early success and are excited to see the many great things she will achieve through support from the NSF.”