Marine science student wins Hollings Scholarship

by Greg St. Martin

Ben­jamin Moran, S’18, a marine biology major, has been awarded the Ernest F. Hollings Schol­ar­ship by the National Oceanic and Atmos­pheric Administration.

The schol­ar­ship sup­ports stu­dents inter­ested in oceanic and atmos­pheric sci­ence, research, tech­nology, and edu­ca­tion, and includes a two-​​year aca­d­emic stipend as well as a 10-​​week paid summer intern­ship working under the guid­ance of a NOAA mentor on a research project of the recipient’s choosing. Moran was one of 150 stu­dents nation­wide to receive the schol­ar­ship this year.

He is con­flicted on whether he wants his project to focus on mol­e­c­ular biology or ecology and fish­eries sci­ence, so he may decide to simply not make a choice. “I might try to tie those two together,” he said. “I have a hard time finding things I’m not inter­ested in.”

On Thursday after­noon at North­eastern, Moran will be rec­og­nized for earning his schol­ar­ship at the university’s Aca­d­emic Honors Convocation.

He has already amassed a variety of research expe­ri­ences in his first two years at North­eastern. In his first year, he worked on a bioin­for­matics project as part of a research team’s work to assemble a de novo cen­tral ner­vous system tran­scrip­tome of the brown ghost knife­fish. Since then, he has won a Scholars Inde­pen­dent Research Fel­low­ship for a project in biology pro­fessor William Detrich’s lab studying a blood gene found in an Antarctic ice­fish, and he’s also expanded his inter­ests into public policy through a project working with asso­ciate pro­fessor Jon Grabowski at Northeastern’s Marine Sci­ence Center. That research involves exam­ining the processes, trends, and out­comes when local fish­eries apply for fed­eral dis­aster relief and when the gov­ern­ment issues dis­aster declarations.

Moran is cur­rently on co-​​op at the Marine Bio­log­ical Lab­o­ra­tory in Woods Hole, Mass­a­chu­setts, where he is part of a team whose research focuses on rotifers, a tiny marine inver­te­brate. His co-​​op began by set­ting up exper­i­ments that test how rotifers respond to dif­ferent envi­ron­mental cues and then track changes in their lifespan and repro­duc­tion. But he’s since been asked to help to create a DNA library for some rotifer samples.

I’ve had as many expe­ri­ences as I could ask for and more at North­eastern to pursue all of my inter­ests,” Moran said.

Though he grew up in Ohio, far from the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, Moran noted that he’s always “had a fas­ci­na­tion with things that were dif­ferent,” par­tic­u­larly ocean life. This passion—sparked from expe­ri­ences like reading Jacques Cousteau books and vis­iting aquariums—blossomed in high school when he took intro­duc­tory courses for col­lege credit on oceanog­raphy and aquatic biology at summer pro­grams at Ohio State University’s Stone Lab­o­ra­tory, located on Lake Erie. There, he got his first hands-​​on expe­ri­ences with field ecology, col­lecting spec­i­mens, and learning about marine processes.

It con­firmed on a larger level that this is what I want to do with my life,” said Moran, adding that Northeastern’s marine sci­ence cur­riculum and hands-​​on expe­ri­en­tial learning oppor­tu­ni­ties played a big role in his choosing to attend the university.

Once Moran com­pletes his co-​​op in June, he is plan­ning to con­tinue working on his research with Grabowski—and no doubt uncover new areas of marine sci­ence that pique his interest. He will also begin Northeastern’s Three Seas Pro­gram next spring.

He aspires to earn a doc­torate in bio­log­ical oceanog­raphy or marine biology. “Marine sci­ence is extremely inter­dis­ci­pli­nary,” he said. “The more I learn, the more I want to tie things together as I advance in my career.”

Originally published in [email protected] on April 21, 2015

College of Science