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Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology PhD students awarded NSF Fellowships

by Julia Renner, Marine Biology 2018

Two students in Northeastern’s Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology PhD program have been awarded prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships Program awards. The award funds will enable Andrea Unzueta Martínez and Kelsi Furman to devote their time to their research passions. The program “recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported STEM disciplines,” and will provide funding for three years of their graduate work.

Andrea Unzueta Martínez came to Northeastern after completing her undergraduate work in marine biology at the University of Hawaii – Manoa, and is working in the lab of Dr. Jennifer Bowen, a new faculty member who studies microbial ecology. She followed Dr. Bowen to Northeastern after completing a Research Experience for Undergraduates program with her in 2015. “I was willing to follow her wherever,” Andrea says. Andrea is “interested in understanding the relationship between microbes and their hosts in the context of global change and disease in marine environments,” she explains. It’s a unique field, says Dr. Bowen, and Northeastern’s program and facilities are one of the few that give Andrea the tools to pursue her interests.

“This grant is going to open up my time,” Andrea says, “so I’ll have more time to devote to my research as well as doing community outreach.” She’s involved with Northeastern’s Latino/a Cultural Center, and wants to be a role model for Latino and Latina students who want careers in science. “My goal,” she says, “is to support undergraduate students who might not be able to find support elsewhere — a lot of Latino students are first generation. They might not know that there are careers in science. I would like to do international work and reach out to developing countries to inspire women there who might also want to be scientists,” like her native Colombia. “I would love to go back eventually.”

Andrea credits Dr. Bowen’s phenomenal mentorship with helping her win the award. “They’re such inspirational people,” she says of the faculty at the Marine Science Center. “I think my getting the award is a reflection of Dr. Bowen’s mentoring.”

“Andrea is highly deserving of this award,” says Dr. Bowen. “She is a great role model for underrepresented women and others, both at Northeastern and in the community. In addition to her research, she is active in the outreach program at Nahant, helping to translate outreach materials into Spanish, and engaging with other underrepresented communities interested in STEM fields.”

Kelsi Furman comes to Northeastern’s PhD program as a seasoned member of the MSC community. She completed her undergraduate work in environmental science at Northeastern, including the Three Seas Program, where she connected with Dr. Steven Scyphers. She worked with him on a directed study and senior thesis before being hired as a research assistant and then a TA for the Three Seas Program. Kelsi spent the past year working full-time as a research assistant for Dr. Scyphers.

For her PhD research, she plans to focus on environmental justice from a coastal management and hazards perspective, analyzing how minority and low-income communities perceive environmental issues and how satisfied they are with ecosystem services in their areas; she’s excited to get into the field to see how shorelines vary in terms of their recreation output potential. Kelsi’s interests lie at the intersection of science and policy, and she was drawn to Northeastern’s program because of the resources it provided to help her accomplish her interdisciplinary goals. “A lot of experts in environmental justice are at Northeastern,” she explains. “It’s really rare” for undergraduates to get the kind of in-depth research experience she had,” Kelsi says. “And it enabled me to write a successful research proposal because I already had experience doing the kind of research I wanted to do.”

“Two things to know about Kelsi are that she’s a natural problem solver and exceptionally hard-working,” says Scyphers. “Kelsi has already accomplished a lot in her young career, and I’m thrilled that she’s chosen to pursue her graduate studies at Northeastern.”

The entire MSC community is thrilled for Andrea and Kelsi, and looks forward to seeing what they and the rest of their graduate cohort bring to Northeastern.

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