Paula Welander Wins National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship
Paula Welander, a University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign doctoral student who received a kinesiology degree in 1998 from Occidental College, has been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Fellowship that will allot three years of financial support to her pursuit of a Ph.D. in microbiology.
The fellowship provides Welander with an annual stipend of up to $21,500.
“This is a very prestigious award and I’m honored to get it,” said Welander, who grew up in Mission Hills. “To be recognized by the National Science Foundation is amazing.” Welander decided to pursue post-graduate work after conducting research at Occidental on the Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus. The bacterium is capable of attacking and consuming other bacteria, and some researchers believe Bdellovibrio can be used to destroy bacteria that cause disease or other health problems, such as salmonella. Welander’s lab, under the direction of assistant biology Professor Mark Martin, was one of perhaps four in the world studying the unusual microorganism.
“I am delighted – but not surprised – that Paula has received this extremely prestigious national award,” Martin said. “Her work, native intelligence, and never-give-up attitude have really paid off. From the first semester she spent in my laboratory, I knew that Paula was an inquisitive and remarkable scientist, and I fully expect to see her make cutting-edge discoveries in the near term.”
Welander is now studying microbiology with U of I microbiology Professor William Metcalf, a world authority on the genetics of anaerobic methanogens.
Welander, a Champaign, Ill., resident who graduated cum laude from Occidental, said she would eventually like to conduct research professionally as a university professor. She is the 17th Occidental representative in the last decade to receive an NSF Graduate Fellowship.