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Biology Students Win NSF Fellowships for Graduate Studies

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Kristine Grayson with one of the turtles
she studies.

Kristine Lynn Grayson '03 and John David Willson '02 each received a National Science Foundation Research Fellowship in biology, based largely on their work in the herpetology lab of their advisor, Assistant Professor of Biology Mike Dorcas. The NSF Fellowships cover three years of advanced study and carry a stipend for each fellow of $27,500 per year, plus a $10,500 tuition waiver. For both awards, the hard work of the students went hand in hand with strong support by faculty members.

"It was great to be able to walk down the hall and ask Dr. Dorcas or Dr. Peroni or Dr. Case or Dr. Campbell for help on a paragraph in my personal statement, or some other part of the applications," said Grayson, a Harrisonburg, Va., native, who also won a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship this year. She is one of only forty-eight students nationwide to win that award. Grayson will travel to Australia, Southeast Asia, South Africa, and the Seychelles on the Watson Fellowship to study the environment and terrestrial and freshwater turtle ecology, then return to do doctoral studies on her NSF Fellowship at the University of Missouri. She hopes later to teach at an institution like Davidson, for a very simple reason: "I want to provide the same opportunity I've had to others."

J.D. Willson with a rat snake.

J.D. Willson, a self-proclaimed "nature person" from Boston who graduated last year, is working this year at the Savannah River Ecology Lab in Aiken, S.C. His honors thesis on stream salamanders found in the Davidson area will soon be published in the journal, Conservation Biology. Willson's NSF Fellowship, based on a proposal to study populations of cottonmouth snakes on East Coast barrier islands, will permit him to continue his herpetological studies at the University of Georgia. Willson, too, wants to teach, and in a place like Davidson, where the broad liberal arts background prepared him for success.


"I certainly think that my writing skills and my English skills had as much to do with my getting this grant as my scientific knowledge," he said.

"By the time he left here," said his advisor, Mike Dorcas, "he was functioning pretty much as a mid-level Ph.D. candidate."




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