College of Arts and Sciences, USF

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CAS student awarded Aylesworth Scholarship for second time
[03.20.2014]

TAMPA, Fla. -- The odds of being awarded a scholarship are often against applicants. Christy Foust, a doctoral student at the University of South Florida College of Arts and Sciences, is a remarkable exception.

As of spring 2014, Foust, a student within the Department of Integrative Biology, has been awarded the Aylesworth Scholarship for the second time.

Since 1986, the Aylesworth scholarship has been awarded to university students who exhibit academic merit, leadership and personal character while pursuing academic disciplines related to marine science.

The scholarship is awarded by the Florida Sea Grant, a program based at the University of Florida aimed at supporting the academic endeavors related to the conservation of coastal resources and enhancing of economic opportunities for Florida residents.

“The fact that they appreciate that I have made progress and see my work as important, I feel very honored,” Foust said.

Foust was awarded her first Aylesworth scholarship in spring 2012 for her research on how abiotic stressors like salinity levels affect the epigenetics of salt marsh plants such as cord grass and sea-oxeye daisy. Foust’s research already has yielded findings.

“These organisms respond on a molecular level directly to their environment,” Foust said.

According to Foust, these findings are monumental within the discipline of science.

“It’s changing the way we think about evolution,” Foust said. “It’s not just about genes.”

Foust said she is grateful to the support of her adviser, Christina Richards, a former Aylesworth scholarship winner.

“Christy is bright and motivated to do creative ecology work that incorporates genetics and genomics approaches,” Richards said.

In the last year, Foust’s research has been appreciated nationally and internationally.

“I got to go to the Netherlands to do a research trip to work with an epigenetics researcher on data analysis,” Foust said.

According to Richards, Foust developed innovative approaches to analyze genetic and epigenetic AFLP data at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology.

“This work is unprecedented in the young field of ecological epigenetics and could have dramatic impacts on our understanding of adaptation to climate change, particularly in coastal marine habitats,” Richards said.

This past January, Foust’s research was presented at the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology in San Francisco, Calif. Foust also expressed possible future presentations at scientific conferences.

“I’ll potentially be presenting at a conference in Puerto Rico or France this summer,” Foust said.

Currently, Foust has an open mind for future career possibilities. The award winner plans to apply for jobs this fall.

“I’m very interested in education,” said Foust.

Foust is expected to graduate spring 2015 with a Ph.D. in ecology and evolution.

-USF-



Filed under:Arts and Sciences Integrative Biology Student Success   
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Author: Kristan McCants
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