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Scholarship increases oceanic training

Vera Wilder Pfeiffer (CAS’08) was awarded a Hollings Scholarship in oceanic and atmospheric science.

A College of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in biology and international relations has been awarded a Hollings Scholarship from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Awarded to only 101 undergraduates nationwide, the scholarship seeks to increase undergraduate training in oceanic and atmospheric science, research, technology, and education while also preparing students for public service careers with NOAA, a federal agency whose mission is understanding and predicting changes in the Earth’s environment and conserving and managing coastal and marine resources, and other natural resource and science agencies.

Vera Wilder Pfeiffer (CAS’08), whose double majors are biology with a concentration in marine science and international relations environment and development, is interested in applied biological science integrating her areas of study.   

The NOAA review board evaluates applications using a variety of academic criteria, but with many qualified applicants, relevant laboratory experience is important in determining the scholarship recipients. On this point, Pfeiffer was a strong candidate since in addition to the laboratory work completed for her University courses, she has had a lot of outside lab experience.

She is currently working under Paul Barber, a CAS assistant professor, in his lab at Woods Hole as part of the BU Marine Program. Barber’s research integrates data from a variety of disciplines, such as genetics, ecology, geology, and oceanography, to address broad questions of how biological and physical processes interact to drive evolution in marine environments. Pfeiffer is working with Barber to sequence the DNA of two kinds of surgeonfish to determine the genetic variation in the North Pacific sea region. 

“I love it a lot,” says Pfeiffer, “It’s really interesting how knowing more about a region lets you develop management strategies and understand how actions by humans affect things.” 

The scholarship requires Pfeiffer to participate in a 10-week internship the summer between her junior and senior years. Of NOAA’s many programs, Pfeiffer has her eye on interning at the Alaska Fishery Science Center. “Hopefully I can do my internship there,” she says. “It’s really interesting and sort of related to what I’ve learned in my classes and in Professor Barber’s lab.”