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 April 10, 2000

Two Biology Students Win NSF Fellowships

Andy Czaja and Tracy Gartner, students in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, have recently been awarded prestigious National Science Fellowships. The fellowships, which will fully support three years of graduate study, are a "great honor" and are "very difficult" to receive according to Gregory Anderson, professor and department head of ecology and evolutionary biology. "I have been on that panel, and the number of awards is very small for the number of applicants," he says.

Czaja completed his undergraduate degree in ecology and evolutionary biology last year, with an honors thesis that discussed the effects of landslides on the growth of trees. Since then he has worked as a technician in the lab of Zoe Cardon, his former advisor and an associate professor in the ecology and evolutionary biology department. He will begin his graduate study in the astrobiology program at the University of California, Los Angeles, in fall 2000. Czaja, who is interested in eventually becoming an astronanut, will study extremely old rocks, examining them for early life on earth.

Tracy Gartner, a second year graduate student at UConn, is also a technician in Cardon's lab. Gartner holds a bachelor's degree from Coe College in Iowa, where she completed an honors thesis that centered on the dynamics of species composition in forests. Furthering her study of forests in Connecticut, Gartner's graduate work involves an examination of how leaves of different forest tree species decompose during autumn and whether decomposition is influenced by having all the leaves mixed together.

Cardon says she has enjoyed working closely with both students and is delighted they have received the fellowships. "It's great to see them get these awards because it's not only based on their past research but on their research plans for the next three years. It's an affirmation of how they're starting a research career in science."

The awards to Czaja and Gartner bring to five the number of NSF Fellowships won by students in the ecology and evolutionary biology department.

Rebecca Stygar
Rebecca Stygar is a freshman in the honors program.