Lindsay Martin, a biomedical sciences alumna and BHC Scholar, recently received the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. During undergrad, she was heavily involved with research, having conducted an Honors in the Major thesis project on the effects of weed killers on mosquito biology. Lindsay’s long-term plans include pursuing her Ph.D. in biological sciences at Vanderbilt, further studying how mosquitoes transmit diseases.

How did you achieve your success?

I started undergraduate research my freshman year in Dr. Ken Fedorka’s biology lab at UCF, and I truly found my passion for research in this lab. I found that I really loved new challenges and the critical thinking of research, and I further discovered that my interests largely lie in research on insect vectors and vector-borne disease transmission.

While at UCF, I started working on a project to better understand the effects of climate on the immune function and disease transmission of an important agricultural pest, the Asian citrus psyllid. I began my Honors in the Major thesis project, investigating the off-target effects of larval exposure to Roundup on mosquito physiology, immunity, and stress across life stages, and I successfully defended my thesis this past March.

The summer after my junior year, I worked as an IRTA Fellow at the NIH/NIAID's Laboratory of Malaria and Vector Research in Bethesda, Maryland, in Dr. Eric Calvo’s lab. I led my own project to better understand the effects of CRISPR genetic modification on mosquitoes, and I worked with other members of the lab to work with salivary gland proteins and gain insight to their role in blood feeding.

What advice do you have for others interested in receiving the NSF fellowship?

For others interested in applying to graduate school and fellowship opportunities, the best advice I have is to be true to yourself, form strong connections with mentors, start early, and seek out feedback often. If you are passionate about what you are doing, it is much easier to write a well-formed proposal. Take time to think about what you’d like to work on, developing questions and ideas, and reading current literature in the field. For the NSF fellowship, I think it is also important to learn as much as possible about the fellowship application and the format of NSF proposals prior to beginning. Additionally, it is very helpful to start early in the fall to provide enough time for development of your ideas and receiving feedback. It is also helpful to have feedback on your writing from those who have significant experience with grant writing in your field. I am very thankful for my mentors and their support and encouragement.

What is your long-term goal and how will this help you get there?

Through my various research experiences, I have found that I love learning about vector biology, insect physiology and immune function, and vector-borne disease transmission. I am pursuing a Ph.D. because I am fascinated by the complex interactions of the mosquito vector system, and I feel that I can make a real difference in global health in this field. I want to eventually lead research questions about vector-borne diseases through my own laboratory at an academic or government institution to improve global health outcomes.

I will be starting my Ph.D. in biological sciences at Vanderbilt in the fall, researching mosquito immunity, life history trade-offs, and the impact of our environment on the mosquito’s ability to vector diseases. The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship emphasizes outreach and broader impacts of science, and I know that incorporating this in my graduate research experience will help me learn a lot about communicating my work to the public and having an impact on global health outcomes.

What is your favorite book?

I love all books by Malcolm Gladwell - they are fascinating! He offers a unique insight to our world, and I always finish his books feeling like I have a fresh perspective on things.