Two Ph.D. students in the College of Science — Grace Deitzler in microbiology and John Stepanek in integrative biology — are among three OSU students to receive prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) awards in 2020.
Additionally, six College of Science alumni were also selected for the award this year. They are: Patrick Flynn (Mathematics ’18), a Ph.D. student of applied mathematics at Brown University; Katelyn Chase (Physics ’18), a quantitative and computational biology Ph.D. student at Princeton University; Gregory Mirek Brandt (Physics, Mathematics ’18), a Ph.D. student of astrophysics at the University of California Santa Barbara; Alyssa Adler (Marine Biology ’12), a recipient of the National Geographic Early Career Grant and an underwater videographer with Lindbald Expeditions; Joseph Kincaid (Chemistry ’18), an organic chemistry Ph.D. student at UC Santa Barbara; and Alena Vasquez (Chemistry ’18), a doctoral student in chemistry at The Scripps Research Institute.
In 2020, NSF offered a total of 2,076 awards to students from a competitive pool of applicants from all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia and U.S. territories. The GRFP provides three years of financial support within a five-year fellowship period — $34,000 annual stipend and $12,000 cost-of-education allowance to the graduate institution. That support is for graduate study that leads to a research-based master’s or doctoral degree in a STEM field. GRFP Fellows also have access to a number of unique opportunities during their tenure, including the opportunity to engage in international research collaboration.
Deitzler’s award-winning research project focuses on the honey bee gut microbiome and its role in health and immunity as a way to conserve declining honey bee populations. Using a combination of comparative genomics and field experiments, Deitzler and her mentors investigate the effects of a parasitic infection, Nosema ceranae, on the honey bee gut microbiome and the co-diversification patterns and interactions of host and pathogen in the honey bee microbiota. Further, the proposed study will examine the impact that probiotics have on the gut microbiome and whether this supplementation can alter immune response and survival during infection. Deitzler works on this project with her advisor Maude David, an assistant professor of microbiology, and Ramesh Sagili in the College of Agricultural Sciences.
Deitzler joined OSU in 2018 after completing her undergraduate studies in biological sciences at the Missouri University of Science and Technology. As an undergraduate student, she worked on vaginal microbiome research at the Center for Women’s Infectious Disease Research in the lab of Dr. Amanda Lewis at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. “It was during this internship that I developed an interest in microbiology, studying the microbial causes of bacterial vaginosis and microbial contributions to poor health outcomes in pregnancy,” said Deitzler. She worked on the project over the course of three summers, and the research resulted in identifying novel strains and genome sequences as well as four articles in the journal Genome Announcements. After graduation, Deitzler worked full-time in the Lewis Lab as a research technician before pursuing her doctoral studies.
In the David Lab at OSU, Deitzler also conducts research on the gut microbiome to better understand its impact on autism spectrum disorder. She studies a mouse model of the gut-brain axis to analyze microbiome composition and its relationship with behavior.
Passionate about science communication, Deitzler is the president and a co-founder of Seminarium, an OSU student club dedicated to exploring the connections between arts and science and bringing this intersection to a broader audience. She is also actively involved in organizing outreach events on campus and within Corvallis.