Current Recipients of the Graduate Student Fellowship

The Philomathia Graduate Fellowship in the Environmental Sciences provides fellowships for graduate students studying issues related to the environment at UC Berkeley. Students are nominated to receive the award on the basis of their high level of academic distinction and exceptional promise.

2023 - 2024 Recipients

headshot of Anusha BishopANUSHA BISHOP

Widespread and rapid environmental change poses one of the biggest threats to biodiversity globally. Determining which factors shape the evolutionary responses of species and populations to climate change, habitat destruction, and other stressors is critical for conservation. Anusha studies the processes that structure genetic diversity across landscapes and how this may impact species vulnerability to environmental change. Her work involves building and applying tools for understanding patterns of genomic variation, connectivity, and adaptation. As part of the Landscape Genomics Team for the California Conservation Genomics Project, Anusha is developing analysis pipelines to help inform the conservation of hundreds of species across the state.


Matthew Dods in outside settingMATTHEW DODS

Carbon dioxide removal (CDR) strategies are becoming increasingly necessary toward the mitigation of anthropogenic climate change. Direct air capture (DAC) is one form of CDR that describes the capture of carbon dioxide from air via purely engineered approaches. According to some model projections, society may need to remove more than one billion tonnes of carbon dioxide per year with DAC by the year 2050. In spite of this massive demand, industrial DAC operations are currently hampered by high cost and energy expense. Matt's research seeks to identify and test new materials capable of performing DAC at lower cost and energy requirement than the current state-of-the-art. His current interests are centered on a class of porous materials known as metal–organic frameworks, which can capture and release large amounts of carbon dioxide using only a small amount of material.


Mira Liu in outside settingMIRA LIU

Wildfire is an archetypal disturbance regime that perturbs soil microbial communities, and alters the chemical landscape of the local environment. As such, microbes face numerous challenges in burned soils, such as resource scarcity, poor nutrient solubility, and increased hydrophobicity. While preliminary research suggests that microbes lie at the forefront of post-fire ecosystem recovery, the specific strategies that microbes use to thrive in a burned environment remain largely unknown. Mira’s research seeks to identify specific specialized metabolite-based strategies that bacteria might employ in adapting to the harsh conditions created by fire. The elucidation of these strategies not only afford a molecular understanding of post-fire microbial adaptations, but also may inform efforts aiding ecosystem recovery post-fire.


David Tian in outside settingDAVID TIAN

A major goal in conservation is to understand and halt the increasing rate of extinction that many natural populations face due to threats such as habitat loss and fragmentation, climate change, and disease. Theory and methods from evolutionary genetics have been key to assessing conservation status, identifying which populations are important to conserve, and aiding the preservation of biodiversity by informing our understanding of how small population size and loss of genetic variation impact the fate of endangered populations. Although conservation genetics has improved our understanding and ability to manage the current biodiversity crisis, increasing accessibility and application of genomics to non-model systems promises to improve our conservation capabilities as anthropogenic change accelerates. David is a PhD candidate in the Martin lab, in the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, and has been generating and analyzing cutting edge genomic resources across space and time of critically endangered desert pupfishes in the Death Valley region. His work explores how demographic history, isolation, small population size, and genetic load interact to shape the genomic content of endangered populations and in turn, how we can analyze and interpret population genomic data to inform conservation management.


Madeline Van Winkle in outside settingMADELINE VAN WINKLE 

Madeline is a PhD candidate in Chemistry, working with Dr. Kwabena Bediako. For the past five years she has been imaging structural deformations in a class of two-dimensional structures called moiré superlattices. These superlattices, which are formed by stacking atomically thin crystals with a small rotation between them, have highly tunable electronic, optical, and magnetic properties that make them exciting candidates for applications ranging from energy-efficient electronic devices to catalysis for energy conversion. Using advanced electronic microscopy techniques at LBNL’s National Center for Electron Microscopy, Madeline studies how moiré materials distort due to spontaneous relaxation and in response to external stimuli, such as an electric bias. Her work aims to deepen the understanding of structure–property relationships in moiré systems and to provide a framework for leveraging structural distortions as a tuning knob for tailoring the unique behavior of these structures.