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Eckerd College Alumna Emma Hiolski '09 Named NSF Graduate Research Fellow

posted on 06/25/2012

Eckerd College alumna Emma Hiolski '09 has been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship. She is currently working toward her Ph.D. at the University of California at Santa Cruz where she is studying the neurological deficits caused by prolonged low-level exposure to the marine toxin domoic acid. Emma is the 23rd Eckerd alumnus to win one of these awards.

"Domoic acid is produced by algae in the ocean and can move up the food web to poison marine mammals during harmful algal blooms," explains Emma. "Our understanding of how repeated exposures affect neurological function is very limited, so I am examining a variety of neurological parameters, like gene expression and connectivity between neurons, to try and better understand the health risks this toxin poses to marine mammal populations."

The NSF program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master's and doctoral degrees at accredited U.S. institutions. This fellowship will provide Emma with three years of support in the form of a $30,000 annual stipend, a $10,500 cost-of-education allowance to the institution, and international research and professional development opportunities.

While at Eckerd, Emma double majored in biochemistry and marine science with a concentration in biology. In 2007, she was one of eight sophomores to be named a Hollings Scholar, which included a summer internship with Dr. Kathi Lefebvre at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle, Wash.

A teaching assistant for the Biology of Vertebrates, General Chemistry and Organic Chemistry courses, Emma was recognized with the Marine Science Academic Award at the end of her senior year. She was also inducted into the academic honor societies Sigma Xi, Omicron Delta Kappa and Phi Beta Kappa.

"My experience at Eckerd helped me to identify my interests within the sciences and introduced me to opportunities like the Hollings Scholarship," recounts Emma. My internship at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center then introduced me to the problem of domoic acid toxicity, which is a fascinating combination of marine science and environmental toxicology that I am excited to still be researching beyond my time at Eckerd."

In addition to her academic pursuits, Emma was a member of the Eckerd College Search & Rescue (EC-SAR) Team and the Eckerd College Wind Ensemble. She is the daughter of Tehra & Marcin Hiolski of Oak Park, Ill., where she attended Oak Park and River Forest High School.

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