UF/CALS student earns university-wide dissertation fellowship

GAINESVILLE, Fla. –  A University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) Ph.D. student received the university-wide Emerging STEM Scholar Award at the 2017 Women’s History Month Awards on March 1. The honor is part of the Association for Academic Women Graduate Student Awards.

Entomology and nematology student Vanessa Dias came to UF from Bahia, Brazil after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) awarded her a fellowship to conduct research at the U.S. Department of Agriculture lab on UF’s campus. While in the U.S., Vanessa was awarded a four-year scholarship from the Brazilian government through the Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel Foundation to pursue her Ph.D. at UF. Dias’ research involves improvements to the sterile insect technique that reduces the need for pesticide use on crops and makes the technique available at an affordable cost.

The award Dias earned is named after Madelyn Lockhart, who served as the Dean of the UF Graduate School and Dean of International Studies and Programs between 1985 and 1993. Dias said she is grateful for the award. Recipients are provided up to $2,000 annually to assist in the dissertation phase of the doctoral degree.

“Through CALS I have learned a sense of responsibility,” Dias said. “The university gives me the opportunity to complete research on a large scale – research that can change the world indeed. In CALS, we are well prepared to do any research we want to pursue. We can affect other cultures in a positive way.”

Currently, Dias is conducting research in Austria through July at one of the top fruit fly labs in the world. She expects to finish her dissertation by the end of this year.

Both inside and outside the lab, Dias can be seen encouraging her fellow students, friends, and other international students with scientific and personal accomplishments. Before heading to Austria for research, Dias served as president of the Brazilian Student Association (BRASA) at UF. Currently, she is the cofounder and general director of Brascon 2017, an international conference for Brazilian students.

“Vanessa is a consummate organizer,” said Dias’ adviser and UF/IFAS entomology and nematology associate professor Dan Hahn. “She’s always trying to facilitate interactions between folks, both scientific and social. She’s always trying to bring the best out of others. She has been adventurous in her own education.”

Between her passion for research and Brazilian patriotism, Dias aims to have a big impact on the future of Brazilian women in science. After she earns her Ph.D., Dias plans to apply for a position within the IAEA to help both the U.S. and Brazil in the study of fruit flies.

“To be recognized by my work as a woman scientist in agriculture is an important opportunity and honor,” Dias said. “The U.S. has a very good education system, and this is my way to thank the U.S. for what they have done for international students like me.”

Caption: Dias in the lab with fruit flies. Dias has received the university-wide Emerging STEM Scholar Award. Photo courtesy of UF/CALS.

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By: Dana Edwards, 352-392-1963, dana.edwards@ufl.edu

Sources: Vanessa Dias, vanessadias@ufl.edu

Dan Hahn, dahahn@ufl.edu, 352-273-3968

The College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) administers the degree programs of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS). The mission of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences is to deliver unsurpassed educational programs that prepare students to address the world’s critical challenges related to agriculture, food systems, human wellbeing, natural resources and sustainable communities. Visit the CALS website at cals.ufl.edu, and follow CALS on social media platforms at @ufcals.