Research by Elizabeth Droge-Young, a Ph.D. student in biology in Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences, has caught the attention of the American Association of University Women (AAUW). This past fall, she received AAUW’s annual American Dissertation Fellowship for her continuing work with the evolving reproductive traits of flour beetles.
Droge-Young’s research may have big implications for biological science, despite its involvement with the tiniest of creatures. Flour beetles are common grain pests found all over the world. But it’s not their size that is getting all the attention; it’s their love lives.
“Flour beetles are incredibly promiscuous” explains Droge-Young, who works in the Pitnick Lab in Syracuse’s Life Sciences Complex. “Females can mate multiple times an hour with multiple male beetles.”
Using a special line of beetles co-engineered by several biology labs at Syracuse, Droge-Young is seeking to explain this compulsive behavior.
“One of the main goals is to understand how this behavior impacts biodiversity,” she says. “Are there environmental reasons? And what are the downstream consequences of this extreme promiscuity?”
The American Dissertation Fellowship is awarded annually to outstanding female students across the country in the STEM disciplines (i.e., science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). The fellowship is designed to help offset a student’s living expenses for one year, while she completes her doctoral dissertation.
“It’s a joy to see our students recognized, nationally and internationally,” beams Ramesh Raina, associate professor and chair of biology. “It also helps motivate and energize other students to apply for these types of programs.”