Jul 16, 2019
Microbiome Center graduate students awarded NIFA fellowships
Sarah Isbell and Mara Cloutier, both Penn State graduate students and Microbiome Center researchers, will be supported in their studies by fellowships paid for by the United States Department of Agriculture.
Two graduate students in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences received Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Education and Workforce Development fellowships from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).
According to NIFA, the AFRI Education and Workforce Development program focuses on developing the next generation of research, education, and extension professionals in the food and agricultural sciences. The program educates professionals to lead agriculture into the future by solving current and future challenges facing our society.
Both students are active members of the Microbiome Center in the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences.
Mara Cloutier, doctoral candidate, Ecosystem Science and Management, will work with mentors Mary Ann Bruns, associate professor of soil microbiology and biogeochemistry, and Kristy Borrelli, extension educator, on her project, “Making Sense of the Microbiome for Farmers’ Sakes.”
“I hope to engage other students and faculty associated with the Microbiome Center to fulfill my extension goals and to be part of the workshop that I will be co-hosting to explore barriers in communicating microbiomes to farmers,” said Cloutier.
Sarah Isbell, doctoral student, Ecosystem Science and Management, will work with advisor Jason Kaye, professor of soil biogeochemistry, as well as committee member Terrence Bell, assistant professor of phytobiomes, on her project, “Using Cover Crop Mixtures to Shape the Soil Microbiome for Targeted Nitrogen Cycling Services.”
Isbell’s project also includes a research exchange with the microbial ecology lab of Étienne Yergeau, assistant professor at the Institut Armand-Frappier Research Centre in Québec.
“I am especially excited about the professional development opportunities that come with this award, including networking and training with other microbial ecologists through advanced training courses and international conferences, as well as teaching and mentoring undergraduates here at Penn State,” Isbell said.