Victoria Braithwaite to be memorialized with new ecology research award

Penn State's ecology community will memorialize beloved faculty member Victoria Braithwaite with new research excellence award named in her honor

University Park, PA - Penn State’s Ecology graduate degree program is creating an award named for Dr. Victoria Braithwaite, a beloved faculty member and researcher who passed away in 2019. A lead donor who prefers to remain anonymous has pledged $6,000 toward the $20,000 minimum required to permanently endow the award, which will recognize the student who is lead author on the best ecology paper published in the previous year, as determined by a committee of faculty and students.

Dr. Braithwaite is remembered as an inspiring scientist, mentor, and colleague. After receiving her doctorate from Oxford, she taught at universities in Scotland before joining the Penn State faculty in 2007. Braithwaite’s groundbreaking research expanded scientific understanding of the cognitive abilities of animals, with her most famous work was a landmark study on the ability of fish to feel pain. Her conclusions were the basis for increased animal welfare standards applied to the commercial fishing industries of multiple countries.

Dr. Braithwaite was diagnosed with a rare type of pancreatic cancer in 2018. In October 2019, at the age of 52, she left behind five siblings, two sons, and a pair of grandchildren.

Her colleagues and collaborators wish to honor her memory by recognizing young scientists who display the caliber of research excellence that typified her career.

“We would like to honor Victoria’s contributions to our program and the entire field of ecology by establishing the new award in her name,” said Dr. Jason Kaye, chair of the Ecology program. “The annual award will go to the student that is lead author on the best ecology paper published in the previous year.”

“All of the founding donors to this fund were colleagues of Victoria here at Penn State,” added Kaye. “Their generosity reflects strength of our community and is a testament to Victoria and what she meant to people as a mentor, colleague and friend.”

The Ecology program has a long history of endowed awards, recognizing faculty excellence, supporting student travel, and rewarding student service, but the Braithwaite Award will be the first to recognize outstanding student research.

People who wish to contribute to the award’s endowment may make a gift directly at this link or contact Dr. Jason Kaye at

Gifts to the Braithwaite Award fund will advance "A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence," a focused campaign that seeks to elevate Penn State’s position as a leading public university in a world defined by rapid change and global connections. With the support of alumni and friends, “A Greater Penn State” seeks to fulfill the three key imperatives of a twenty-first-century public university: keeping the doors to higher education open to hardworking students regardless of financial well-being; creating transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impacting the world by fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” visit