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Sunday, June 7, 2020

Grad students get summer research funding

A new summer stipend aims to help two graduate students each year conduct university research over the summer.

The stipend is specifically meant to support one student studying Marine Biology and one in the Huxley College of the Environment. 

Senior Yeung Yip works on his biology work in a lab on Monday, Oct. 26. // Photo by Christina Becker
Senior Yeung Yip works on his biology work in a lab on Monday, Oct. 26. // Photo by Christina Becker

The Jerry Flora Graduate Student Summer Stipend in Marine Biology is in honor of former Western president, biology professor and Emeritus Charles J. “Jerry” Flora.

Flora served as president from 1967 to 1975 and then taught in the Biology department until 1991. He is credited with the creation of Huxley and Fairhaven, according to Joann Otto, Western’s Biology department chair.

The Flora stipend consists of donations from the public and generous contributions from Flora’s wife, Rosemary Flora.

Candidates for the Flora stipends are chosen by the Graduate Council after submitting an application based on their research and planned use of the money, Otto said.

While biology grad students at Western receive a quarterly stipend of approximately $4,166 for TA work during the fall, winter and spring, they do not receive financial support over the summer quarter, Otto said.

Many grad students are forced to divide their time in the summer between a paying job and university research. This draws attention away from their research and prolongs their overall time as students, Otto said.

“I’m going to be a grad student next year and I would definitely take money to do my research instead of having to work,” Senior kinesiology major Paige MacKenzie said.

Taylor Clement is a Marine Biology graduate student and the first recipient of the Flora stipend. The money was used to carry out field research this past summer on phytoplankton and bacteria life in Bellingham Bay and how they change seasonally.

“I probably would not be able to graduate remotely on time if I had not had the opportunity to spend my days doing research over the summer,” Clement said. “If I had to have a full time job over the summer it would have been really hard to pull off a research season.”

The Flora stipend currently has enough money to support two grad students each summer over the next five years, according to Otto.

Along with the Flora fund, there are two additional stipend funds to help support grad students at Western, the Fraser fund and the Thon fund. Through these, Western supported seven graduate students this past summer, Otto said.
With 31 grad students in Western’s biology department, stipends like this are in high demand. In the past, students have used funds for a variety of reasons, including research tools, materials, travel expenses and basic living costs, according to Otto.

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