rising Star Shines from Arthur Avenue to Armonk
Evelyn Fetridge, a Ph.D. candidate in biology, talks as easily about the collapse of bee colonies and endosymbiotic bacteria as she does about a recent lunch at Arthur Avenue’s trattoria Zero Otto nove. Fetridge is livelier and more engaging than one might expect of someone who spends much of their time with bugs. Her casual demeanor, however, belies a seriously erudite mind and ambitious spirit.
She is, after all, a Clare Boothe Luce Fellow and a rising star within the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS).
A native of Westchester County, N.Y., Fetridge received her B.A. in environmental biology from Columbia University in 2000. After graduating, she worked for three years with the natural resources group in New York City’s Parks and Recreation Department, where she monitored bird populations at local restoration sites. She also worked briefly with developmentally challenged teenagers at Bronxville High School.
Fetridge knew, however, that she wanted to continue her studies and soon set her sights on Fordham University. According to Fetridge, the decision to pursue her master’s degree in biological sciences at Fordham boiled down to two things: the chance to study with renowned insect ecologist Gail Langellotto, Ph.D., and the University’s Calder Center, a 113-acre biological field station in Armonk, N.Y., which Fetridge calls “a nice incubator” for ecological research and environmental education.
Under Langellotto—and, later, with Gordon R. Plague, Ph.D., assistant professor of evolutionary biology—Fetridge studied the community dynamics of bees in suburban ecosystems and quickly made a name for herself within the department.
Within her first two semesters, she won Fordham’s Matteo Ricci Summer Fellowship and, the following spring, received honorable mention for the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. She was awarded the Clare Boothe Luce Fellowship, a two-year fellowship for outstanding women pursuing graduate degrees in biological sciences, for 2005 and 2006.
Also in 2006, Fetridge traveled to Curitiba, Brazil, to take part in the United Nations’ Development Program’s Equator Initiative, a partnership of international organizations and groups, including Fordham University and the Convention on Biological Diversity, designed to facilitate sustainable communities in developing countries within the equatorial belt.
Fetridge credits Fordham, which is in partnership with the UNDP, for giving her the opportunity to experience firsthand how to rally international organizations and groups behind a common cause.
“The experience was really invaluable,” she said. “Not only did I get to experience a new country, but I also gained insight into the U.N.’s processes and what it is doing to look after the environment.”
More recently, she was invited to join the GSAS Academic Affairs Committee to evaluate proposed degree and certificate programs. Fetridge said the committee taught her a great deal about the inner workings of a university and what a career in academia would be like.
“I learned how much goes into putting [new] programs together and how to evaluate what their worth is to the university—how they will benefit the department or how they will not.”
Currently, she is a teacher’s assistant with J. Alan Clark, shouldering a chunk of the teaching duties for his prerequisite lab course in biological concepts. She said she’s taken to teaching at a collegiate level. “I enjoy making difficult concepts clear,” she explained. “Plus, it’s nice to interact with people.”
This interaction, according to Fetridge, is a welcome reprieve, as she gets deeper into her doctoral research on endosymbiotic bacteria—unique organisms that live within the body or cells of another organism and are capable of rearranging their DNA sequences. Using Escheria Coli (E. Coli) as a model organism, she hopes to find out whether or not genome rearrangement helps organisms adapt quicker to different circumstances or if endosymbiotic bacteria is primarily parasitic in nature.
In the meantime, she’s in no hurry to decide her future away from Fordham’s GSAS and the Calder Center. Her experiences at Fordham have already given her a good sense of what lies ahead, she said.
“I’ll probably keep doing what I’ve been doing,” she said of her impressive tenure at Fordham. “And let that lead me to the right place.”
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