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Environmental Systems Student Earns Prestigious Ford Fellowship

October 3, 2022

Environmental systems Ph.D. candidate Lillie Pennington

Lillie Pennington has been awarded a Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine for the 2022-2023 academic year. She is one of 38 students nationally who each receive $28,000 in funding for one year to write and defend their dissertations.

“I'm honored to have been chosen for such a prestigious fellowship. The Ford Foundation offers its fellows a lot of professional development and networking opportunities, and I'm excited to participate in those,” the environmental systems Ph.D. candidate said. “Being awarded the fellowship for my final year means that I have been given the gift of time: time to finish up my projects, write papers and start looking for post-doctoral opportunities."

Pennington works in Professor Jason Sexton’s lab on research focused on range wide genetic variation of native plants.

“I study rapid adaptation of the cutleaf monkeyflower to climate change in the Sierra Nevada. I'm looking at how populations from across the species' range responded to the 2012-2016 drought,” she said. “I am also working on a bioinformatics project, quantifying genomic variation across the species' range of three endangered vernal pool grasses: Neostapfia colusana, Tuctoria greenei and Orcuttia inaequalis.”

Pennington participated in Graduate Division’s Competitive Edge Summer Bridge program the summer before she started her graduate program, and she received valuable fellowship writing experience.

“We spent a good portion of the summer writing proposals for the Ford and NSF pre-doctoral fellowships, so when I was applying for the Ford dissertation year fellowship it felt like familiar territory,” she said. “Everything gets a little easier with practice, and my practice started way back in Summer Bridge.”