Doctoral Student Receives P.E.O. Scholar Award

June 02, 2023

LSU Biological Sciences PhD student Melanie Kimball is one of 110 doctoral students in the USA and Canada selected to receive a ScholarMelanie Kimball Award from the P.E.O. Sisterhood, a philanthropic educational organization dedicated to helping women pursue educational goals by providing scholarships, awards, and loans. 

Melanie is a PhD candidate in Dr. Christine Lattin’s lab, where she examines the neurobiology of neophobia (“fear of the new”) in house sparrows, a successful invasive bird species. Some individual sparrows avoid new objects, foods, and environments (neophobic), whereas others appear indifferent towards new things and are willing to approach and explore (non-neophobic). Melanie’s dissertation research is focused on uncovering differences in the brain that cause an individual sparrow to be either neophobic or non-neophobic. 

“Neophobia has critical ecological relevance, because wild animals are encountering an increasing amount of novelty as urbanization spreads across the globe,” Melanie says about her work. “Understanding neophobia may also help us better understand what traits make a successful invasive species, and, more broadly, this research could help us understand human anxiety disorders.”

Scholar Award recipients are a select group of women chosen for their high level of academic achievement and their potential for having a positive impact on society. The award will help Melanie pay for educational expenses, and travel for conferences and post-doctoral job interviews. Melanie was sponsored by Chapter BE of Covington, Louisiana.  

Melanie is honored to be a P.E.O. Scholar Award recipient. “Receiving the P.E.O. Scholar Award is especially meaningful because I have gained a lot of valuable mentorship and support from women’s organizations like P.E.O,” Melanie says. “I am so grateful to the women of the local P.E.O. chapter [BE of Covington] who volunteer their time to advocate for women in higher education.” 

For more information on P.E.O., click here.