Fins to the Left (and Right)

Biology major Jules Lieberman to study shark and ray migratory patterns through NOAA Hollings Scholarship.

May 25, 2023

Amanda Nagy

Jules Lieberman.
Biology major Jules Lieberman is a NOAA Hollings Scholar.
Photo credit: Tanya Rosen-Jones '97

Jules Lieberman wants to pursue a career in marine science, with the goal of doing research to understand migratory patterns of at-risk and endangered sharks and rays. A recipient of the Ernest F. Hollings Scholarship from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Lieberman will benefit from tuition support, paid research and professional opportunities, and mentorship in the field of marine biology.

A rising junior majoring in biology, Lieberman applied for the scholarship with the intent of getting their feet wet in marine biology (pun intended). 

“I want to understand how the migratory patterns of large, pelagic fishes are currently being affected by climate change and create a model to predict how they will change in the future,” says Lieberman. This work is relevant to the conservation side of NOAA’s Fisheries department and is especially pertinent in our era of mass biodiversity loss,” explains Lieberman, who is from Philadelphia and expects to graduate early.

The Hollings Scholarship provides tuition assistance up to $9,500 per year for two years of full-time study and a 10-week, full-time paid internship at a NOAA facility during the summer. The internship provides scholars with hands-on, practical experience in NOAA-related science.

At Oberlin, Lieberman has been doing computational and evolutionary biology research in the lab of Associate Professor of Biology Aaron Goldman, where the main goal is to identify protein presence, function, and evolution in the Last Universal Common Ancestor (LUCA).

“Over the last year, I have developed a computational biology research pipeline to determine phospholipid membrane protein evolution in LUCA. I used the pipeline to identify proteins present across all domains of life. Moving forward, I will use this pipeline to track ancient proteins’ evolution and reassemble them into metabolic and physiological systems,” Lieberman says. As they move forward in their career, Lieberman intends to pursue a PhD in marine science with a broad focus on pelagic fish migratory dynamics or fish systematics.

“I eventually want to become a professor. I have been so privileged to be able to attend Oberlin College, and I have so many incredible mentors. I want to pay that forward.”

Lieberman already has shown their commitment to giving back to the community. In summer 2021, they worked as a STEM facilitator at Eureka!, an intensive, five-year, STEM-based program for rising eighth grade girls who come from racially, economically, or otherwise marginalized communities. The program builds confidence and skills through hands-on STEM activities.

“For my senior project, I spent months writing lessons about climate justice and the scientific process, and I later led these to two cohorts of 20 girls. This summer, I will be leading these campers’ capstone projects as they design an exhibit for the Academy of Natural Sciences on a sustainable topic. I am so thankful to have worked with these girls, and watching them blossom into young scientists, engineers, and people has been one of the most meaningful experiences I have had the pleasure of being a part of.”

In their free time, Lieberman is a member of Nothing But Treble, Oberlin’s all-treble a cappella group, and serves as a hiring representative for the biology majors committee.

“I also love cooking for friends, especially making pasta from scratch. When I’m not cooking, you can find me reading (or writing!) fantasy fiction, playing Dungeons & Dragons, hiking, or swimming.”

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