Three Biology Graduates Receive Young Botanist Award

This year, Oberlin netted three of the 25 honors given nationally.

May 24, 2021

Amanda Nagy

Hanging plants in the Oberlin Science Center greenhouse.
The Oberlin College greenhouse.
Photo credit: Yevhen Gulenko

Three May graduates in biology have been honored with the Young Botanist Award from the Botanical Society of America for 2021. The national award is granted to 25 graduating college seniors each year to recognize their work in botanical science.

Renée Geyer, Emily Humphreys, and Michelle Liu each demonstrated a special achievement in three different types of botanical research. 

“It’s quite an honor to have three of the 25 award recipients for this year,” says Professor of Biology Mike Moore.

Geyer’s work involves using population genetics to understand how the ice ages impacted plant distribution patterns; Humphreys’ work involves a global review of how climate and soils influence plant evolution; and Liu’s research involves using the supercomputer and the latest DNA technology to understand plant evolution.

Renee Geyer.
Renée Geyer '21. Photo credit: Jonathan Clark '25

Geyer is a biology major from Fredericksburg, Virginia. They’re interested in disease ecology and questions about how the genetic diversity of a species or group is related to that group's geographic distribution.

At Oberlin, Geyer has volunteered in the George Jones Herbarium and researched the genetic diversity and geographic distribution of the desert shrub Petalonyx crenatus, which grows on gypsum substrate in the Chihuahuan Desert in Mexico. Geyer also conducted summer research with Professor Moore as part of a different project studying the evolutionary history of the genus Schiedea, which contains 34 species of Hawaiian plants. 

After Oberlin, Geyer intends to gain more experience as a lab technician with the goal of pursuing a master’s in public health.

Emily Humphresy.
Emily Humphreys '21. Photo credit: Jonathan Clark '25.

Humphreys, a biology major and rhetoric and composition minor from North Reading, Massachusetts, has spent the past three years researching the evolutionary history of the Nyctaginaceae family of plants. “This year, I was able to expand on that research while working on my biology honors project. With the help of Professor Moore, I've been investigating how climate and soil preference has changed in the group over the last 20 million years.”

After Oberlin, Humphreys wants to continue to grow as a scientist and writer, and hopes to combine her interests in research, teaching, and science communication.

“Research at Oberlin has been a great way to better understand the process of science, and it has given me a chance to be a part of it myself.”

Michelle Liu.
Michelle Liu '21. Photo credit: Jonathan Clark '25

Liu, a biology major and statistical modeling minor from Sharon, Massachusetts, is broadly interested in genetics and bioinformatics. At Oberlin, she has worked in Moore’s lab studying the relationship between genetic diversity and geographical correlation in gypsum plants. Off campus, Liu has gained summer research experiences at the UMass Medical school and the University of Pittsburgh. 

After Oberlin, Liu will join the Genetics, Genomics, and Development PhD program at Cornell University.

The Young Botanist Award provides a membership to the Botanical Society of America and a certificate of achievement.

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