Florida Tech Ph.D. Students Receive Prestigious Scholarship for Women

MELBOURNE, FLA.—Florida Institute of Technology Ph.D. candidates Holly Sweat, Department of Marine and Environmental Systems (DMES), and Lorian Schweikert, Biological Sciences Department, recently received the merit-based and competitive 2013-2014 Philanthropic Educational Organization (PEO) Scholar Award. The $15,000 scholarship is given annually to 85 women in the United States and Canada who are pursuing doctoral degrees at an accredited college or university. Both students will receive part of their $15,000 award in fall 2013 and the remainder the following spring.

Sweat received the award for her research “Slime and Aliens: Investigating the Role of Biofilms in the Transport and Establishment of Invasive Species.” Her faculty advisor is Kevin Johnson, DMES associate professor.

Said Sweat, “This award will allow me the opportunity to travel and collaborate with other institutions in order to broaden the scope of my research from a regional to an international level.”

Originally from Owensboro, Ky., Sweat received a bachelor’s degree in marine science from Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fla., in 2002 and a master’s degree in biological oceanography from Florida Tech in 2010.

Schweikert, a Long Island, N.Y., native, earned the award for her work, “Neural Plasticity in the Retina of the Atlantic Tarpon (Megalops atlanticus): Mechanisms of Change in a Changing Visual World.” Her advisor is Michael Grace, professor of biological sciences and associate dean of the College of Science.

“It is an honor to receive this award,” said Schweikert. “I am incredibly grateful for the PEO as it supports my goal of making an outstanding impact in the field of neuroscience.”

In 2009, Schweikert earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in marine science from Florida’s University of Tampa. Before winning the PEO award, she received a highly competitive and prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship for $126,000.

Sweat and Schweikert were nominated by a local PEO Florida chapter. They were evaluated based on their academic record, proposal, potential to make significant contributions to their field, scholarly activities, career objectives, and academic awards and honors.

Sweat and Schweikert expect to graduate in Spring 2015 with a doctorate degree in oceanography and marine biology respectively.

The PEO Scholar Awards Program was founded in 1991. There are about 6,000 local chapters in the United States and Canada with nearly 250,000 active members. To date, the organization has bestowed Scholar Awards totaling nearly $15 million.

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