Ph.D. Student Wins New Quad Fellowship

Award Includes $50,000, International Opportunities

Closeup of woman against leafy background
Sophia Simon, a doctoral student in ecology, is among the first group of students to win the new international Quad Fellowship. (Courtesy)

UC Davis student Sophia Simon, who is pursuing a doctoral degree in ecology, has received a Quad Fellowship. She is part of the fellowship’s first cohort of 100 exceptional science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduate students.

The Quad Fellowship is a joint initiative of the governments of Australia, India, Japan and the United States and is supported by a group of industry-leading corporate partners. This program is designed to spur interdisciplinary scientific and technological innovation while building ties among and empowering the next generation of STEM leaders.

“It is really an honor to receive this award,” said Simon. “I’m excited to use this opportunity to advance my research, build my network and use science for the public good."

Simon is a theoretical ecologist who is passionate about conducting research that meets the needs of communities. She graduated from the University of Michigan with a Bachelor of Science in microbiology and has since explored diverse epidemiological and ecological questions using quantitative methods.

Simon is working with Assistant Professor Fernanda Valdovinos, Department of Environmental Science and Policy, to study the responses of marine ecosystems to environmental changes using ecological network modeling. “Sophia will greatly benefit from the Quad Fellowship and its network to pursue her dreams of using her research to solve the most challenging problems our international communities are facing, including the sustainability of our oceans,“ Valdovinos said.

While at UC Davis, Simon has been involved in several research projects, including an international project on modeling food webs at four major upwelling sites around the world. Upwelling sites are locations where deep ocean water, typically cold and rich in nutrients, rises to replace surface water that is pushed away by winds.

“My goal is to apply multispecies approaches to inform sustainable fisheries practices and support communities dependent on marine resources as they adapt to a changing climate,” Simon said. “The Quad Fellowship is an amazing opportunity for an early career scientist. It will enable me to amplify my current research, elevate my international experiences and connections and ensure that my work is relevant to communities and society.”

Working across the four Quad Fellowship countries will provide a unique opportunity to identify common themes and threads on an international stage.

“The ocean is a shared resource that connects us all, and there are fisheries-dependent communities in each of the Quad countries,” Simon said. “The networking and collaboration possibilities are really exciting!”

During her time at UC Davis, Simon also received a Sustainable Oceans National Research Foundation Fellowship, which helped spark her interest in applied science and engaging in public scholarship.

“I think it is crucial to think about how science can be useful,” Simon said. “And I look forward to continuing along this important path as a doctoral student and in my future career.”

As part of the Quad Fellowship, Simon will receive $50,000 in financial support and access to a variety of programs, including virtual and in-person training and mentoring opportunities.

Ali Loge is executive director of communications and marketing for Global Affairs. This article was first published on the Global Affairs website.

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