Fischer in Entomology, Ortega in Plant Pathology Named Plant Biologist Scholars

Hillary Fischer (left) is a doctoral student in entomology and Laura Orgeta is a master's degree student in plant pathology, both in Bumpers College.
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Hillary Fischer (left) is a doctoral student in entomology and Laura Orgeta is a master's degree student in plant pathology, both in Bumpers College.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Hillary Fischer and Laura Ortega, graduate students in the U of A's Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences, have been named Conviron Scholars by the American Society of Plant Biologists.

Fischer and Ortega are two of just 43 candidates chosen from among 210 applicants from 30 countries. The U of A, University of California at Davis, University of Florida and University of Minnesota are the only institutions with two selections.

Fischer is a third-year doctoral student in entomology working in professor Fiona Goggin's lab for plant-insect interactions. Her research focuses on the role of reactive oxygen species in signaling for plant defense to aphids.

Ortega is a master's degree student in plant pathology, working with assistant professor Clemencia Rojas investigating the molecular and cellular strategies plants use to recognize bacterial pathogens and fight against them.

"This is a tremendous opportunity for Hillary and Laura, and they are both excellent choices to participate in the program," said Ken Korth, interim head of the departments of entomology and plant pathology. "In addition to the technical experience that our students gain, improvement of soft skills like communication and leadership are increasingly important in graduate programs. The ASPB Conviron program is unique in the mentorship it provides to develop those skills. The expectations for awardees are high, but I am confident that Hillary and Laura will perform well and come away with new, invaluable experiences."

Fischer, who is from Beatrice, Nebraska, has served as president of the Arkansas Entomological Society and as president of the student Entomology Club. Earlier this year, she earned the Lillian and Alex Feir Graduate Student Travel Award in Insect Physiology, Biochemistry or Molecular Biology from the Entomological Society of America. After earning her doctorate, she plans to continue researching the molecular aspects of host-plant resistance to herbivores and eventually work in academia as a teacher and researcher.

Ortega, who is from Rogers, attended NorthWest Arkansas Community College before earning her bachelor's degree in crop, soil and environmental sciences. She participated in a study abroad trip to Belgium, earned a Student Undergraduate Research Fellowship to complete her honors program thesis and was a summer scholar at Cornell University, stationed at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva.

The ASPB Scholars Program serves as the foundation for a career in plant science. The program includes membership in ASPB, virtual mentoring, online group networking and hands-on virtual learning programs such as seminars and workshops. ASPB was founded in 1924 to promote the growth and development of plant biology, to encourage and publish research in plant biology, and to promote the interests and growth of plant scientists in general. The society has expanded to provide a forum for molecular and cellular biology as well. 

About the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences: Bumpers College provides life-changing opportunities to position and prepare graduates who will be leaders in the businesses associated with foods, family, the environment, agriculture, sustainability and human quality of life; and who will be first-choice candidates of employers looking for leaders, innovators, policy makers and entrepreneurs. The college is named for Dale Bumpers, former Arkansas governor and longtime U.S. senator who made the state prominent in national and international agriculture.

About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while also providing service to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Arkansas among only 2 percent of universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Arkansas among its top American public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentoring.


Robby Edwards, director of communications
Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences


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