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Bits of coincidence here and there prompted a computer science master's student to switch paths and instead work toward a doctorate in entomology.
Miranda Bryant received the University of Wyoming's U.S. Graduate Student Award for Excellence in Internationalization.
"I'm very honored," says the second-year doctoral student, who is advised by Professor Scott Shaw in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Bryant is Shaw's second graduate student to receive the honor.
UW's International Board of Advisers selects recipients.
"Everyone on the board's awards committee was impressed with what you have accomplished for the university, and we encourage you to keep up the excellent work," wrote Professor Anne Alexander, director of International Programs.
Bryant teaches insect biology classes and conducts research of parasitoid wasps and their host caterpillars -- specifically, those whose home is the bamboo (hollow) grass. On-the-ground research is at Ecuador's Yanayacu Biological Station and Center for Creative Studies. (http://www.yanayacu.org/)
Coincidences combined to bring her to UW. Bryant received undergraduate and master's degrees at Western Florida. Hurricane Ivan swept through in 2004, "leveling the college," says the Atlanta, Ga., native. She's from a military family, and her father was stationed in Denver. The family wanted to retire in the West and liked the Laramie area.
The computer science major was looking to attend graduate school and met UW zoology Professor Carlos Martinez del Rio. That meeting led her to switch majors. Insects and plants replaced circuit boards and processors.
"His passion for the blending of biological sciences with about every field that can be imagined showed me a new path," she recalls.
She left Martinez Del Rio's office looking at the world differently.
"Although I work with Scott, and he is another extraordinary champion of the world as a research project, Carlos was the person who opened the door to that shift in the way I view everything in life, and it made all the difference to me. I am not confined to a lab or a computer -- the world is my research project," she says.
Bryant traveled with the honors course group to the Yanayacu station last year and will serve as mentor to the same this year. She had never been out of the United States before the trips.
"I would say what is so meaningful about the research, what Scott has been able to do, and the ability to get students there, is that I have a connection now," Bryant notes. "It's not just an insect in a museum. I was there, looking at insects. I touched the grasses. I talked to people at the station. It was definitely a life-changing opportunity."
The internationalization award also honors her teaching efforts. More comfortable now in the classroom, she has learned more about how students learn.
"This has led me to create lectures/labs that draw on many types of learning so each type of student can take something from the experience," Bryant says.