She's been making her mark in all three since enrolling in 2016 in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology's Ph.D. program, with a designated emphasis in the biology of vector-borne diseases.
Winokur, who studies with major advisor Christopher Barker, associate professor, Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, School of Veterinary Medicine, is a newly selected fellow of Professors for the Future (PFTF).
This is a program sponsored by UC Davis Graduate Studies “to recognize and develop the leadership skills of outstanding graduate students and postdoctoral scholars who have demonstrated their commitment to professionalism, integrity, and academic service.”
As a fellow, she will receive a stipend of $3000. Traditionally, approximately 12 fellows annually are selected to participate in the yearlong program, launched in 1992.
The PFTF program is designed to prepare UC Davis doctoral students and postdoctoral scholars “for an increasingly competitive marketplace and a rapidly changing university environment,” according to PFTF co-directors Ellen Hartigan-O'Connor, acting associate dean of UC Davis Graduate Studies, and Teresa Dillinger, academic administrator.
During the year, the fellows will receive formal training-in-teaching methods and course design; participate in a seminar course on ethics and professionalism, and meet regularly for roundtable panel discussions to promote their professional development, intellectual growth and leadership skills, the directors said.
The fellows will work on projects of their own design to enhance their graduate or postdoctoral experience and professional development of their colleagues. They summarize their projects in end-of-the-year reports. (See 2019-2020 fellows.)
Winokur titled her successful proposal, “Addressing Financial Barriers to Participation in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).”
“Graduate students perform many roles as researchers, mentors, educators, communicators, service leaders, and humans,” wrote Winokur, who is president of the UC Davis Entomology Graduate Student Association. “Financial insecurity affects students' abilities to perform these roles well, and provides a leg up to students with financial support beyond a graduate student stipend. We know that diversity is important in academia; cultivating talent from folks across the social spectrum leads to innovative and appropriate solutions.”
“Addressing financial barriers to participation in STEM graduate programs will lead to more diverse and inclusive programs,” she wrote. “Further, financial insecurity affects those who enters graduate school in the first place; research experience is often required to be considered for acceptance into graduate school, which unfortunately is often offered in the form of unpaid research internships. This can filter out low-income students early, making academia even more elite than it already is.”
Winokur will collaborate with existing resources on campus to set up a series of workshops to address the issues, focusing on three points: (1) creative ways to fund your research (2) how to support your research mentees—why unpaid labor filters low income and other disadvantaged students, and (3) making your teaching cheaper—how to make education more accessible for low-income and other disadvantaged students.
“I've been interested in applying to the Professors for the Future program for a couple years,” she said. “This year, I feel that I am at a good point in my graduate career to develop my skills through the PFTF coursework and to contribute to the graduate student community through a PFTF project.”
Since 2016, the UC Davis doctoral student has developed her teaching, mentoring, course development, and leadership skills through various courses and programs, “which has led to a basic understanding of my teaching philosophy and pedagogy.” She aims to develop her skills to “further align with my core values of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the classroom and laboratory.”
Olivia grew up in Laguna Niguel, Calif. where she focused on science at the Dana Hills High School Health and Medical Occupations Academy. She holds a bachelor's degree, 2015, from Cornell University, where she majored in interdisciplinary studies, focusing on the environmental effects on human health. While at Cornell, she worked as an intern for the National Institutes of Health, working on climate change initiatives for the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the Fogarty International Center.
Winokur is a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. She is a two-time recipient of the Bill Hazeltine Memorial Research Award, given annually to an outstanding UC Davis graduate student studying vector-borne diseases.
Winokur, who researches Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, is the co-author of research published in several journals, including PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases. Her first first-author paper, “Impact of Temperature on the Extrinsic Incubation Period of Zika Virus in Aedes aegypti” was just published in March.
Since 2017, she has served as a volunteer with the California Department of Public Health's Vector-Borne Disease Section, assisting with hantavirus and plague surveillance by rodent trapping and testing.
Winokur mentors undergraduate students in the UC Davis Research Scholars Program in Insect Biology (RSPIB), founded and directed by faculty members Jay Rosenheim, Joanna Chiu and Louie Yang, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Active in STEM projects, Winokur co-founded GOALS (Girls' Outdoor Adventure in Leadership and Science) in 2017, a program that develops and runs free two-week summer science programs for high school girls and gender expansive youth from backgrounds underrepresented in STEM fields. The girls learn science, outdoor skills and leadership hands-on while backpacking in Sequoia National Park./span>
Thanks to the generosity of his family, his work is continuing through memorial research grants to outstanding graduate students at the University of California, Davis.
Hazeltine, a native of San Jose, was a U.S. Navy veteran who studied entomology at UC Berkeley and received his doctorate in entomology from Purdue University in 1962. He managed the Butte County Mosquito Abatement District, Oroville, from 1966 to 1992, and the Lake County Mosquito Abatement District from 1961-1964.
He was an ardent supporter of the judicious use of public health pesticides to protect public health, remembers Bruce Eldridge, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis and former director of the (now folded) statewide UC Mosquito Research Program. Eldridge eulogized him at the 2005 annual meeting of the American Mosquito Control Association (AMCA) as "a man who made a difference." The AMCA journal published his eulogy in its 2006 edition. (See http://entomology.ucdavis.edu/files/154217.pdf)
"Bill was a medical entomologist who had a varied career in the field of mosquito biology and control, but he will forever be remembered as a man who fought in the trenches of the pesticide controversy from 1960 until the end of his life, and who made the safe and efficient use of pesticides in public health a personal crusade," Eldridge said.
In his memory, his three sons--Craig Hazeltine of Scottsdale, Ariz., Lee Hazeltine of Lincoln, formerly of Woodland, and the late Jeff Hazeltine (1958-2013)—established the UC Davis Bill Hazeltine Graduate Student Research Awards in 1997. Each year they travel to Davis to honor the recipients at a luncheon, timed with their attendance at a scholarship and fellowship celebration, hosted by Dean Helene Dillard, UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Science.
The 2017 recipients are
- Olivia Winokur of the Christopher Barker lab, Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, School of Veterinary Medicine. Her funded project ($2425): “Identifying Aedes Mosquito Eggs Using Hyperspectral Imaging: a Rapid, Low-Cost, Non-Destructive Method to Improve Mosquito Surveillance and Control.”
- Maribel "Mimi" Portilla of the Sharon Lawler lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. Her funded project ($2032): “The Management of Invasive Weeds and their Effects on Larval Culex mosquitoes."
Winokur is also the newly announced 2018 recipient of $3,094 to investigate Aedes aegypti immune response to Zika virus. (Portilla expects to receive her doctorate in six to 12 months.)
“Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus are mosquitoes capable of transmitting dengue, chikungunya, yellow fever, and Zika viruses,” Olivia Winokur explained in her 2017 application. “These species are invasive and present in California and continue to spread, increasing the likelihood of local transmission of these devastating viruses. Additionally, Aedes notoscriptus, an Australian mosquito whose vector competence for many viruses is unknown, has been detected in Los Angeles and is likely to spread in the state. Aedesmosquitoes are readily detected using ovitraps, a cheap and effective sampling method to detect the presence of gravid females. Ovitraps are especially useful when mosquito populations are low as traps for adult Aedes are unreliable. Once collected, the eggs cannot be differentiated using a stereomicroscope. Traditionally, identifying Aedes eggs collected in ovitraps requires hatching and rearing to adult for visual identification, which is time consuming and leads to a time lag for control, potentially allowing invasive species to spread without intervention.”
“Currently, I am developing a non-destructive, low-cost method to rapidly identify Aedes eggs,” Winokur wrote. “I have shown that species-specific surface morphologies of the exochorion can be used to differentiate species using electron microscopy. This method is expensive and therefore not a realistic surveillance technique. We can, however, exploit these species-specific surface morphologies in another way to identify Aedeseggs. Slight changes in morphological characteristics can be captured with high spatial resolution proximal sensing imaging, termed hyperspectral imaging.”
Winokur is testing “the use of hyperspectral imaging to differentiate between eggs collected from lab colonies of native and invasive Aedes mosquitoes in California. Preliminary data indicate this method shows promise for identifying species and warrants further testing. Once I have created species-specific reflectance profiles and validated my identification method using colony eggs, I will collect field eggs and validate the identification method using these field eggs.” She is working with hyperspectral imaging expert Christian Nansen, agricultural entomologist and assistant professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, on the project.
Winokur describes hyperspectral imaging as “a powerful tool that recognizes slight changes; therefore, we need to ensure that all samples are collected and conditioned the same way before testing. Samples must be imaged directly on the oviposition paper because exochorion cells are damaged by the ‘glue' the female uses to attach her eggs to the substrate; imaging removed eggs leads to inconsistent reflectance profiles. This method for rapidly identifying Aedes eggs will allow for quick response to the detection of invasive Aedes mosquitoes.”
After finishing her Ph.D., Winokur plans to remain in academia, but “I'm unsure exactly what that will look like! I really enjoy research, teaching, and mentoring so I'd like to have a career where I can do all of these. I also plan to have a career where I can conduct translational research with broad global health implications, engage non-scientists, create tools to help decision makers mitigate vector-borne disease burden worldwide, and encourage interest and diversity in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).”
Maribel "Mimi' Portilla
“At UC Berkeley School of Public Health, I was able to study health and disease within a larger context, and learned to consider the biological and the social determinants of disease. As I completed my degree, I realized I really missed the research experiences I had as an undergraduate. So, I looked for a way to bridge my new-found passion for public health and basic science research. This led me to UC Davis, where I learned about One Health and am now pursuing a Ph.D in medical entomology. Medical entomology is a perfect example of a One Health field, where I can seek out how interactions between humans and animals impact health. I am particularly interested in researching how disease risk may change as people manipulate the environment."
Her academic life revolves around writing her dissertation; teaching UC Davis classes (she's taught entomology, general biology and One Health classes); research; and public outreach. Since 2012, she has mentored some 30 undergraduate students on developing and executing their research experiments. She praised the “the diversity of my interns; they each brought such important and unique perspectives to the project.”
What are her career plans?
“Due to my diverse interests and skill set, I am very open about my career choices," Portilla said. "I have extensive teaching experience, and would love to be a professor with both teaching and research opportunities. However, there are many opportunities beyond academia. My research is introducing me to many other ways in which my work and research can help keep people safe and healthy. I hope to develop a strong research skill set while at UC Davis, and find a career path which takes advantage of my diverse abilities and love for One Health and Public Health."
Portilla mentioned pursuing a career as a teacher in a small liberal arts school to teach public health, general biology and global diseases classes, as well as do outreach and research. “I'm more of a scientist than an entomologist,” she said.
She may also pursue a career working in vector-control health education at the county, district or state level. “I'm open at this point,” Portilla said. Overall, she is geared toward improving public health outcomes through healthier environments. “I care about how outcomes affect the larger population,” she said.
Meanwhile, it's good to see that William Emery Hazeltine's passion for medical entomology lives on, and to see UC Davis graduate students benefit, all thanks to the generosity and thoughtfulness of the Hazeltine family. The "family" of 42 recipients since 1997 includes Christopher Barker, Winokur's major professor, who received a Hazeltine research award in 2006.
The complete list of recipients:
- 2018: Olivia Winokur (newly announced)
- 2017: Maribel "Mimi" Portilla and Olivia Winokur
- 2016: Sandy Olkowski, Maribel “Mimi” Portilla and Stephanie Kurniawan
- 2015: Sandy Olkowski, Maribel “Mimi” Portilla and Stephanie Kurniawan
- 2014: Martha Armijos, Elizabeth “Lizzy” Glennon and Rosanna Kwok
- 2013: Jenny Carlson, Elizabeth “Lizzy” Glennon and Sandy Olkowski
- 2012: Jenny Carlson, Kelly Liebman and Sandy Olkowski
- 2011: Brittany Nelms Mills, Kelly Liebman and Jenny Carlson
- 2010: Tara Thiemann and Jenny Carlson
- 2009: Kelly Liebman and Wei Xu
- 2008: Ashley Horton and Tara Thiemann
- 2007: Lisa Reimer and Jacklyn Wong
- 2006: Christopher Barker and Tania Morgan
- 2005: Nicole Mans
- 2004: Sharon Minnick
- 2003: Hannah Burrack
- 2002: Holly Ganz and Andradi Villalobos
- 2001: Laura Goddard and Linda Styer
- 2000: Laura Goddard
- 1999: Linda Boose Styer
- 1998: Larisa Vredevoe
- 1997: John Gimnig
Meet Olivia Winokur, an enthusiastic, dedicated and multi-talented medical entomologist whose childhood curiosity about a yellow fever vaccination sparked her interest in 'skeeters.
In her youth, Olivia traveled with her parents and brothers to “off-the-beaten-path” locations. “So I was exposed to vector-borne disease awareness from a young age,” she recalled. “When I was 8 years old, I remember getting the yellow fever vaccination and being curious about why I had to get it for a trip to Southern Africa. I think that was my defining moment when I learned mosquitoes are more than just annoying. Since then, I've slept under many mosquito nets and am no stranger to mosquito bites.”
“I didn't think much about making a career out of those 'skeeters, though. I attended Cornell University as undergraduate, where I studied global public health from multiple perspectives. It wasn't until I became a research assistant in Dr. Laura Harrington's lab that I became fascinated with mosquito biology and decided to pursue a career in medical entomology.”
Winokur, who received her bachelor's degree in 2015 from Cornell University, majoring in Interdisciplinary Studies and focusing on the environmental effects on human health, enrolled in the UC Davis graduate program in 2016 as a Ph.D entomology student with a designated emphasis in the biology of vector-borne diseases.
She studies with major professor and UC Davis alumnus Christopher Barker, associate professor and associate researcher in the Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, School of Veterinary Medicine, who doubles as a graduate student advisor in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Earlier this year, Winokur received a three-year National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. A 2017 Bill Hazeltine Memorial Award also helps fund her research.
Her research at UC Davis mainly involves Aedes aegypti, also known as the yellow fever mosquito. “At present, most of the research done on mosquito-borne virus transmission is done under a very narrow range of conditions that reflect a particular mosquito species' 'optimal' rearing and adult environment,” Winokur said. “I'm interested in how conditions outside of this optimal range at both the larval and adult stages affect mosquito-borne virus transmission. I work mostly with Aedes aegypti, which transmits diseases including dengue, Zika, yellow fever, and chikungunya viruses. Currently my research is focused on Zika virus. I hope to determine how the range of conditions mosquitoes encounter outside of the lab alter their life history traits, such as survival and blood feeding behavior, as well as viral transmission so that we can better understand geographical and seasonal mosquito-borne virus risk and eventually mitigate the risk.”
What fascinates her about mosquitoes? “People are usually wowed when I tell them there are over 3500 species of mosquitoes!” she said. “But don't worry.. not all of them transmit human pathogens. I love telling people about the natural history of different genera and species and how this affects the likelihood of pathogen transmission to humans. I'm continually fascinated by how resilient mosquitoes are, how successful they've been throughout history, and how they've completely altered human history. I actually gave a lecture on how vector-borne diseases have altered human history last quarter (Winter 2018) to an undergraduate class led by UC Davis entomology graduate students (Ent10: Natural History of Insects).”
Born in Long Beach, Calif., Olivia grew up in Laguna Niguel, Calif., where she focused on science as a part of the Dana Hills High School Health and Medical Occupations Academy. Olivia also played basketball at Dana Hills and helped the team win its first league title.
What drew her to UC Davis? “I grew up in California so I was familiar with UC Davis from a young age. I actually applied to UC Davis as an undergraduate, but decided to try life on the East Coast instead and attended Cornell University. While at Cornell, I learned a lot about UC Davis as most of my professors had spent some time at UC Davis during their academic tenure, and a lot of the research I was reading was coming out of UC Davis. I was excited to come back to the West Coast for graduate school so UC Davis seemed like an obvious choice!”
Winokur is a co-author of “The Impact of Temperature and Body-Size on Flight Tone Variation in the Mosquito Vector Aedes aegypti (Diptera: Culicidae): Implications for Acoustic Lures," published in April 2017, in the Journal of Medical Entomology. Several other manuscripts are accepted or in preparation.
She has given presentations at the Mosquito and Vector Control Association of California and the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.
Dedicated to helping high school girls transition into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) careers, Winokur is a founding board member and publicity co-chair of GOALS (Girls' Outdoor Adventure in Leadership and Science). The organization seeks “to cultivate and embolden the next generation of STEM leaders through a free, immersive, field-based summer science program for high school girls.”
“GOALS is for high school girls, inclusive of cis, trans, and gender nonbinary youth who identify with girlhood, to learn science hands-on while backpacking through the wilderness,” Winokur related. “I have worked with an incredible team of UC Davis affiliates to create GOALS to increase opportunities for high school students who identify with girlhood from backgrounds traditionally underrepresented in STEM. Our first trip is happening this summer!” This year's program takes place July 21 to Aug. 5.
Winokur is also a part of the Letters to a Pre-Scientist program “so I get to be a pen-pal to an elementary school student to talk about science!” In addition, she serves as the treasurer of the UC Davis Entomology Graduate Student Association.
Delighted to return to California after being on the East Coast, Winokur spends her leisure time outdoors hiking and backpacking “and exploring the beautiful places near Davis like the Lake Tahoe area and Yosemite. I taught backpacking and wilderness survival skills for Cornell Outdoor Education during college. Additionally, I'm a trivia nerd so I watch a lot of Jeopardy! and play pub trivia with my entomology colleagues weekly. I also enjoy drawing, reading, playing board games, and doing jigsaw puzzles. When I get the chance I enjoy traveling as well--I just returned from Belize and I'll be in Denmark in July!”
After finishing her Ph.D., Winokur plans to remain in academia, but “I'm unsure exactly what that will look like! I really enjoy research, teaching, and mentoring so I'd like to have a career where I can do all of these. I also plan to have a career where I can conduct translational research with broad global health implications, engage non-scientists, create tools to help decision makers mitigate vector-borne disease burden worldwide, and encourage interest and diversity in STEM.”