Ag Sciences students awarded Haagen-Dazs fellowships

September 14, 2009

University Park, Pa. -- Two graduate students in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences -- Abby Kalkstein and Holly Holt -- were recently awarded fellowships in pollinator health sponsored by ice cream-maker Häagen-Dazs.

Abby Kalkstein received her bachelor's degree from Penn State in 2004. After graduation she worked as a lab technician in the University's entomology department where she contributed to the original research on colony collapse disorder (CCD). Kalkstein started her doctoral studies in genetics last year under Diana Cox-Foster, professor of entomology. She is working on the ecology and molecular evolution of picorna viruses that infect honeybees.

"Working on bees at Penn State has been great, especially because of all the collaboration that place within the entomology department, University, and internationally," Kalkstein said. "I would like to thank Haagen-Dazs for providing financial support for honeybee research; it is helping to ensure the health of all pollinators that are so important for many foods including the ones used in their ice cream flavors."

Originally from the Boston area, Holly Holt received her bachelor's degree from Cornell University in 2007, after which she worked for a clinical research team at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Mass. She became interested in studying honeybee health after reading reports of colony collapse disorder and was struck by the parallels with human disease epidemiology.

"One of the things that drew me to Penn State is the fact that there are several faculty members and students studying bees from different perspectives, which makes for a really exciting research environment," Holt said.

Holt also received the Crouch Distinguished Graduate Fellowship in Agricultural Sciences from Penn State. She started her doctoral studies this fall under the mentorship of Christina Grozinger, an associate professor of insect genomics in entomology. She will use behavioral, physiological and genomics approaches to study bee-parasite interactions, focusing on Varroa mites and Nosema microspordia.

The fellowship is part of the "Haagen-Dazs Loves Honey Bees" campaign, which provides funding for research, education and outreach, student training, and synergizing the collective activities in sustainable pollination at Penn State. It provides students with greater hands-on experiences in pollinator health research, as bee pollination is essential for ingredients in nearly 50 percent of their all-natural super premium flavors. The company's goal is to raise awareness of the honeybee issue so that communities can work together to help pollinators. For more information about Haagen-Dazs pollinator campaign, visit online.

Penn State is a center for research and education concerning pollinator health, especially the factors causing colony collapse disorder. More than 14 faculty and other researchers are working on pollinator biology and health, including honeybee functional genomics, honeybee immunity, pathogens of bees and native pollinators, role of pesticides in bee health, parasites and diseases of bees, and ecology and manipulation of native bees. Honeybee and pollinator research at Penn State is supported by government grants, corporate gifts, the beekeeping industry and the College of Agricultural Sciences. For more information on honeybee research at Penn State, visit online.

Established in 1963, Penn State's Department of Entomology has grown into a well-balanced department providing undergraduate education, graduate student training and extension outreach education focusing on both domestic and international issues. Twenty faculty and more than 40 graduate students work on a variety of research topics providing insights into insect ecology, behavior and molecular biology as well as integrated pest management. The department is part of Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences. For more information about solving insect problems, descriptions of research and education programs or admission to the graduate program, visit Web site at or contact the department at 814-865-1895.

Last Updated September 14, 2009