June 15, 2011

Graduate student wins prestigious EPA grant

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A graduate student at Southern Illinois University Carbondale is getting a major award from a government program that strives to gain real solutions from science for environmental problems.
Jeff Hillis, a master’s student in zoology, will receive a so-called STAR grant award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. STAR stands for “Science To Achieve Results.”
Hillis is studying the impact of chemicals in water that mimic estrogen on male bluegill fish. The chemicals tend to feminize the male fish, leading to reductions in their reproductive capacity and potentially population declines in lakes.
STAR grants fund research awards and graduate fellowships for research in environmental science and engineering disciplines. The program awards grants on a competitive basis through independent peer review.
The program seeks to assist the nation’s best scientists and engineers in targeted research that complements EPA’s research programs. Some of the areas of research STAR grants are funding right now include endocrine disrupting chemicals, health effects of particulate matter, drinking water, water quality, global change, ecosystem assessment and restoration, human health risk assessment, pollution prevention and new technologies, children’s health, and socio-economic research.
Hillis, whose co-advisers are James Garvey, director of the Fisheries & Illinois Aquaculture Center at SIUC, and Michael Lydy, professor of zoology, will receive a two-year stipend to support his research, as well as other support, for a total of about $37,000 per year.
Garvey said the award is highly competitive and only went to a small percentage of those applying for one again this year.
“We are so very proud of him and all of our great students in the center and in the Department of Zoology,” Garvey said. “Jeff is among the ranks of the best of the best in the toxicology field. The list of recipients from last year are from mostly large research institutions or ivy-league schools, and I would assume the same of this year’s list of awardees.”