24 June 2022 • STEM Sipos '23 Honored by Botanical Society of America

Biology major Erika Sipos ’23 is one of only six students nationwide to earn a 2022 Undergraduate Student Research Award from the Botanical Society of America.

Erika Sipos ’23 is a recipient of an Undergraduate Student Research Award from Botanical Society of America, a century-old organization that promotes the study of plants and their interactions within the biosphere.

Sipos, a biology major, was recognized for her research project, “A Phylogenetic and Biogeographical Study of Parsonsia (Apocyanceae),” which she is undertaking this summer and continuing next academic year as part of her Honors project conducted under the direction of Associate Professor of Biology Shannon Straub.

“My research investigates the tribe, genus and species level relationships within the plant family Apocynaceae, which is commonly known as the milkweed and dogbane family,” Sipos explains. “This family is one of the largest families of flowering plants in the plant kingdom. I have chosen to focus my research on a specific genus deep within this family. I aim to determine the phylogenetic relationships among the genus Parsonsia, found across Southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand and surrounding islands, and its closely related genera, Prestonia and Artia.”

Sipos also plans to use her findings to “investigate the biogeographical context for the origin and diversification of Parsonsia, Prestonia and Artia.

Her research relies on Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) technology, which enables scientists “to study evolutionary relationships and genetic diversity in wild populations at a speed and capacity greater than ever before,” she notes. “By untangling relationships deep within the plant kingdom and understanding ranges where specific plants can occur, threats to conservation and the effects of anthropogenic actions can be further addressed. Finally, projects like this can result in more targeted conservation efforts, as well as the efficient use of our genetic resources and capabilities.”

Founded in 1893, the Botanical Society of America promotes botany through formal and informal education about plants. The non-profit encourages plant research; offers expertise, direction and position statements concerning plants and ecosystems; and fosters communication within the professional botanical community, and between botanists and the rest of humankind, through its publications, meetings and committees.

In the photo above, Erika Sipos ’23 works in the lab with Associate Professor of Biology Shannon Straub.