Qixin He has been awarded the 2013 Edwin H. Edwards Scholarship in Biology. The scholarship for graduate students studying biology is in memory of Edwards, who received his bachelors of science degree in biology from U-M in 1892.

“Climate change and human disturbance increase the threats posed by disease vectors,” said He. “Therefore, understanding mechanisms enabling their rapid adaptation is of central importance. My current research focuses on whether a specific chromosomal structural change (i.e., chromosomal inversions) facilitates adaptive divergence of the mosquito Anopheles gambiae, the most severe malaria vector in sub-Sahara Africa. Such chromosomal structural changes may promote local adaptation because they buffer populations from the mixing effects of migrants from different habitats.

“In this study, genome-wide genetic variation of each individual will be obtained from next generation sequencing technology. Genetic variation patterns of chromosomal inversions, together with their spatial distributions, can be used to test whether inversions contributed to genomic divergence among ecologically dissimilar populations connected by migration.” 

“The results will be directly relevant to informing pest control agencies of which demographic or genetic factors will be the best target to impede rapid adaptation in mosquitoes. For example, it can provide critical information on whether genetically modified mosquitoes can compete with native populations and survive in the local environment. The work will foster academic communications between the United States and Cameroonian researchers and students, and promote the education of local communities in malaria preventions.” She studies in the lab of Professor L. Lacey Knowles.

The recipient is selected based on the novelty and scholarship of the proposed research; the clarity, merit, and appropriate scope and feasibility of the research plan; progress in the program including prior research results; and a letter of recommendation. The award is for one semester during the 2013 – 2014 academic year, including stipend, tuition, and GradCare benefits. This fellowship is given via a generous bequest of Julia A. Edwards for use in the recruitment of new doctoral students studying biology and to support current students whose distinguished performance is considered worthy of special recognition.

Caption: Qixin He catches mosquitoes in a village in Cameroon and meets local villagers.