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Doctoral student dives into her work

Rebecca Urban finds life under water just as interesting as the world on the surface.

Urban, 28, who completed her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Binghamton, is now a doctoral student in biology, conducting research on the ecology of aquatic systems.

Her master’s thesis on aquatic plant life was published last year in the journal Oecologia, an achievement almost unheard of for a student at that level.

She was also granted the Environmental Protection Agency’s prestigious Greater Research Opportunities Fellowship, a three-year prize awarded to just 15 students nationwide. It covers tuition, along with a $20,000 stipend and an additional $5,000 for research. Besides the obvious benefits of the fellowship, Urban is thrilled about its networking opportunities.

“Rebecca is a great researcher and has a tremendous amount of dedication,” said Associate Professor John Titus, Urban’s adviser as well as chair of the Department of Biological Sciences. “She’s here whenever she needs to be, puts in long hours any day of the week and she loves doing it.”

Urban, who grew up in Vestal, has had an interest in the environment since childhood. “Growing up, I would hike in the woods with my parents and they would point out and explain the different trees to us,” she said. “That was a big part of the reason for my interest in plants.”

In addition to her academic endeavors, Urban is an avid horseback rider, scuba diver and photographer. “I dive for my research and for fun,” she said. “I really love taking underwater pictures. It gives me a chance to ask more questions about the plants later.”
Her favorite diving destinations include the Adirondack lakes where her current studies are based.

After completing her degree, Urban hopes to land a job as a biology professor at a four-year college. Her current mentoring experience with undergraduate research students provides her with some valuable experience.

“I like teaching,” she said, “so working with them gives me a chance to do some of that, instead of sitting in front of a computer all the time.”

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Last Updated: 10/14/08