Felicity Muth, a postdoctoral biology scholar at the University of Nevada, Reno, was chosen as one of only five women in the nation to receive the prestigious L'Oréal USA's For Women in Science Fellowship in 2017. This fellowship has only been awarded 75 times since its creation in 2003 and has awarded more than $3.5 million dollars in grants to aid "female scientists at a critical stage in their careers," according to a press release from L'Oréal.
Muth's grant will be used in continuing her work in the University's College of Science to study the effects of pesticides on the cognition abilities of bumblebees. Muth noted that some of the most recognized pesticides "have sub-lethal effects on bumblebees. It doesn't kill them but it impairs bees and affects their cognition." She said she likes the field of animal cognition, which she has been studying since her undergraduate career at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and enjoys studying the effects pesticides have on bee cognition because "not only is it interesting from an intellectual standpoint, but it has real-world consequences.'
This grant will allow Muth to expand her research in animal cognition in both technological and intellectual ways. She intends to use some of the $60,000 from this grant to buy radiofrequency identification, or RFID, tags to help track the location of the bees and to help set up and use more sophisticated artificial flowers to study how bees are pollinating. On the intellectual level, Muth will be able to use the grant to hire a recent female graduate of the University to assist her in her research as well as allow collaboration with researchers in other fields, specifically neuroscience and genetics.
The grant will also help fund outreach programs to interest young women in science. In the past, Muth has worked with Girl Scouts of Sierra Nevada and Nevada Bugs & Butterflies to introduce her research to young women and young students.
One of the main goals of the L'Oréal USA's For Women in Science fellowship is to encourage young women to build and maintain an interest in science.
"More young women are getting their Ph.D.'s, but the problem is keeping women in science," Muth said. "Things have gotten better, but women are still expected to take the majority role in child rearing and then there's getting the time off, finding daycare facilities."
She also said that there is still a pervasive amount of subtle sexism, coming in the form of likeliness to be offered lower wages and other biases.
"Though as everyone becomes more aware of these biases, things will get better," she said.
While this fellowship was awarded to Muth, she stresses this isn't an individual effort. She cites being "really impressed" by Anne Leonard, an assistant professor of biology at the University, as the reason she moved from Tucson, Ariz., to Reno for her post-doc research.
"I am really lucky to receive this award, but research hardly ever happens because of one individual," Muth said. "I have great colleagues and strong support."