The Jimmy and Ileen Cheek Graduate Student Medal of Excellence is awarded annually to an outstanding student currently pursuing a PhD who has completed at least four semesters of study. 2015 is the award’s inaugural year.
Jessica Welch is pursuing a doctorate in ecology and evolutionary biology and expects to graduate next spring. Her mentors are world-renowned researchers Dan Simberloff, Gore Hunger Professor of Environmental Science, and Gary McCraken, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology.
Welch began her program after graduating cum laude in 2010 from the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology honors program. She was elected president of the Graduate Student Senate last spring after serving for several years on senate committees. She is a teaching assistant for the Intro to Biology course and has been on two teams that published findings in leading botany and zoology journals. She’s held laboratory or field assistant roles on ecological research projects for the past eight years.