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K-State Today

August 16, 2021

Entomology graduate student awarded USDA-NIFA predoctoral fellowship

Submitted by Kun Yan Zhu and Rob Morrison

Entomology graduate student, Hannah Quellhorst

Hannah Quellhorst, doctoral candidate in entomology, was awarded a prestigious predoctoral fellowship of $118,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture-National Institute of Food and Agriculture, or USDA-NIFA. The fellowship supports her doctoral dissertation research, which covers her two-year stipends, tuition, research supplies and travel for attending scientific conferences.

USDA-NIFA is a federal funding agency to support food and agricultural research through various programs. Quellhorst's fellowship was funded through the USDA-NIFA's Agriculture and Food Research Initiative — Education and Workforce Development program, which focuses on developing the next generation of research, education, and extension professionals in the food and agricultural sciences.

Postharvest losses of grain exceed $100 billion globally, but this sector of the supply chain is often neglected. Insects and microbes are responsible for the majority of losses. Quellhorst will use the fellowship to study the interactions between an invasive insect pest and fungi associated with postharvest losses in the grain supply chain. She plans to determine the distribution of the invasive insect pest, which may be expanding due to climate change, along with associated mycofauna. She will evaluate whether the insect pests act as vectors for mycofauna and investigate the combined impact of the stored product insect and mycofauna on grain quality. The project will provide a systems-level understanding of the association between key primary grain insect pests and mycofauna and help develop new strategies of managing both insects and microbes concurrently at food facilities while leveraging international connections with researchers at the University of Thessaly in Greece.

Quellhorst received her bachelor's and master's degrees in entomology from Purdue University in 2015 and 2018, respectively. She started her doctoral program in entomology at K-State in 2018. She has published seven peer-reviewed papers in scientific journals and presented 52 talks at national and international conferences. She has also served on many committees and professional organizations, and engaged in numerous outreach activities. She has received many awards and scholarships, including the National Science Foundation diversity travel grant for travel to Helsinki, Finland, for the International Congress of Entomology for $2,270; and the North Central Branch Entomological Society of America's Graduate Student Scholarship for $500.

Quellhorst is mentored by Kun Yan Zhu, university distinguished professor of entomology; Rob Morrison, adjunct professor of entomology and research entomologist at the USDA Agriculture Research Service, Manhattan; and Christos G. Athanassiou, professor of entomology at the University of Thessaly, Greece.