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Life sciences grad receives Student of the Year Award in Biology and Society

By

Sandra Leander

Growing up in rural Israel, Inbar Maayan observed great diversity in the natural world and found nothing more fascinating. After relocating to Beachwood, Ohio, and graduating from high school – halfway around the world from her hometown – she followed her childhood passion and studied biology at Arizona State University, although she also was accepted to Ohio State University.

Maayan, a National Merit Scholar and graduating senior with ASU’s School of Life Sciences in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, pursued her biology degree by weaving her interests together – writing, research and education in the life sciences. Now, she is receiving the Student of the Year Award in Biology and Society.

Early in her college career, Maayan was interested in animal development and joined the Embryo Project at ASU’s Center for Biology and Society. The project connects scholarly research on the history and science of embryology with science informatics to create an online encyclopedia. She wrote 11 articles about embryology for the encyclopedia.

Fueled by a desire to share her passion for writing, Maayan became a writing tutor at ASU’s Student Success Center to help other students who, like her, struggled to learn English after coming to the United States. She speaks English and Hebrew, and studies Spanish.

Inspired to delve further into the study of evolution, she began research that took her into the field at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, supported by funding from School of Life Sciences, Barrett, The Honors College and Sigma Xi. This research experience formed part of her honor’s thesis on lizard functional ecology. She presented her findings at the Society for Comparative and Integrative Biology Annual Meeting in San Francisco this past winter.

“Inbar is an exceptional ASU student who has shown tremendous initiative and energy,” said Kenro Kusumi, associate professor and undergraduate honors thesis advisor in School of Life Sciences. “She completed an impressive honors thesis, combining behavioral studies of lizard locomotion in Panama, detailed analysis of their limb morphology in the lab, and cutting-edge bioinformatic analysis of genes directing limb development. I fully expect that we will see her emerge as a scientific leader.”

Despite many interests, Maayan finds time for public outreach. As a member of the student organization “Science Detectives,” she collaborates with other undergraduates to teach inquiry-based science lessons at local elementary schools. She hopes to encourage younger students to pursue careers in STEM fields.

“I was honored to be selected by the School of Life Sciences for this award,” said Maayan. “I am grateful that my family will be able to attend this ceremony and that I get the chance to make them proud.” Mayaan will receive the award during a ceremony on May 10.

Previously, Maayan served as the Publicity and Outreach Chair for the Central Arizona Chapter of the Society for Conservation Biology, a mentor to new ASU freshmen through Barrett, The Honors College and as an event organizer with Arizona Students’ Association.

This September, Maayan begins an Erasmus Mundus master’s in evolutionary biology and will study in Europe.

By Gabrielle Malo