science and technology building
"This project is all about students. It will support students' research including training visits in labs at larger universities," Dr. Hembry

Dr. David Hembry, a UTPB Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology, has been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to support student research on the topic of evolution and ecology across the mutualism parasitism in leaf flower plants. One of the goals of this project is to study and better understand how transitions from mutualism to antagonism evolve. The $500,000 project will run for three years and offer students a unique opportunity on campus to conduct research.

dr. hembry headshotDr. Hembry spends much of his time brainstorming possible research topics and ideas. These ideas come from the field work he does in West Texas with his students. Some of these ideas were also thought of while on a pilot field project in Puerto Rico recently. This particular trip yielded essential preliminary data for the NSF proposal.

“The project is all about students. It will support students’ research including training visits in labs at larger universities, it will provide funds for students to present their research at conferences, and it will offer paid summer research opportunities for undergraduate students being mentored by graduate students,” said Dr. Hembry.

UTPB is continuing its collaboration with the University of Puerto Rico to help bring an undergraduate student to participate in an internship at UTPB’s biology labs. UTPB undergraduate students will also be attending the National Evolutionary Biology Conference in Albuquerque this summer. The NSF grant will offer support to both of these efforts. This program has been generous in aiding minority-serving institutions and allows faculty to offer more support to its students of minority and first-generation backgrounds.

“My favorite part about teaching is incorporating fieldwork into biology courses. Students in my Vertebrate Zoology and Animal Behavior courses go outdoors and observe native species of animals, learn to identify them, and take notes. Exploring the biodiversity of West Texas is a rewarding experience," said Dr. Hembry.

Dr. Hembry has been at UTPB for two years and teaches a variety of biology courses. He holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Science from UC Berkley and previously conducted research for the University of Arizona and Cornell University.

“I would like to thank the UTPB staff and administration for their support and assistance with the process of applying for and receiving the grant. There’s a lot of essential support for research grants that goes on behind the scenes without which it wouldn’t be possible to do. Special thanks to Kristee Phelps, Lan Conrad, Tim Pierce, Dr. Athenia Oldham, Jessica Raymond, and Dr. Raj Dakshinamurthy for their endless support.”

"Dr. Hembry has been working diligently to secure additional funding for research opportunities at UTPB. I am thrilled that his efforts have paid off and we have secured a phenomenal grant to expand these opportunities for our students in the areas of evolution and ecology," said Dr. Raj Dakshinamurthy, Associate Vice President of Research. Dr. Dakshinamurthy also mentions that UT System's collaboration and support in providing research funding for Dr. Hembry is what jump-started his research endeavors upon his arrival on campus years ago. 

"I am so proud of the work our team has accomplished and kudos to Dr. Hembry, I know that this grant will make a significant impact on the future of research and education opportunities at UTPB. This is a testament to our commitment to putting our students first and providing them with the best education. Falcons Up!" added Dr. Dakshinamurthy