University Scholar Mary Ashley
The University Scholars Program honors faculty members for superior research and teaching, along with great promise for future achievements. The award provides $15,000 a year for three years.
Professor of biological sciences
Years at UIC: 30
What are your research interests?
My research interests are population genetics, ecological genetics and conservation biology. My research uses patterns of genetic variation found in natural populations that can tell about how organisms survive, move and reproduce in real time and through their species’ evolutionary past. We also study genetic patterns in threatened and endangered species to help develop conservation strategies. My students and I have studied a wide range of both plants and animals.
How did you become interested in these topics?
I got interested in using DNA to study evolution and population biology as an undergraduate and have pursued this research since graduate school. The combination of conducting fieldwork and sampling of natural populations of plants and animals combined with the precision of DNA analysis that particularly appeals to me.
What do you teach?
My primary teaching responsibility is Bios 230, Evolution and Ecology, a required course for biology majors.
How do you balance teaching and research?
I enjoy both teaching and research and find that one complements the other. I’m also the PI of CIM2AS, an NSF-funded project that aims to support Latinx students in science by making cultural connections and providing summer internships. CIM2AS integrates the theme of monarchs and milkweeds into science curriculum and research.
What’s your advice to students who want to focus their future careers on research?
Students who want to pursue research careers should take advantage of the various research opportunities offered for undergraduate at UIC and elsewhere. One great resource is NSF REU programs (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) that offer paid summer internships in all sorts of science fields.