Department News


Jennifer Smith Named 2011-2012 AAUW Postdoctoral Fellow

AAUW Awards American Postdoctoral Fellowship to Jennifer E. Smith at the University of California Los Angeles

WASHINGTON – The American Association of University Women (AAUW) awarded a 2011–12 American Fellowship to Jennifer E. Smith. She is a Postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and the Center for Society and Genetics at the University of California Los Angeles.

The oldest and largest of AAUW’s fellowship and grant programs, the American Fellowships program began in 1888, a time when women were discouraged from pursuing an education.

AAUW American Fellowships are awarded to highly qualified women scholars completing doctoral dissertations, conducting postdoctoral research, or finishing research for publication.

Upon learning that Jennifer was among the select group of 2011-2012 fellows, Jennifer Smith wrote, “Two of my mentors from my Ph.D. at Michigan State University, Dr. Kay E. Holekamp and Laura Smale, were themselves AAUW fellows. These two women were absolutely thrilled to hear that I will be carrying on this tradition. It is a great honor to stand among these accomplished women and this award will make all of the difference to me as I strive to meet my professional goals. I have some big shoes to fill, but as first generation Ph.D., I do love a good challenge!”

Jennifer E. Smith integrates perspectives from evolutionary biology, ecology, animal behavior, and physiology in an effort to understand how natural selection and current ecological conditions shape decision-making in animals. Born in Cushing, Maine, Dr. Smith pursued her B.A. in Biology at Colby College and most recenlty completed her doctoral research in 2010 at Michigan State University where she worked with Kay E. Holekamp to study the evolution of cooperation among spotted hyenas residing in Kenya. As a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California Los Angeles in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, she currently collaborates primarily with Dan Blumstein in an effort to explain the dynamic interplay between environmental influences (social and ecological) and genetic relationships shaping the decisions of individual animals and how these decisions in turn structure mammalian societies. Her current research on maternal effects, defined as non-genetic influences of a mother on her children, aims to discover the factors responsible for phenotypic diversity in nature. She is currently using quantitative genetics and social network theory to elucidate how maternal effects shape offspring behavior, condition, survival, and lifetime reproductive success across 25 generations of free-ranging yellow-bellied marmots. Importantly, Dr. Smith also has demonstrates a long-standing commitment to excellence in undergraduate education and to breaking through barriers by promoting women in science and mentoring research by undergraduates from traditionally underrepresented groups.

To learn more about Jennifer Smith’s research and record of helping women and girls to break through barriers, please visit her website.

“The funding we provide to the AAUW American Fellows affords them the ability to become leading thinkers in their fields and sets them apart in an important way because they are receiving support from one of the nation’s most respected women’s organizations,” said Gloria Blackwell, AAUW director of fellowships, grants, and international programs. “I congratulate the 2011–12 class of AAUW American Fellows who now belong to this dynamic community of exceptional women who are uncovering new ground, providing important perspective, and helping humanity.”

One of the largest sources of funding for graduate education for women, AAUW has provided more than $90 million to more than 11,000 fellows and grantees since awarding its first fellowship to Vassar graduate Ida Street, a pioneer in the field of early American Indian history. Visit the AAUW website to read the press release about this year’s awards.
The American Association of University Women (AAUW) advances equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy, and research. Since 1881, AAUW has been one of the nation's leading voices promoting education and equity for women and girls. AAUW has a nationwide network of more than 100,000 members and donors, 1,000 branches, and more than 500 college/university institutional partners. Since AAUW's founding 130 years ago, members have examined and taken positions on the fundamental issues of the day — educational, social, economic, and political. AAUW's commitment to educational equity is reflected in its public policy advocacy, community programs, leadership development, conventions and conferences, national partnerships, and international connections.