We are excited to announce the successful, final Ph.D. defense of Dr. Steve Formel. He did an excellent job at his defense of “The influence of salt marsh microbial communities on the foundational species Spartina alterniflora in an oiled environment.” We wish him the best in his new role as Data Scientist at the National Ocean and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA), at the Stennis Space Center in MS. We will miss him terribly, and we are so happy that he is staying close by.
While at Tulane, Steve developed into a highly awarded scholar of plant microbiomes in the Gulf Coast region. He started as a Louisiana Board of Regents fellow and then he won a highly prestigious NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. He also won a fellowship from the LA Sea Grant in science communication focusing on the coastal crisis in Southern Louisiana. He won small grants from the Garden Club of America and the department of EEB. He also won the “People’s Choice” award at two “Three-minute thesis” competitions. Finally, he won a post-doctoral fellowship from the National Academy of Sciences Gulf Research Policy Program. All of these awards and accolades recognize his commitment to Gulf of Mexico ecology and science communication.
We all appreciate that Steve has been an excellent team member of the Van Bael lab and of the department. He has impressed us all with his strong intellect and his willingness to share his bioinformatics expertise. He loves working with large datasets and has enthusiastically embraced their analyses through creating and sharing code. He has organized many little “pockets of chaos” in the lab so that our work is more streamlined and functional. I’ve also heard that one can track his activities in the lab by the kind of music that he is playing. If you walk in and hear hard core rock, he is working on R code. If you hear underground 90s hip hop, he is doing PCR.
In the department, Steve was the Vice President of the EEB Graduate Student Association and he organized the plant journal club. He introduced really amazing snacks to Ecolunch during his time as the organizer, and he has also been an excellent representative of the department during many outreach events like GIST, BATS and as a judge of local science fairs.
Steve is very excited about big ideas in ecology and restoration. He is especially dedicated to the Gulf Coast and its persistence in the face of changing climate. Steve’s commitment to his research topic, and to a brighter future for the region, has been an inspiration to us all.
Celebration screenshot of the defense!