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WIU Assistant Professor Andrea Porras-Alfaro, center, is pictured with Torres-Cruz, left and Tobias, right.
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WIU Students Win Awards at Research Conference

August 10, 2015

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MACOMB, IL – A Western Illinois University graduate student has won a national honor for her research conducted through the University's Department of Biological Sciences.

Terri Tobias, a graduate student in biology, of Augusta, IL, received the national award for the best graduate poster at the Mycological Society of America meeting in July in Edmonton, Canada. Tobias presented "A Study of Glycine Max (soybean) Fungal Communities Under Different Agricultural Practices," funded by the Illinois Soybean Association, in collaboration with WIU Assistant Professor Andrea Porras-Alfaro, WIU agriculture Professor Winthrop Phippen, WIU Assistant Professor Joel Gruver and Sarah Dean from Central New Mexico Community College (CNM), serving as co-authors.

WIU biology graduate student Terry Torres-Cruz, of Costa Rica, received a travel award from the society during the same meeting. She is the only student from a primarily undergraduate institution to receive a travel award this year – the remaining students were from research universities.

Torres-Cruz presented " Heavy Metal Tolerant Fungi in Surface Soils of a Temperate Pine Forest" at the meeting with support from a WIU sustainability award, the Department of Energy (DoE) and Los Alamos National Laboratory.

This is the second year in a row a WIU student has received awards in mycology at the national level. Last year, WIU undergraduate honors student Paris Hamm, of Macomb, won a best undergraduate poster award at the same meeting.

In all, six WIU students attended the international meeting: Hamm presented her honors thesis with additional support from a WIU Research Inspiring Student Excellence (RISE) program travel award and a summer REU award; WIU research assistant Ryan Deaver, supported by a WIU Sustainability Student Award; Torres-Cruz, supported by a sustainability award; Tobias, supported by an award from the Illinois Soybean Association; biology graduate student Shiloh Lueschow, of Elmwood, IL, and WIU research assistant Cedric Ndinga Muniania.

The research at Western was also supported by Los Alamos National Lab-DoE, and travel was supported by the different grants and the WIU Department of Biological Sciences.

For more information on the conference, visit

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