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Expanding Horizons

Elizabeth Stepp studying in Puerto RicoElizabeth Stepp hopes to save lives one day as a physician, but for now she is content trying to help save another kind of life – the coral reefs in the Caribbean Sea.

With a grant from the Richards Scholars program, the biology major from Morganton, Ga., has been doing research that may one day help preserve the fragile ecosystems of the coral reefs. As part of the Fund for Berry Scholars, the Richards Scholars program provides students with a $5,000 grant to help fund the type of scholarly research not typically found at the undergraduate level. The program is named in honor of the late Alice Richards and her family.

The focus of Stepp’s research project is Caribbean Yellow Brand Disease (CYBD), a little-known disease that is ravaging coral reefs throughout the Caribbean. She first developed an interest in CYBD while studying topics related to molecular biology in courses taught by Dr. Michael Morgan. Her project includes research conducted in Berry laboratories and the waters off Puerto Rico. By identifying genes that signal the onset of CYBD, she hopes to contribute to knowledge that could help to preserve the coral reef ecosystems.

“Now that I am involved with this project, I have grown to appreciate the life and stability that coral reefs bring to the ocean,” she explained. “I am very grateful to the Richards family for endowing this scholarship so that I can have this opportunity.”

Prepared by Gina Ciliberto (10C) as a student public relations and marketing assistant

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