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Honors College Scholarship recipient to study bobtail squid in the Philippines

A New Mexico State University student will be able to take her study of light-emitting squid out of the lab and into the field with the help of a scholarship from the Honors College.

Portrait of student
Kira Turnham, a junior majoring in biology, is the 2015 recipient of the NMSU Honors College Scholarship for International Research. (Courtesy photo)

Kira Turnham, a junior from Edgewood, New Mexico, majoring in biology, has been working with Regents Professor Michele Nishiguchi to study how bobtail squid have evolved a form of camouflage that uses light to blend in with sunlight on the ocean?s surface, shielding them from aquatic predators below.

As a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Research Scholar, Turnham has acquired laboratory experiences ranging from molecular analysis techniques to genetic sequencing. The Honors College Scholarship will provide $5,000 in funding to support her travel and research this summer in the Philippines.

With minors in conservation ecology and biochemistry, Turnham said she hopes to use her Honors College Scholarship as a stepping-stone toward graduate study in marine-related science. In the immediate term, Kira is hoping to translate her scholarship research experience into an honors thesis next year.

?I am honored and excited about the opportunity provided by the Honors College to conduct scientific research internationally,? Turnham said. ?I am eagerly looking forward to broadening my horizons and representing both NMSU and the U.S. in the Philippines.?

Nishiguchi said Turnham?s project in the Philippines is a natural extension of the molecular work she?s completing in Nishiguchi?s lab.

?It will be a wonderful opportunity for her to go into the field to observe and visit the natural habitat where these creatures live,? she said.

The NMSU Honors College Scholarship for International Research provides an NMSU student with a unique opportunity for a self-designed international travel and research experience, said Tim Ketelaar, associate dean of the Honors College and director of the Office of National Scholarships and International Education.

?This experience helps prepare these students to apply for other prestigious scholarships such as the Marshall, Rhodes, Gates-Cambridge and Fulbright scholarships during their senior year,? Ketelaar said.

Past Honors College Scholars have traveled to field sites including Malawi, Bolivia and the Czech Republic.

?This year we received five amazingly creative proposals ranging from a civil engineering research project in Japan to research on modernist art in Spain and the United Kingdom,? Ketelaar said. ?Among these impressive proposals, Kira?s project stood out as a promising research plan that could serve as a launch pad for a superb honor thesis when she returns to campus next fall.?

The Honors College will host a reception from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Thursday, April 16, to celebrate Turnham?s scholarship award and recognize all the applicants and their mentors at the Conroy Honors Center on the NMSU campus.

For more information about the NMSU Honors College, visit honors.nmsu.edu.