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Sophi Brice '25

Sophi Brice '25 Earns Prestigious NOAA Hollings Scholarship

Dec 12, 2023

For most college students, summertime is an opportunity to return home, recharge their batteries, and enjoy life before resuming classes in the fall. For one Florida Southern College junior, that is the exact opposite of her experience.

Sophi Brice '25, a double major in marine biology and environmental studies, recently discovered she will be heading to South Carolina to conduct research under the mentorship of a seasoned professional. There, she will delve into the intricate world of dolphin aging processes. Her summer promises to be a transformative experience, including making valuable contributions to the field while forging connections with scientists, setting the stage for a future dedicated to environmental conservation.

Setting Sail with NOAA Hollings Fellowship
Sophi is among only 130 Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship recipients from the NOAA, the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration.

"I could not be more grateful to have been selected as a NOAA Hollings Scholar," says Sophi. "I truly could not be more excited for this opportunity, and I want to thank all of the amazing FSC faculty members, especially Dr. Macrander, who has helped prepare me for this!"

Through the Hollings Scholarship, Sophi received a two-year academic scholarship for her junior and senior years, funding to participate in two national scientific conferences, and a paid summer internship opportunity, a rarity in marine biology, where she'll contribute to a more accurate understanding of dolphin ages through innovative techniques involving dolphin tooth and flipper analysis. She hopes her work will improve our knowledge of strandings and mortality rates essential for dolphin conservation.

Understanding the competitive nature of the field, Sophi hopes to use the opportunity as a stepping stone to her dream career. Along with gaining hands-on experience in environmental research and policymaking by working alongside leading scientists and professionals at a designated NOAA research facility, Sophi can also take advantage of professional development training and networking opportunities.

Inspired by Family and Passion for Nature
Sophi's journey into biology wasn't a childhood dream but a thoughtful choice in her junior year of high school. Her inspiration stemmed from her older sister, a pharmaceutical scientist, whose achievements and dedication to research left a lasting impact. 

"In fact, when I was applying to FSC, I wrote my application essay about my sister. And it got me in!"

Sophi's calling, however, is rooted in a desire to impact the planet positively, coupled with a love for science and math. Growing up in Florida, surrounded by nature, further fueled her passion. From annual trips to see manatees to a genuine connection with marine animals, Sophi found the perfect blend of her interests in marine biology and environmental science. Her decision to pursue this path was also motivated by her desire to escape the confines of an office, making conservation the ideal career.

Working on a research project on Lake Hollingsworth.Every student at FSC has the opportunity to conduct research through FSC’s Faculty-Student Collaborative Research Initiative. Learn more »

From Sea Anemones to Roses: A Diverse Research Portfolio
Sophi's research interests aren't confined to marine mammals. Her summers spent in the lab included working on RNA extractions and genetic analysis of roses, a volunteer position at a research lab at the University of Florida where she learned about data processing and analysis, and a collaboration with Dr. Macrander, which resulted in a presentation at the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB) conference, significantly contributed to her preparedness to apply for the NOAA Hollings Scholarship.

"The Hollings Scholarship is only available for second-year undergraduate students to apply for, so having research experience in my first year at Florida Southern was a huge advantage in applying for the program," Sophi said. 

"In my first year, Dr. Macrander became an incredible research advisor and mentor, allowing me to participate in a collaborative student-faculty research project exploring sea anemone venom expression over the summer. Presenting this research at SICB was also an amazing opportunity. I don't know many other sophomore undergraduates who are given the chance to present at international research conferences, so I was incredibly grateful to be there!"

Sophi at SICB.Sophi shares her research on sea anatomy venom expression through a poster presentation at the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB) conference.

Leadership in Tri Rho: Fostering Passion for Marine Biology
Research isn't Sophie's only role on campus. As the president of Tri Rho, the marine biology honor society, Sophi takes on a leadership role in fostering a sense of community and passion for marine biology among students. Tri Rho's activities range from beach cleanups to kayaking trips, providing members with educational and fun opportunities. Sophi's dedication to supporting her peers in their academic and career pursuits is evident in the group's initiatives, including internship information sharing and alumni events.

Her recent success in organizing a fun "Jaws" movie night at the Wellness Center pool with an educational twist exemplifies her commitment to raising awareness about marine life and conservation among the student body.

Passion as a Driving Force: Advice for Fellow Students
Her unwavering passion for conservation characterizes Sophi's journey at Florida Southern College. When asked about advice for helping fellow students get involved, she encourages students to seek opportunities proactively.

"Be mindful, think about your actions," Sophi reminds us. "Throw away your trash, recycle your recyclables, walk to campus or carpool. Little actions can have a collective impact."

As Sophi continues her academic journey and pursues her dream of working with NOAA, her impact at Florida Southern College inspires budding biologists. Her exemplary leadership, notable research achievements, and unwavering commitment to nurturing a community of passionate individuals establish her as a standout on campus. Sophi embodies the essence of a Moc, already making a positive and consequential difference.