Michael Painter, originally from Richmond, Va., has been named Outstanding Master's Student for 2010-2011 in Virginia Tech's College of Science.

Painter’s research area focuses on characterizing spectral properties of the light-dependent magnetic compass found in a variety of organisms. His graduate advisor is John Phillips, professor of biological sciences

Painter earned a bachelor's degree from Virginia Tech in biological sciences in 2006. As an undergraduate, he first conducted research with Phillips in an animal behavior and ecology lab investigating the pathways mediating magnetic sensory systems and how these mechanisms are integrated into behavior such as migration and navigation.

After graduation, Painter worked in several ecological agencies before returning to the university to pursue graduate work with the Phillips research team.

“I’m interested in integrating fundamental research with applied research and working at the interface between these two approaches within an animal behavior context,” Painter said.

Painter presented his research at the Biological Science’s Research Day in 2010 and gave a talk at the Royal Institute of Navigation Conference in the United Kingdom this spring. He was awarded the Graduate Development Research program grant and the National Sigma Xi vision-based award. In addition, he maintains a 3.7 grade point average (on a  4.0 scale) and has taught several labs in which he received high marks on student evaluations. He served as a delegate to the Graduate Student Assembly and his active in the Biological Sciences Graduate Student Association.

“Mike’s academic achievements are especially noteworthy because of the breadth of courses he has taken, ranging from molecular biology to behavioral ecology,” Phillips said. “The department also recognized Mike’s talent by asking him to co-teach honors biology.”

“Mike has a well-developed sense of purpose and career goals,” said Brenda Winkel, head of the biological sciences department. “He is an individual with a well-informed education to pursue a career in science that is motivated not by personal drive or ego, but a sincere desire to advance learning and have a positive impact on the world around him.”



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