Baylor Biology Students Honored for Mosquito Research

November 27, 2023

By Randy Fiedler, Director of Marketing and Communications, Baylor University College of Arts & Sciences

WACO, Texas (Nov. 27, 2023) - Two Baylor University biology students working in the laboratory of Jason Pitts, Ph.D., associate professor of biology in the College of Arts & Sciences, have won awards for professional presentations of their research involving mosquito behavior and ecology.

Dhivya Rajamanickam
Dhivya Rajamanickam

Dhivya Rajamanickam, a second-year doctoral student in biology, was awarded first place in the student presentation competition at the Texas Mosquito Control Association annual meeting on Nov. 2, 2023, in Corpus Christi, Texas. The title of her presentation was “Phylogenetic and Genomic Analyses of Odorant Receptors of Toxorhynchites amboinensis.” At the same TMCA meeting, Rajamanickam also received the James “Gus” Foyle Memorial Scholarship in the amount of $1,000 to support her mosquito field research in Waco.

“Dhivya is applying her experience studying mosquito ecology in her home country of Sri Lanka to investigate mosquito feeding preferences in Texas,” Pitts said. “Her research will help us better understand and predict potential threats to public health.”

Claire Law
Claire Law

Claire Law, a senior Honors student majoring in biochemistry, was recognized as Outstanding Presenter in the BioSciencesEEB section at the Gulf Coast Undergraduate Research Symposium, held at Rice University in Houston, Texas, on Oct. 21, 2023. The title of her presentation was “Impact of Odor Detection on Mate Recognition in Aedes aegypti.”

“The goal of my research was to determine whether odorant receptors are used in Aedes aegypti mosquito mate recognition,” Law said. “To put it more simply, I was testing whether Aedes aegypti mosquitoes use their sense of smell to find a mate.”

“Claire is investigating the mating biology of a mosquito that transmits Dengue fever around the world,” Pitts said. “Her studies will improve our understanding of a critical aspect of mosquito behavior.”

Law will complete her Honors thesis in the Pitts lab in the spring of 2024, and is applying for Fall 2024 admission into doctoral programs in biology.