Scholarship recipient Devan Nisson moves closer to achieving her dreams as a research biologist.

Reaching for the Stars

Devan Nisson is a sixth-generation Californian, born and raised not far from UCI on one of the few remaining orange groves in Orange County. A true Southern Californian, she spent much of her youth outdoors helping maintain the grove in her family’s backyard and caring for a variety of pets.

At one point, Nisson and her family raised so many desert tortoises that they built a special pen in their backyard deemed “Rancho Tortuga.” Her love and appreciation of plant and animal life stems from those childhood experiences and inspires her aspirations today.

UCI student, Devan Nisson

Devan Nisson performs research in the lab.

Nisson is studying ecology and evolutionary biology with a focus on microbiology. She chose UCI due to the prestige of the School of Biological Sciences and “its reputation for producing alumni successful in scientific research and medicine.” Her goals are to move into the study of extreme microorganisms in microbiology and from there to astrobiology. Soft spoken and unassuming, Nisson is humble though very confident in her goals and abilities.

In fact, it’s a long academic road from achieving a bachelor’s degree in ecology and evolutionary biology to achieving a doctoral degree in astrobiology, but Nisson is well on her way. In her first two years at UCI, she has strived to build a strong reputation as a biologist by delving into research, joining the biology student council, and investing time and energy on her general coursework. She is also a member of Professor Steven Allison’s microbial ecology lab where she enjoys learning advanced lab techniques and acquiring skills in scientific communication. Her real joy is doing research in the lab. It is there and in the field studying the effects of climate warming on local microbiology and ecology that she seems most at home.

As a scholarship recipient, Nisson believes the recognition has given her increased confidence in her academic abilities and has empowered her to continue to reach for the stars. “Thanks to scholarship support, I begin my junior year with the prospect of submitting a proposal for my first research pursuit outside of my professor’s current project,” she says. “I am excited about my studies and my future as a research biologist.”