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Widener biology professor named Cynthia H. Sarnoski Science Faculty Fellow

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Associate Professor Katherine Goodrich (center) has been named the Cynthia H. Sarnoski Science Faculty Fellow.

Chester, Pa. – Katherine Goodrich, an associate professor of biology at Widener University, has been named the university's fourth Cynthia H. Sarnoski Science Faculty Fellow. Goodrich received the two-year fellowship to support her research with undergraduate students on how flowering plants attract pollinators.

Goodrich's research focuses on the ecological and evolutionary processes that result in a flower looking and smelling (and perhaps even feeling and tasting) like something non-floral in order to fool and attract pollinators, such as bees, flies and beetles. For example, a flower may mimic fungi, rotting fruit, feces or a mammalian carcass to attract pollinators.

Specifically, Goodrich is studying the pollination of the pawpaw, a tree native to the United States and Canada that smells of fermenting fruit to attract fruit-loving flies for pollination.

She has authored seven peer-reviewed papers in related-subject areas, three of which included undergraduate collaborators, and presented at conferences around the world. Her research is frequently conducted with students at Widener University's 30-acre Taylor Arboretum in Nether Providence Township.

"Understanding the relationships between plants and pollinators is crucial to evaluating the health of ecosystems and agricultural practices that feed our growing population," Goodrich said. "I am grateful to Trustee Sarnoski for seeing the value in supporting my research, and more importantly, providing opportunities to the undergraduate students with whom I work closely. I strongly believe in the inclusion of undergraduate students, especially from underrepresented groups, in the process of conducting, presenting and publishing this research."

The Sarnoski Fellowship supports science faculty members through a generous gift made by Trustee Cynthia H. Sarnoski. Sarnoski graduated from Widener in 1974 with a bachelor's degree in chemistry. She is a retired senior vice president for Global Compliance and Quality Systems for Pfizer Pharmaceuticals and a member of the Widener Board of Trustees.

"I am proud to support Dr. Goodrich's research, as well as her strong commitment to mentoring undergraduate students, which undoubtedly is helping create the next generation of scientists and researchers," Sarnoski said.

With this funding, Goodrich will continue to study the pollination ecology of the pawpaw, before expanding to a comparative study of species closely related to pawpaw with flowers that smell yeasty or sweet. Finally, the research will place these different pollination strategies into an evolutionary framework for the entire genus to determine how floral traits may have evolved.

The fellowship will fund stipends to pay undergraduate students conducting summer research alongside Goodrich and support travel opportunities for international conferences and joint research at other universities.

"Dr. Goodrich's research will not only generate new knowledge in this important field of study, but also will benefit her students who come from different backgrounds as they develop a foundation that allows them to transform the fields they will someday enter," said College of Arts & Sciences Dean David Leaman.

Goodrich has taught at Widener since 2009, earning the rank of associate professor in 2015. She teaches Biological Concepts, General Botany, Plant-Animal Interactions, Biological Perspectives on Human Identity, and other courses at Widener. She earned a doctorate in plant biology from the University of South Carolina in 2008.

Goodrich lives with her wife, Terri Amlong, in Lansdowne, Pennsylvania.

A photo of Goodrich, Sarnoski and Leaman is available for download here.

Widener University is a private, metropolitan university that connects curricula to social issues through civic engagement. Dynamic teaching, active scholarship, personal attention, leadership development and experiential learning are key components of the Widener experience. A comprehensive doctorate-granting university, Widener comprises seven schools and colleges that offer liberal arts and sciences, professional and pre-professional curricula leading to associate, baccalaureate, master's and doctoral degrees. Visit the university website, http://www.widener.edu/