Biology Awards

The Sprague-Belcher Commencement Award in Biology

This award is given to a senior biology major who shows enthusiasm for, dedication to, and achievement in biological research, exploration and education. It is given in memory of long-time faculty members Elizabeth Sprague and Jane Belcher.


2015: Emily Brooks and Emily Diamond

Emily Brooks conducted a radiotracking study of semiferal cats on Sweet Briar's campus.  She served as Biology tutor, spent a summer in Africa with the School for Field Studies, and gained extensive experience working with biology alumna veterinarian Regan Blackwood.  Emily is heading to veterinary school at Virginia Tech.

Emily Diamond conducted an honors thesis in microbiology, under the supervision of Visiting Assistant Professor Mike Davis.  Emily plans to continue doing research in microbiology.  For four years Emily served as one of our departmental lab assistants. 

2014: Kaitlin Schaal is in a graduate program in evolutionary biology at Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich (ETH Zurich) At Sweet Briar she conducted an honors thesis in experimental evolutionary biology, under the supervision of Professor Janet Steven.

2013: Julie Sharp worked after graduation as a research assistant studying guppy evolution in Trinidad, and whale behavior off the coast of Maine; and as a substitute teacherShe plans to apply to fisheries graduate programs to work on fish conservation.

2012: Maryanne Grey and Kellner Pruett

The Sprague-Belcher Award was given for the first time in 2012 to Maryanne Grey (left) and Kellner Pruett (right).

Maryanne conducted research with Professor Morrissey on the diet of cownose rays in the Chesapeake Bay. At Sweet Briar she volunteered for, and helped organize, numerous science fair and Brownie science events. After completing her M.S. in Biology at Hofstra University, she was hired as a Fisheries Data Technician by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Kellner served as our departmental tutor. She conducted research with Professor Davies, investigating the anti-cancer effects of polyphenols, anthocyanins and other compounds derived from fruit extracts on breast cancer cells. In an engineering course (Technology and Society: A Global Perspective), Kellner designed devices for an occupational therapy clinic in Brazil, and she was then able to travel to the clinic to help deliver the devices to the patients. After Sweet Briar, Kellner headed to East Carolina University's Brody School of Medicine.


Ernest P. Edwards Student Opportunity Awards

Ernest P. Edwards with Ornithology students

With increasing frequency, biology students are identifying, applying to and being admitted to extraordinary off-campus learning opportunities. Programs include summer internships at zoos, aquaria and botanical gardens; research training; and courses at field stations. Participation in such programs is often career-defining, but financial support for many of them is limited or nonexistent.

Student Opportunity Awards help our biology students to explore off-campus career, research and training opportunities that they would otherwise not be able to afford. Awards are based on need and are made at the discretion of the Department of Biology. They are given in memory of long-time faculty member Ernest "Buck" Edwards.


The Biology Student Enrichment Fund

The Sprague-Belcher Award and the Ernest P. Edwards Student Opportunity Award were established in 2012 by alumnae and by a bequest from Professor Edwards. Additional contributions to support these awards may be sent to:

Biology Student Enrichment Fund
Development Office
P.O. Box 1057
Sweet Briar, VA 24595


Elizabeth Sprague with botany students at Natural Bridge, 1952.

Professor Jane Belcher and students on the dam of Guion Pond in 1968, examining a spotted salamander egg mass.