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Person-to-person: Gail McCormick

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Gail McCormick, a Ph.D. candidate in the Langkilde lab, works closely with Langkilde on the stress research, focusing on the effects of stress on the eastern fence lizard, both within an animal’s lifetime and across generations, resulting from exposure to fire ant invasion.

“What about stress produces negative consequences? When do they occur, and how do frequency, intensity, and duration of the stress contribute to those consequences? And how does an animal’s previous experience with stress affect how they respond? Those are some of the questions I’m investigating,” she said.

Evolutionary biology and ecology research provide room for interdisciplinary collaboration, which McCormick is happy that Langkilde encourages. “I’ve been able to work with other faculty members across Penn State on topics that interest me.” McCormick and Langkilde work closely with Alumni Professor of Biology Katriona Shea on the application of disturbance theory to their stress response research, and are currently working with Associate Professor of Biobehavioral Health Sonia Cavigelli from the College of Health and Human Development on the impacts of stress on development.

Outside of the lab, McCormick has many interests. Her passion for science sparked an interest in science communication and led her to an internship with Penn State Research Communications. It has been a great fit and she thinks science communication could be a big part of her future career.

She also has a very creative side. She enjoys theater, both performing on stage and being behind the scenes as a stage manager. “Performing is a different kind of creative outlet for me,” she said. It’s made all the sweeter by the support of her Langkilde lab family, including Langkilde herself, at her performances.

In addition to her theater skills, McCormick is a very accomplished paper artist. She cuts paper by hand and layers it to create highlights and shadows in her pieces. “It has a photographic effect,” she said of her work. Recently, she’s been commissioned to create this art, both for clients with personal requests and for an editorial spread in a magazine. You can view her paper art at gailmccormick.wordpress.com.