Katriona Shea, alumni professor of biology in the Eberly College of Science, is the recipient of Penn State's 2019 Howard B. Palmer Faculty Mentoring Award. The award honors and recognizes outstanding achievement by a faculty member with at least five years of service who effectively guides junior faculty. Howard Palmer was the senior associate dean of The Graduate School from 1984 to 1991.
Colleagues say Shea is passionate about mentoring junior faculty within her department and the University at large.
As the first woman to achieve tenure from scratch after starting as an assistant professor in the Department of Biology at Penn State, Shea works to make that same path easier for others. Colleagues said she’s always reaching out to others to hear their concerns and to make connections.
“Dr. Shea takes time to provide advice, support and encouragement, and to just listen,” said a colleague. “She doesn’t wait for faculty to come to her. She makes a point of frequently stopping by to listen and to offer advice.”
Shea chairs the New Faculty Mentoring committee for her department, a position she’s held since 2011. Before then, she was a member. There, she reaches out to junior faculty members to see which topics they would like to discuss and gathers panelists to lead the discussions. Topics the committee has featured include: teaching for the first time, effectively recruiting and mentoring graduate students, managing teaching and research schedules and achieving a work-life balance. Shea also individually mentors pre-tenure faculty members.
Colleagues said her approach has put junior faculty members on a path to success.
Shea also revitalized the college’s Female Faculty Mentoring and Networking group, which regularly meets to link female faculty members so that they can share successes and present new initiatives to leadership.
Shea was previously lauded for her mentoring with the Dean’s Climate and Diversity Award and the Edward D. Bellis Award.
“A large part of the success of the Biology Mentoring Committee comes from the attitude that Dr. Shea imparts to all who participate,” a nominator said. “The new faculty and instructors of the Department of Biology know that everyone in the department wants them to be successful in research, teaching and mentoring, and that the senior faculty and staff are more than happy to assist them.”
Shea's research in applied theoretical ecology involves the application of mathematical and computational methods to guide decision-making in population management, conservation efforts, control of invasive pests, and control of infectious diseases. Her research aims to provide the in-depth ecological understanding that is essential to limiting outbreaks of infectious diseases and managing populations of species of special concern. Her methods include quantitative theoretical studies of real systems, purely theoretical studies that inform practical approaches, and empirical studies. Shea is an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Ecological Society of America.
Prior to joining the faculty at Penn State in 2001, Shea was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California at Santa Cruz, where she worked on conservation strategies for threatened salmon. Her background also includes work on pest management in Australia, plus additional postdoctoral work studying host-parasite population dynamics at the University of California at Santa Barbara.
She earned her doctoral degree in theoretical population ecology at Imperial College, London University in 1994 and her bachelor’s degree in physics at Oxford University in 1990.