Jan 16, 2003
Among the many scholarships earned this year by Calvin College students, one of the most unusual belongs to first-year student Sara Ladenburger of Midland, Michigan.
The biology major was recently given the seventh annual Michigan Mosquito Control Association (MMCA) academic scholarship, a $1,000 award. Ladenburger's scholarship is jointly funded by MMCA and Bill Hatfield of Hatfield Spraying Service of Nunica, Michigan.
A graduate of Midland High School, Ladenburger says the award may sound funny, but getting it involved a fair bit of work. In fact among the criteria this year was the submission of a six-page essay on "Mosquitoes and Disease: Is There a Reemerging Problem."
Ladenburger's essay ran nine pages (plus three pages of bibliography). And in it she outlined both the history of mosquito-borne diseases and the current issues. She led with the problems mosquito-borne malaria and yellow fever added to the construction of the Panama Canal where 22,000 workers died in a six-year span before an American doctor, William Gorgas, instituted measures to eliminate mosquitoes from the canal area.
She then sketched the reemergence of malaria as a significant worldwide problem (there was a quadrupling of malaria worldwide in the 1990s) as well as the impact of dengue fever, a viral disease. And she concluded with a look at last summer's outbreak of West Nile virus, spread by mosquitoes and never present in Michigan prior to 2002.
Nature has long been a passion of Ladenburger. She's participated in nine straight Christmas bird counts for the National Audubon Society. She also illustrated the cover of a book on the natural history of Mecosta County.
"I am very interested in nature and the parts of biology that are more large-scale than cell biology and genetics," she says.
In high school Ladenburger frequently perused the lists of possible college scholarships that were posted in her high school's hallways. And her hard work paid off: the mosquito scholarship is one of several helping finance her Calvin education.