Biologist in National Academy of Sciences to Address 2024 Graduates

May 1, 2024 • by Christine Sinatra

Nancy Moran, the acclaimed evolutionary biologist, will address College of Natural Sciences graduates on May 11.

Nancy Moran inspects bees in a rooftop hive atop the Patterson Labs Building. Photo by Bill McCullough for Quanta Magazine.

The College of Natural Sciences’ 2024 commencement speaker is Dr. Nancy Moran, an award-winning biologist whose research examines the ecological and evolutionary relationships between interacting living things in a process known as symbiosis. The Warren J. and Viola Mae Raymer Chair in Integrative Biology at The University of Texas at Austin, Moran earned her B.A. from UT Austin and her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. 

Portrait of a woman in a blue shirt and glasses

Dr. Nancy Moran

Moran researches dynamics that affect our agricultural systems, neighborhoods and the living world, beginning with the miniscule, symbiotic bacteria that live within insects like honey bees, bumble bees, leafhoppers and aphids. Her research has uncovered strategies to help address such pressing issues as colony collapse in bees, harmful interactions between pollinators and pesticides and opportunities to develop new biomaterials of potential interest to the U.S. Department of Defense.

Moran is a member of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a MacArthur fellow and a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology. Her awards include the International Prize in Biology, the NAS’s Waksman Award in Microbiology and the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution’s inaugural Lifetime Contribution Award. She is the author of hundreds of research papers and has been the subject of celebratory feature profiles in publications including Science and Quanta Magazine. Her work also has been widely featured in the popular press in such publications as The New York Times, The Atlantic, New Scientist and Scientific American.

As both an alumna and faculty member in UT Austin’s College of Natural Sciences, Moran is a celebrated part of many aspects of the community, including as the primary investigator for the Freshman Research Initiative stream “Bugs in Bugs.”

She will speak at both ceremonies for 2024 graduating undergraduates, many of whom began their time on the Forty Acres at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and went on to experience a historic series of years for science. The graduating class of 2024 also represents the first class of Texas Science graduates to have spent up to four years learning and attending events alongside a supersized digital art installation at UT that its creator has described as an exploration of symbiosis

The college’s 2024 commencement ceremonies will be held on Saturday, May 11 at the Moody Center on the UT Austin campus.

This art installation in Welch Hall, “Eon” by Jennifer Steinkamp, was inspired by the concept of symbiosis, a subject for which graduation speaker Nancy Moran is a leading expert.