MSU graduate student receives fellowship from the American-Scandinavian Foundation

Contact: Karyn Brown

Jonathan Belanich (Photo by Russ Houston)

STARKVILLE, Miss.—A Mississippi State biological sciences doctoral student is receiving a fellowship from the American-Scandinavian Foundation to study abroad at the University of Copenhagen.

Jonathan Belanich will continue his dissertation research in microbiology and bio-computing through the fellowship, conducting studies in the Centre for GeoGenetics, a part of the National History Museum of Denmark at the University of Copenhagen. He will travel to Denmark in September and stay for one year.

“I am excited to have been awarded this fellowship, as it will allow me to incorporate samples from northern Europe into my analysis, permitting comparisons between ancient remains from vastly different cultures,” Belanich said.

Belanich, who earned a master’s degree in applied anthropology from MSU in 2016, will continue his investigation of the composition of ancient oral microbiomes, with a particular focus on the presence of pathogenic bacteria. Originally from Long Island, New York, he completed undergraduate degrees at the University of Alabama in biology and anthropology with minors in computer–based research and Italian.

“I look forward to this chance to contribute to the budding field of ancient oral microbiome research, with the hope of improving our understanding of the complex mechanisms by which the bacteria inhabiting our mouths influence, or are influenced by, our state of health,” Belanich said.

The University of Copenhagen is a world leader in applying the latest genome sequencing tools to ancient DNA.

“Jonathan Belanich is an exceptional graduate student, and the magnitude of his research into the evolution of human pathogens will be greatly amplified by this fellowship, the Scandinavian equivalent of a Rhodes or Gates Cambridge Scholarship,” said Mark Welch, associate professor and graduate coordinator for MSU’s Department of Biological Sciences. “I feel that this accomplishment is an endorsement of both our graduate program and the collaborative spirit of our college which fostered Jonathan’s interest in anthropology and encouraged an interdisciplinary shift toward microbial ecology and evolution.”

The College of Arts and Sciences includes more than 5,000 students, 300 full-time faculty members, nine doctoral programs and 24 academic majors offered in 14 departments. It also is home to the most diverse units for research and scholarly activities, including natural and physical sciences, social and behavioral sciences, and the humanities.

Natural and physical science research projects have been supported over the decades by the National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Defense, National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation.

Research expenditures in the humanities also are an important part of Mississippi State’s overall research portfolio. Additionally, the NSF has ranked MSU among the top 25 for research expenditures in the social sciences. 

For complete information about the College of Arts and Sciences, visit and the biological sciences department at

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at