The Stacy Pfaller Scholarship

Stacy Pfaller on Earth Day

Dr. Stacy Pfaller - Celebrating Earth Day

This scholarship honors Stacy (Painter) Pfaller, a first-generation PhD graduate of UC’s A&S Biological Sciences, who went on to a successful career as a microbiologist and EPA scientist. 

Dr. Stacy Pfaller’s effervescent personality touched countless lives during the 59 years in which she walked this earth. Dr. Pfaller was known for her belief in and passion for science, her love of family and friends, and her desire to treat every living thing with love and respect. 

In April 2021, Stacy passed away after a three-year battle with two separate cancer diagnoses: breast cancer and GBM, a malignant, incurable brain tumor. Stacy’s family chose to honor and continue her legacy by establishing the Dr. Stacy Pfaller Memorial Endowed Scholarship. 

The Dr. Stacy Pfaller Memorial Endowed Scholarship will be awarded to individuals whose qualifications mirror Stacy’s. Preference will be given to students who are:    

  • First-generation PhD graduate students who have passed their qualifying exam.  

  • Individuals pursuing a career in Biological Sciences, especially Microbiology. 

  • Female graduate students, in order to support women in science. 

Scholarship recipients will be awarded annually around Earth Day (April 22), a holiday close to Dr. Stacy Pfaller’s heart.  

The intent of this scholarship is to inspire future scientists to continue to learn and persevere in their area of expertise through research work, continuing education, collaboration with peers, student mentorship, and presenting at local, national, and international conferences.      

Scholarship recipients won’t have the pleasure of meeting Stacy in the flesh, but her essence lives on through a multitude of memories shared by her family and friends. Whether lengthy conversations or fleeting exchanges, Stacy made everyone feel special, and her positive impact is priceless; big, little, and all.    

Through the scholarship fund, Stacy’s life passion will continue, helping future generations make a lasting impact on the world. 

Professional Summary and Area of Expertise 

Dr. Stacy Pfaller working at the bench at the EPA

Dr. Stacy Pfaller working at the EPA

Dr. Stacy Pfaller’s research focuses on the development of molecular detection methods for environmental pathogens with the goal of understanding their fate and transport in the natural environment (specifically water), their amplification in the built environment, and the risk of human exposure.

Experience in development of molecular detection and genotyping methods for mycobacteria in the environment to characterize environmental strains of mycobacteria in order to determine the prevalence of strains that may pose a risk to humans. Assessing the prevalence of mycobacteria in source water used for drinking water, and pipe biofilm.

Stacy worked at the EPA for more than 20 years. During that time she published an extensive body of research papers in various journals. Click here to view Dr. Stacy Pfaller’s featured research.   

Collaboration & Mentoring Women in Science  

Stacy kept busy working on her own research projects, but she always made time to help her colleagues, through hands-on lab work, offering advice, or by using her humor and positive energy to brighten up a room. Colleagues, mentors and mentees of Dr. Stacy Pfaller share their memories: 


“Stacy's smile and passion for microbiology were infectious. During my time at the EPA, I was a graduate student at the University of Cincinnati and performed all of my research at the EPA. There were many challenges I faced as a young female scientist and Stacy would keep me focused on the end goal (my PhD). She taught me perseverance, kindness, and embracing having some fun while in the trenches. There were so many times I was about to give up and Stacy would take me to the local watering hole after work and give me advice. What she probably doesn't know is she was a rock for me during those challenging times and an inspiration as a female scientist. So proud to be her colleague and friend. Love you forever Stacy! — Regina Lamendella, PhD, Associate Professor of Biology, Juniata College


“Stacy and I would often get together to talk about work and work-related things. Stacy was a microbiologist and she was a damn good one, one of the best I think I’ve ever known.
She had a keen acumen to drill down on what was important and what needed to be focused on, not from an academic point of view, but really from a human point of view—how to help humans, how to help the environment people live in.”
— Chris Impellitteri, PhD, EPA Researcher


“Stacy was my post-doctoral mentor at the EPA and wow, she taught me so much about science! She fully accepted me into the EPA, she introduced me to everyone, and she won’t ever be forgotten.” — Amy Beumer, Biology Professor, University of Cincinnati Blue Ash College


Dr. Pfaller with other graduate students in Brian Kinkle's Lab at UC.

Dr. Pfaller with other graduate students in Brian Kinkle's Lab at UC.

“The organism that Stacy worked with is called mycobacterium. It’s the same group of organisms that cause diseases such as leprosy; tuberculosis, and it’s one of the hardest groups of organisms to work with. There are very few genetic tools. Stacy continued to work on that same organism for many, many years after working on it with me at UC.

These organisms cause lung infections in immunocompromised individuals. Keep in mind, we weren’t that far from the AIDs epidemic, so there were countless individuals who were especially susceptible/vulnerable. That’s why Stacy wanted to work on that main organism in particular: To make a difference. Very few people are willing to do it because it’s so tough and frustrating. She had the patience and the persistence to not only understand it, but to become an EXPERT about it. People around the U.S. (if not worldwide) would come to Stacy for advice on how to work with this organism, because of her level of expertise. 

Stacy not only brought lab skills to the table but I’d say more importantly were the interpersonal skills that she’d acquired. Many of the other graduate students weren’t as articulate and communicative as Stacy—she worked really well with everyone, she became buddies with all the students, it was a tight-knit group.” — Brian K. Kinkle, PhD, Microbiologist and UC Professor, Department of Biological Sciences

How to Apply 

For information on how to apply for this scholarship, contact Dr. Theresa Culley, Head of the Department of Biological Sciences by phone 513-556-9705 or via email