Food Safety & Toxicology
1129 Farm Lane Room 348
East Lansing, MI 48824
See a list of Zsofia Szendrei's publications on Google Scholar.
My lab focuses on the ecology and management of arthropods that occur in vegetable production. Research themes include chemical ecology, biological control, habitat management, and behavioral pest management. The methods we use range all the way from the field to the molecular lab.
Current assignment: Teaching 20% | Research 30% | Extension 50%
I consider teaching and mentoring an integral part of my position, whether it is graduate or undergraduate students in the lab or students in the classroom. I’m interested in working with students who are enthusiastic about science and the investigative process it entails. My philosophy of student mentoring is that the time spent in the lab should be simultaneously fun, educational and productive, where research is conducted in an intellectually stimulating team environment. Personality and work ethic are a priority before grades or test scores when selecting students. Students learn most by hands-on experience, so I tend to emphasize research over course work. Although I look for creative and independent students, I provide closer guidance in the first year in my lab. My office is open to lend advice to graduate and undergraduate students. One of the key components to mentoring my graduate students is to include them in my professional activities; for example I ask them to participate in giving talks at field days and extension meetings, partake in writing factsheets and grant proposals and be teaching assistants in the classes I teach.
Excessive reliance on chemical inputs for pest management in agriculture is neither economically nor ecologically sustainable but in conventional vegetable production systems synthetic pesticides are still the predominant way of controlling arthropod pests. Alternatives are needed and chemical ecology and biological control offer sustainable approaches for suppressing insect pests; these themes have been a central focus in my research. In particular, I’m interested in developing pest management systems where these can be used in combination and as part of an integrated approach to manage pest populations.
My program has gained acceptance and recognition among peers for our work on local (field-scale) habitat management and biological control. We have contributed to our understanding of the interactions of habitat traits and arthropods in agroecosystems. In our investigations we use novel techniques that allows the growth of a field called 'molecular detection of trophic interactions'.
Much of my extension/outreach impacts have evolved from building strong relationships with vegetable growers, industry personnel and MSU Extension Educators. Through this network, I was able to identify issues that needed my expertise and provide leadership in the implementation of changes to address industry needs. The overall goal of my extension activities is to protect vegetables from arthropod pests while maintaining profitability and environmental sustainability. My goal is to reduce the amount of insecticides applied and introduce practices (such as degree day models, monitoring, thresholds) that help growers achieve high quality produce with less inputs.