Learn about the Department through our featured students.
Name: Ian Paulsen
Hometown: Athens, Michigan
Future study or career plans: Helping implement bio-pest management techniques in developing nations.
What is your major? Double major in Psychology and Political Science-Prelaw
Why add a minor in entomology to your major? It was something I found interesting enough that I didn't want to continue forward with the rest of my life without obtaining further knowledge on the subject.
Tell us a little about volunteering at the MSU Bug House and how studying Entomology helped you in that role: I've been working with the Bug House for nearly four years now, and there hasn't been a time where I didn't learn something new and exciting, from the hive mind of a bee colony to seeing baby scorpions that were only hours old. The excitement of learning something new is a very addictive feeling, and I take that same approach to my classes and this provides me with much more enthusiasm, energy and the ability to retain information.
Describe your involvement working in an entomology research. I was part of an exciting project in the summer of 2015, right after my freshman year. I was working in Zsofia Szendrei’s lab with graduate student Adam Ingrao as a research assistant looking towards bio-pest management for asparagus crop. It was really exciting because we were the first people ever, and the only lab in the entire world, that was looking into this particular topic. Essentially, anything and everything we found was an actual new scientific discovery for the world, and that was a great experience to have.
What has been the most challenging aspect of adding an entomology minor to your degree? The prerequisite courses required for some of the actual entomology classes.
Do you have advice for anyone interested in an entomology minor? Go ahead and do it. It is easily one of the greatest decision I have ever made in my life, as the opportunities I've obtained since are astounding.
What or who inspired your interest in entomology? Amanda Lorenz-Reaves and Ryan Kimbirauskas. Ryan was my lecture professor and Amanda was my lab instructor for an ISB course I took as a freshman, and all I can say is that the spirit and passion they had for the subject is what initially got me so interested in the subject and it was only good things from there.
What has been your best experience with entomology? Working with the Bug House, hands down. My schedule is so full now, so my appearance there is very limited, but each and every time it was such a rewarding experience. To see the fear leave the eyes of a child as they develop an understanding is something that can't be replicated.
What is your favorite activity/way to spend your time outside of your studies? I work three different jobs, so my free time is very limited. The free time that I do get, I try and spend every possible moment with my girlfriend who is the love of my life.
What is your favorite insect? My favorite insect would be a dragonfly, but that may be subject to change as I continue to obtain more knowledge.
What is your favorite thing about MSU? The opportunities it has provided. I would not be where I am today if it were not for the people I have met and the things I have done while being here.
Name: Daniel Hulbert
Hometown or state or country: Michigan
Previous education: Kalamazoo College (undergraduate), Michigan State University (master’s degree)
Major professor: Jim Smith
What are you researching? Systematics of the genus Rhagoletis (Diptera: Tephritidae)
Why study entomology? Insects are such an important and interesting group of organisms! Studying insects is great for addressing immediate practical issues (crop pests, pollination, disease vectors and forensics), and for studying subjects fundamental to biology (evolution, genetics, systematics, developmental biology, neurobiology, ecology).
What or who inspired your interest in entomology? I took an entomology course as an undergraduate student with Dr. Ann Fraser, it was so interesting and well taught.
What is your favorite activity or responsibility as part of your graduate studies? Teaching undergraduate biology lab courses has been a very rewarding experience.
What is your favorite thing about MSU? I love the MSU Graduate Employees Union!
What is your favorite insect? Do I have to say my research organisms? Because that is Rhagoletis. Otherwise, I have always been fond of robber flies (Asilidae) because they have cool mustaches!
What is your favorite activity/way to spend your time outside of your studies? I have a dog, and we very much like going for walks and playing in the park.
Name: Margie Lund
Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio
Previous education: B.S. from Clemson University
Major professor: Zsofia Szendrei
What are you researching? I am researching the effects of cover crop practices and plant nitrogen levels on Pieris rapae preference and predator-prey interactions in organic agroecosystems.
Why study entomology? I love working in agriculture, and love working with such charismatic, little creatures. For being so small, insects can make such a large impact in our food systems, and I think studying ways to alleviate some of that pressure with alternatives to pesticide use is important.
What or who inspired your interest in entomology? My interest in insects started when I took a summer job as an undergraduate working for Rufus Isaacs in the MSU Entomology Department. I was stationed at the Trevor Nichols Research Center, working on lure work and pesticide trials for pests in mostly blueberries, but some grapes and other berry crops as well. After taking some entomology classes during my undergraduate studies, I was hooked.
What is your favorite insect? My favorite insects are lady beetles. I have always been fond of them throughout my childhood, and I think they have such large and goofy personalities.
Name: Anne Johnson
Hometown: Oxford, MI
Future study or career plans: Getting a doctorate in entomology and then researching tree pests, especially beetles.
What or who inspired your interest in entomology? I have always loved insects ever since I was very young, and always knew I wanted them to remain an important part of my life. What probably convinced me was attending Insect World Science Camp when I was younger, which was a summer camp here at Michigan State. It certainly influenced which college I chose to study at!
What has been your best experience with entomology? During the school year, I work in Rufus Isaacs’ lab. I absolutely love working there, seeing the dedication of the people and the wide variety of projects with different insects going on in just one lab. This summer, I’ve been working at the Original Mackinac Island Butterfly House and Insect World. It is always fun seeing people’s reactions to the butterflies and animals, and to try and teach them something new that may help them get over their fear of these amazing creatures.
What is your favorite activity/way to spend your time outside of your studies? Anything outside is great, from collecting insects to hiking and exploring what’s around me. I also enjoy reading, drawing and crocheting, and playing music on my French horn, trumpet, piano or guitar.
What is your favorite insect? It is and always has been ladybugs. They are beautiful, coming in so many colors and patterns, and are fantastic at getting rid of soft-bodied plant pests, like aphids, in the garden.
What is your favorite thing about MSU? I love everything about MSU, but the campus is definitely one of my favorite parts. Not only all the beautiful architecture, especially the older buildings, but also all the gardens, trees and the Red Cedar running right through the center of campus.
Do you have advice for anyone interested in an entomology major? Go for it! This is a field that links in so well with so many others, you are almost certain to find something you can be very passionate about and is the perfect fit for you. If you’re still not certain, take an introductory entomology course, such as ENT 404 with Dr. Chris DiFonzo, who is also the entomology advisor, and learn more about entomology. I promise, the more you learn about entomology, the more you will want to know!
Name: Keith Mason
Hometown: Flushing Meadows, New York (Yes, I am a loyal Mets fan)
Previous education: Two bachelor’s and a master’s from Florida State University
Major professor: Rufus Isaacs
What are you researching? My research focuses on the chemical ecology of an important economic pest of vineyards in eastern North America, the grape berry moth. I am working to understand how host plant characteristics, temperature and day length influence pheromone communication, mating behavior and seasonal phenology in this pest. My goal is to help refine current monitoring tools and improve prediction and control of this key pest.
How do you balance graduate school and being a research technician with the Isaacs Lab? I love coffee, and I have my own office. Seriously, I really am a career student, and somewhat of a workaholic, two traits that have served me well. Luckily, I have lived and worked in college towns for most of my life, so I guess taking on a PhD while working at MSU just came naturally. Having a supportive major professor and boss, all in the same person, is also crucial to my work/school balance.
What are some of the pros/cons to balancing both? Without a doubt, being a technician before I started my PhD was a huge help. I was familiar with the university and the workings of the department. I had already worked in vineyards, so I knew the growers that I could work with and knew where good study sites would be. It was like I didn’t need a technician’s help for any of my research! Yes, I know it sounds a bit like cheating, but I couldn’t have done it any other way.
The downside of doing both is that it can be difficult to separate my work and student life, which makes scheduling time to work specifically on my research challenging at times. As a result, it will likely take me some extra time to graduate, but again I have excellent support and understanding from my advisor and my guidance committee.
Why study entomology? Jobs. Entomology is like a gateway discipline to many other areas of the biological sciences. That is, insects are so important to the ecology of the earth, human health and agriculture, that the career opportunities related to insects are limitless. In addition, insects are excellent and ubiquitous model systems for many types of research from molecular biology to ecosystem function. I think the bottom line is insects are so important to humans that many solid sources of funding are available, and this leads to jobs.
What or who inspired your interest in entomology? My interest in entomology began as an undergraduate when I was writing a paper on the evolution of symbioses for a class. During that time, I came across Dan Janzen’s work on the Pseudomyrmex species of ants that inhabit and protect bull’s thorn acacias. These ants protect the acacias from herbivores in exchange for the use of the domatia inside the thorns and access to food from extra-floral nectaries. After learning about this system, there was no turning back.
What is your favorite thing about MSU? I love the campus, especially the northern portion, and most of all during spring and fall. The old brick buildings and ivy will always make me feel at home, and there are many interesting events to attend and things to do on campus. I am not the only one that feels this way, as I know many MSU families that will come to campus to enjoy a day out.
What is your favorite insect? Hands down, I am a myrmecophile. I studied ants for my master’s and I am always happy when our lab’s research involves looking into the ant community in grapes or blueberries, or investigating how ants interact with crop pests. I can’t single out one species as a favorite, but rather I follow the thinking of my master’s advisor, Walter Tschinkel, in that “any ant is a good ant.”
What is your favorite activity/way to spend your time outside of your studies? I am the tired parent of two teenagers. Thankfully, one is away at college, but the other plays the trombone. So naturally, I enjoy spending time away from home walking with my dog Frodo, or hiking in the woods and just kicking pine cones. During the growing season, I also like to spend time in the garden raising vegetables and herbs.
Name: Brenna Kizer
Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri
Future study or career plans: Pursue a PhD in genetics
What is your major? Genomics and Molecular Genetics
Why add a minor in entomology to your major? Genetics is a subject that applies to every living thing, and some of the most intriguing examples of inheritance and genome organization can be found in the insect world, for example the mechanism behind honey bee sex determination. Also, there are career opportunities relating to entomology in more fields than you might think, because let’s face it, bugs are everywhere!
Tell us a little about working at the Mackinac Island Butterfly House and how studying Entomology helped you in that role/vice versa: I spent the summer of 2016 as an entomologist at the Original Mackinac Island Butterfly House and Insect World. Taking ENT 404: Fundamentals of Entomology gave me a solid foundation of knowledge for the job, but I learned so much more than I ever could have imagined. I spent the summer learning about the impact humans and insects have on each other, and I came back to MSU with a new curiosity about the vital relationship we have with our six-legged friends!
Do you have advice for anyone interested in an entomology minor? Meet with one of the entomology advisors, Chris DiFonzo or Walter Pett. Once they show you how fun an entomology minor can be, sign up for ENT 404!
What has been your best experience with entomology? Collecting insects for my ENT 404 collection project has honestly been one of my favorite experiences. Going out into nature and looking for insects is such a fun way to get active and go places you never would have gone otherwise. It also trains you to notice the smaller details of the world around you, which can really be quite beautiful.
What is your favorite insect? At the moment, the bombardier beetle. This beetle is able to create a chemical reaction inside its body that releases a spray of boiling hot, foul smelling liquid all over its enemies! Now if that’s not cool, I don’t know what is.
What is your favorite thing about MSU? There are so many opportunities here that I can’t imagine getting access to anywhere else. I’ve had the opportunity to work in a genetics lab and Ke Dong’s entomology lab, which has given me experience in many modern laboratory techniques that will be useful in my career. On top of that, I’ve been a part of multiple student organizations during my time here, and I’m going on a study abroad to Sri Lanka led by Christina DiFonzo this summer.
Name: Danielle Kirkpatrick
Hometown: Grass Lake, Michigan
Previous education: Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing, Western Michigan University and Bachelor of Science in Zoology, Michigan State University
Major professor: Larry Gut
What are you researching? My project is looking at behavior and biology of an invasive fly, spotted wing Drosophila (Drosophila suzukii), with a goal of improving monitoring tools, such as trapping in Michigan fruit crops.
Future career plans: I intend to pursue a career in research and extension. I would like to continue researching pest insects and communicate what we learn to growers to improve integrated pest management (IPM) programs.
Why study entomology? Insects are everywhere and can live in just about any situation or climate. By studying insects, we can learn through research about beneficial insects such as pollinators, and about pest insects such as those that attack crops and livestock. We can use this knowledge to understand how insects impact the environment and implement control measures.
What or who inspired your interest in entomology? I worked in the lab as an undergraduate summer research assistant with Chris Adams and Pete McGhee, who were both doing research for their PhDs. While working on their projects, I did a lot of work out in the field in apple orchards with a pest of apples, and I experienced firsthand how our work impacts growers in a positive way. That experience, along with the influence of Chris and Pete, inspired my interest in entomology and graduate school here at MSU.
What is your favorite activity or responsibility as part of your graduate studies? My favorite part of being a graduate student is doing fieldwork and research. I love setting up experiments out in the field early in the season when the weather starts warming up, and I love collecting and analyzing the data we get from the experiments to see what it will tell us so that we can apply it in a practical way that will help growers protect their crops from pest insects.
What is your favorite way to spend time outside of your studies? I run, work out and stay active. I enjoy running obstacle course races like the Tough Mudder and Spartan races, half-marathons, and I am training for my first marathon that I will run in January at Walt Disney World.
Name: Lidia Komondy
Hometown or state or country: Grand Rapids, Michigan
Future study or career plans: Obtain a PhD in some form of entomological or ecological field of research.
What is the best selling point about an entomology major that you would like others to know? For entomologists, there are a variety of different jobs to get involved with. The opportunities are endless, and depending on the career path you decide to take, it can have serious implications for the environment, economy, public health, etc.
What has been your best experience with entomology? Presenting research at the annual Entomological Society of America conference, and meeting other entomologists who study different fields of entomology.
What is your favorite insect? My favorite insects are honey bees. They are so cute, they pollinate our food, they produce honey and have the remarkable capacity to learn and remember things like locations and distances!
Do you have advice for anyone interested in an entomology major? Take Fundamentals of Entomology (ENT404) with Dr. Chris DiFonzo. I guarantee you’ll fall in love with entomology and change your major within weeks!
What is your favorite activity/way to spend your time outside of Entomology? I enjoy hiking, traveling, reading, and in the winter I enjoy snowboarding. I also love playing with my pet rabbit.
Name: Dan Gibson
Hometown: Urbandale, Iowa
Previous education: Bachelor of Arts in Biology and History, Luther College
Major professor: Doug Landis
What are you researching? My project is screening several dozen native perennial wildflowers for their usefulness as floral resource plants for natural enemies (predators and parasites) of crop pests. The end goal is to use the most attractive flowers for insectary plantings around crop fields to support natural enemy populations.
Future career plans: I intend to pursue a career in ecological restoration, preferably with a regional land conservancy.
Why study entomology? You can study anything! Insects have an impact everywhere, from basic ecology to agriculture to molecular biology, so entomologists can be found working in many different subfields. If there is a field you are interested in, you can probably approach it by studying insects.
What or who inspired your interest in entomology? I first tuned into the six-legged world when I started insect hunting the summer before I took entomology as an undergrad. Going out with a net and a killing jar opened my eyes to the spectacular and colorful diversity I had never noticed earlier. That course was taught by Kirk Larsen, an MSU Entomology alumnus, who showed me that entomology was fun and could lead me down any number of paths I chose to follow.
Why did you choose MSU for graduate school? I was attracted initially by my particular research project, which integrated entomology, conservation and outreach into a single project. Add to that a respected department and a great advisor and the deal was sealed.
What is your favorite way to spend your time outside of your studies? When not thinking about work, I can often be found in a kayak or in the woods quietly enjoying all the life around me. If I’m home, I’m probably building something. Projects currently in progress include a bicycle trailer (for the kayak) and a Settlers of Catan board.
Listen to Dan discussing natural enemies with Kim Eierman of EcoBeneficial! for her podcast.
Name: Joseph Lonchar
Hometown: Stockbridge, MI
Future study or career plans: Pursue a master’s degree in entomology, undecided as to what specific research I would cover.
What is the best selling point about an entomology major that you would like others to know? An entomology major can be an end in itself or a field that compliments another area of study like plant breeding or epidemiology.
What or who inspired your interest in entomology? Well-known biologist E.O. Wilson and retired Army medical entomologist Harold Harlan. I find Wilson interesting due to relating his studies onto other animals, including humans, and his other ideas stemming from his examination of behavior and biology. Harlan is known for his work with bed bugs, and I appreciate his dedication to studying and maintaining an insect that was largely unknown to many and disregarded as an important pest to humans.
What has been your best experience with entomology? I volunteer with the Bug House and I assist visitors with questions or handling the live specimens. My best experiences are seeing individuals, who at first proclaim a strong aversion to insects or the tarantulas, muster the courage to face their fear, if not overcome it, and handle one of our specimens. I find helping those individuals to do something so personally challenging very rewarding.
What is your favorite insect? There are far too many insects to pick just one! Instead, I would like to add two more legs so that I can point out there is such a thing as “face mites.” They live, breed and die in our hair follicles, like eyebrows and eyelashes! Isn’t that splendid? Don’t believe me? Look up the genus “Demodex” on Wikipedia. Sleep tight!
Do you have advice for anyone interested in an entomology major? Get in touch with someone and ask questions. Talking with the advisors (Chris DiFonzo or Walter Pett) is a great first step. It is also a great idea to speak with any of the entomology professors or students. If for some reason one cannot do that, consider signing up for an introductory entomology class, which could easily fill an elective and get a taste of what more could come from pursuing an entomology major.
Name: Amanda Lorenz-Reaves
Hometown or state or country: Plymouth, Michigan
Major professors: Gabe Ording and Julie Libarkin
What are you researching? My research investigates people’s attitudes and knowledge of insects so we can improve how we teach entomology.
Future career plans: I would like to teach and do outreach in entomology. I’d also like to continue my research investigating people’s ideas about insects.
Why study entomology?
I am absolutely fascinated by insects. They are beautiful and we can learn so much from them. They are truly amazing creatures and are tremendously important ecologically as well as economically. One aspect that drew me to entomology is it is an extremely versatile field – there is no end to what you can study or where it can take you.
What or who inspired your interest in entomology? As an undergrad I worked as a research assistant in Dr. Rich Merritt’s aquatic entomology laboratory. Dr. Merritt’s lab was my first exposure to entomology. I think what really caught me was seeing insects up close under a microscope. The tiny hairs, spines, brushes and other morphological structures of insects are truly breathtaking in terms of beauty and functionality. Also, Dr. Merritt and his grad students were super fun to work with, so I think that helped encourage my interest.
What has been your best experience with entomology? My favorite experiences with entomology have been teaching because I get to convey my enthusiasm about insects, and I love showing people how interesting they are and seeing them get excited in turn! I also enjoy being outside and looking for insects in their natural environment.
What do you wish other people understood about entomology? Insects aren’t terrible, evil or gross. They are just animals, doing what they have evolved to do.
Was there ever a time when you didn’t like insects? When I was a small child I remember getting a large bee stuck in my hair, and when I tried to pull it out, it stung me in the palm of my hand. After that I spent the next few years very much not liking insects.
What is your favorite way to spend your time outside of your studies? Spending time with my husband and stepson, cooking and playing with our three dogs.
Name: Justin Louis Baker
Hometown: Okemos, Michigan
Future study or career plans: I’m unsure at this point, still applying for jobs, but I’m ideally looking to work at an agricultural company such as Syngenta, Bayer, Dow or DuPont to name a few.
What is your major and minor? General Management Broad College of Business with minors in Environmental and Sustainability Studies, and Entomology.
Why add a minor in entomology to your major? I’ve always had an interest in ecology, but didn’t want that to be the focal point of my career, hence the business major coupled with environmental studies minor. Dr. Walt Pett’s introductory entomology course was an option listed in the requirements for Environmental Studies. After taking that class, I really enjoyed it and after learning the importance of insects to humans, I added the minor. I felt making a minor out of it would make me stand out from others and with this unique skillset I could be a big asset to an agricultural company.
Why study entomology? Entomology is so important to humans. They’re the most common animal on our planet, living in nearly any habitat. They’re important for pollinating, bio-monitoring and so much more. They can do amazing things. Try Googling “fire ant living raft” or “hornet cooked by bees.”
What has been your best experience with entomology? I’ve made friends and met a lot of unique and interesting people through the entomology program.
What has been the most challenging aspect of adding an entomology minor to your degree? By doing a minor it meant I got to skip over required classes such as chemistry, organic chemistry, physics and ecology. I saw it as a good thing because those classes are hard, but there were times where maybe having these classes would have helped me through challenging entomology courses.
Was there ever a time when you didn't like insects? Honestly, I’ve never had anything against insects, but no one likes a fly buzzing by their head or a yellow jacket foraging through their fall football tailgate. Oftentimes insects can be an awful nuisance.
What is your favorite way to spend your time outside of your studies? Staying active by playing on soccer and softball teams.
Name: Charles Coslor
Hometown: Sedro Woolley, Washington
Major professor: John Wise
What are you researching? My research is expanding trunk injection methods for control of foliar pests in Michigan apple orchards. I am injecting mature apple trees as well as nursery trees, and taking residue samples of nectar and pollen to assess the potential impact on pollinators.
Future career plans: I will seek a position in the agricultural industry.
What do you wish other people understood about entomology? How interdisciplinary it really is. Entomologists work in a wide range of fields including genetics, ecology, agriculture, behavior modeling, molecular biology, chemistry and more. When I was first getting seriously interested in entomology, people asked me what I would do with a degree, and I didn’t really know how broad the field was at the time.
Was there ever a time when you didn't like insects? No! I’ve been bitten and stung but keep coming back for more.
Although you work with insects, is there any particular insect or arthropod you do not like and why? I have a healthy respect for giant centipedes. I think it’s because they remind me of venomous snakes, like it’s an invertebrate mimicking a vertebrate. Despite that, the centipede in the Bug House is fascinating.
What is your opinion on entomophagy (eating insects), as practiced in other world cultures? In many parts of the world it is culturally normalized and also makes economic sense. I think it will take several steps before entomophagy switches from being a novelty to commonplace in the United States. There’s already a lot of good products if you look around though! I have eaten insects on many occasions, and they can really be quite tasty. Especially the giant water bugs in chili paste. I’d recommend entomology students taste their research insect at least once if possible, just for the experience.
What is your favorite activity outside of your studies and entomology? I like working on DIY/maker crafts such as small electronics projects. I am also really interested in 3D printing and I’ve been incrementally building a 3D printer of my own.
Name: Jessica Kalin
Hometown: Onsted, Michigan
Future study or career plans: Either working with Monarchs at the Kalamazoo Nature Center or going to graduate school to work with invasive species.
What is your major? Fisheries and Wildlife, with a concentration in wildlife biology and management. I’m earning a minor in entomology.
Why add a minor in entomology to your major? Honestly, it was a little late to change my major. But I thought it would be a good addition to my skill set.
Why study entomology? Why not? They're the most diverse group of animals on the planet! It's a very interdisciplinary field, so there's a lot to offer to prospective students.
What or who inspired your interest in entomology? My parents often encouraged me to be interested in nature and science. My earliest memory of being interested in entomology is getting a toy microscope for my birthday and pulling the wings off of flies to look at them!
What has been your best experience with entomology? My position in the Landis Lab has been one of the best opportunities of my undergraduate career. I've met so many wonderful people and been part of a lot of cool projects over the last few years. I actually look forward to going to work!
What is your opinion on entomophagy (eating insects)? I love it! I wish it was a more accepted practice in Western culture because it's a lot more sustainable than other farmed animals. Given the chance, I would definitely try it.
What is your favorite way to spend your time outside of your studies? I try to go camping or hiking as much as possible. I chose my field of study mostly because I love being outside. So even after a long week in the field, I'm probably spending my weekend lost in the woods.
Name: Adam Ingrao
Hometown: Yucaipa, California
Major professor: Zsofia Szendrei
What are you researching? Developing biological control strategies for pests in Michigan asparagus. I am interested in how we can use volatile chemical cues of asparagus induced by herbivore feeding to recruit natural enemies into production fields from border habitats.
Future career plans: Once I complete my PhD at MSU, I hope to move to a position in the private sector where I will continue researching sustainable pest management solutions for agricultural producers.
Why study entomology? The vast majority of Earth’s species are insects. They have survived major extinction events and some are so perfectly adapted that their morphology hasn’t changed in hundreds of millions of years. What better way to understand our planet than to study one of its most successful organisms?
What or who inspired your interest in entomology? Biological control pioneer Charles Valentine Riley. I grew up in the citrus-rich communities of southern California where his work in controlling cottony cushion scale through importing and releasing Vedalia beetles saved the California citrus industry from total collapse in the late 1800s. I often reminisce how the Vedalia beetles I grew up seeing were the progeny of those his teams originally brought over from Australia.
What has been your best experience with entomology? Coming to MSU’s Department of Entomology! Our faculty and resources are incredible and I feel like the education I am getting here is second to none.
What do you wish others understood about entomology? It’s not just about insects! Entomologists are some of the most well rounded scientists out there because we study organisms that inhabit nearly every system on the planet.
What is your opinion on entomophagy (eating insects)? I believe entomophagy may be a way to address protein demand while mitigating environmental factors. I eat insects every chance I get and following graduation I hope to travel to Bangkok, Thailand, specifically to explore culinary insect delights of Asia.
Name: Katie Demeuse
Hometown: Caledonia, Michigan
Future study or career plans: Pursue a Master’s degree studying vector biology.
Why study entomology? There’s so many topics you can research, and bugs are everywhere (and they’re always going to be there, so that’s good job security)!
What or who inspired your interest in entomology? I started working in the Vegetable Entomology Lab on campus and the people in the lab were so enthusiastic about what they were learning and researching, that they converted me from a Fisheries and Wildlife major to an Entomology major. It ended up to be a great decision!
What has been your best experience with entomology? Working in two different entomology labs has been my best experiences. By working in these labs, I was able to see how research is done and how my love of insects could translate into a career.
What do you wish other people understood about entomology? I wish other people understood that entomologists don’t just “play with bugs all day.” Sure, there’s a little of that, but the research that is being done in places like MSU is so important.
If you could be an insect, which insect would you be and why? Honey bees are probably my favorite insects. They are just so cute and their honey is pretty great too.
Was there ever a time when you didn’t like insects? Growing up, I was never really afraid of insects. Spiders, on the other hand, did tend to scare me away. Thankfully, I mostly grew out of that!
What is your opinion on entomophagy (eating insects) as practiced in other world cultures? Would you try insect cuisine if given the opportunity? I think insects are a great protein source! I have yet to try an insect dish, but would love a chance to try it.
What is your favorite activity/way to spend your time outside of Entomology? I enjoy biking, watching sports and playing with my cat.
Name: Courtney Larson
Hometown: Plymouth, Minnesota
Major professor: Eric Benbow
What are you researching? I am interested in the effect of outside sources of organic matter on headwater stream communities of macroinvertebrates and microbes. I’m particularly interested in the effect of the emerald ash borer invasion and subsequent ash tree death on the stream community.
Future study or career plans: After earning my PhD, my goal is to work in academia doing research and teaching in aquatic entomology and invasive species ecology. This will ultimately further the science of aquatic ecology and benefit society by giving insight on better protection of aquatic resources.
Why study entomology? Insects are very diverse and interesting. They're extremely abundant, yet so much is unknown about them. A lot of discoveries are waiting to be made in the field of entomology!
What or who inspired your interest in entomology? I grew up taking trips with my family to our cabin in northern Minnesota. The opportunity to explore the lakes and streams with a net in one hand and a field guide in the other inspired me to continue to study these systems.
What has been your best experience with entomology? The relationships I've built with other entomologists. The innovative research that other entomologists are doing, especially at MSU, inspires me to become a better scientist.
What do you wish other people understood about entomology? That entomology really isn't just about bugs. Insects are important in our changing society. They have implications toward sustainability, health, globalization, economics and the well-being of our planet. When we study bugs, we are actually studying much, much more.
If you could be an insect, which insect would you be and why? A dragonfly because they are fast and get to live by beautiful lakes and streams.
What is your favorite way to spend your time outside of Entomology? Enjoying the outdoors, especially at U.S. National Parks. My lifelong goal is to visit every national park in the United States.
Name: Jessica Kansman
Hometown: Lowell, Michigan
Future study plans: Currently applying to Entomology graduate programs researching tri-trophic interactions and semiochemcials to be utilized in IPM. I plan to finish with a doctorate and potentially end up in academia.
Why study entomology? The major is incredibly diverse and has real world impacts and applications. There are so many insects in the world and so many research opportunities with them.
What or who inspired your interest in entomology? I started looking into the major after taking the insect-centered ISB course with Gabe Ording. It was while sitting in ENT 404, when Chris DiFonzo prefaced her lecture with “These images may be a little gross to some of you, but I am an entomologist so I poke dead things all the time,” that I knew I was in the right place.
What has been your best experience with entomology? Last summer I was working on an independent field research project on a commercial celery farm with Zsofia Szendrei. While checking my traps, Zsofia had me check the grower’s onions for thrips and communicate with him directly about thresholds. It was great to experience extension work first-hand and to directly help a grower.
What do you wish other people understood about entomology? Most people don’t understand the role entomologists have in agriculture or human medical research, and I have to explain “what can you even do as an entomologist” in most introductions.
If you could be an insect, which insect would you be and why? I’d like to be an assassin bug because they are so vicious and adorable. Plus, they are great natural enemies.
Was there ever a time when you didn’t like insects? I used to be very afraid of spiders, mostly because they are sneaky. Now, I am a Bug House volunteer, own a tarantula, and I plan to collect a couple more in the future.
Although you work with insects, is there any particular insect or arthropod you do not like and why? I am not a huge fan of harvestmen, especially in groups.
What is your opinion on entomophagy (eating insects) as practiced in other world cultures? I am so for this! Entomophagy is a great answer for sustainable agriculture. I am planning to experiment with cricket flour this semester, and I fully advocate eating insects.
What is your favorite activity/way to spend your time outside of Entomology? I am the president of the graduate/undergraduate secular and science registered student organization “Center for Inquiry.” Outside of this, I play the ukulele and participate in a campus choir.
Name: Shahlo Safarzoda
Hometown: Ishkashim, Tajikistan near the Afghanistan border.
Major professor: Doug Landis
What did you research? Before receiving my M.S. in spring 2014, I was a graduate student with the Central Asia IPM Project. I studied biological control of cereal aphids in wheat. We were mostly interested in natural enemies of cereal aphids. We found that the natural enemy community was very effective in suppressing cereal aphid populations. The ground-dwelling predators in the early season were more effective than predators that typically forage in the canopy.
What or who inspired your studies? My dad was an agriculturalist and a veterinarian, and he was my first inspiration. Secondly, in Tajikistan they use a lot of chemicals and don’t have information to use them safely. They are expensive and unlabeled. Biological control is cheaper and safer for farmers. Dr. Karim Maredia inspired my interest in biological control. I met him while helping with a meeting and translating for a field visit. He told me about MSU and the work in the Landis lab.
What is your favorite activity outside of entomology? I like dancing. I do the Tajik national dance and I like to bowl, which I learned here.
Most exciting part of your studies? Counting aphids!
Future plans? I will return to Tajikistan and help students at the Institute of Farming. I’ll be assisting a professor with field studies about natural enemies and biological control. I look forward to continuing a network with those who have been a part of the IPM CRSP Central Asia project.
What would you like Americans to know about Tajikistan? I would like them to know its beautiful nature and about the rocky Pamir Mountains, the highest mountains in Central Asia.
What would you like Tajiks to know about Americans? People are very friendly and willing to help. I especially enjoy celebrating Thanksgiving and would like them to experience that.
Anything else you’d like to say? I would like to thank all of the IPM CRSP project team for supporting me and making me feel like MSU is my home.
Name: Kelsey Kruschinska
Hometown: Lake City, MI
Future study plans: I would like to go on to get my master's in entomology and possibly even my doctorate.
Why study entomology? Insects are awesome! There are so many of them and they are very different and have different purposes in the world.
What or who inspired your interest in entomology? Casey Rowley and Dr. Walter Pett
What has been your best experience with entomology? In Dr. Pett’s class, we were able to put honey bees in the Children's 4-H Garden located on campus.
What do you wish other people understood about entomology? Not all insects are gross and out to get you.
If you could be an insect, which insect would you be and why? I would be a monarch butterfly because, like a monarch, I was raised in Michigan, and after graduation I intend to head south and then return to the Midwest come time to settle down.
Was there ever a time when you didn't like insects? The only insects that I have ever disapproved of are ones that can inflict pain upon me.
Although you work with insects, is there any particular insect or arthropod you do not like and why? I do not like wasps because they will sting you more than once. I also don't care for mosquitos because they can give you many different diseases.
What is your opinion on entomophagy (eating insects) as practiced in other world cultures? Would you try insect cuisine if given the opportunity? I think that eating insects is a very practical thing to do. There are so many of them and they are free to catch. I would definitely try insect cuisine!
What is your favorite way to spend your time outside of Entomology? I enjoy curling up on the couch with a movie and a bowl of ice cream.
Name: Rob Morrison
Hometown: Mesa, Arizona
Major professor/advisor: Zsofia Szendrei
What are you researching? I’m interested in sustainable, long-term solutions that lessen agriculture’s footprint on the landscape and allow it to fulfill multiple ecosystem services. I am researching integrated pest management of the asparagus miner through developing a degree-day model to predict important phenology; creating a foundation for a conservation biological control program; investigating the spatial distribution of the pest and elucidating the semiochemicals emitted by asparagus and how those may alter interactions with arthropods.
Future career plans: My ultimate goal is to be a faculty member with a research and teaching or extension appointment. I have a post-doctoral research position with the USDA Appalachian Fruit Research Station in Kearneysville, WV, where I will work on an attract-and-kill approach for controlling brown marmorated stink bugs in apples and peaches using the BMSB aggregation pheromone.
If you could be an insect, which would you be? I would undoubtedly be an ant as they are eusocial insects that are highly efficient in monopolizing resources through complex chemical communication, and are the numerically dominant organism in most ecosystems.
Is there any particular arthropod you do not like? Definitely bed bugs. A single female can lay up to 500 eggs. If one fertilized individual makes it to a new home, the infestation can quickly get out of control. In addition, traveling to hotels and different countries increases risk, and nothing is quite as horrifying as having bed bugs infest one’s suitcase or suck one’s blood during the night. Combined with the fact that eradication is difficult, it’s the perfect combination of “ick factor” and insidiousness.
What is your favorite activity outside of entomology? My two favorites are cooking and photography. They are very different ways of thinking from how I usually have to think in science: cooking is loose, improvisational and intuitive, while photography is intuition-based and focuses mostly on aesthetics and beauty in the world, an aspect that some scientists forget to incorporate in their work.
Name: Bernice Bacon DeMarco
Hometown: Lakewood, Ohio
Major Professor: Anthony Cognato
What are you researching? I am using DNA and morphology to elucidate the possible evolutionary history of the ant genus Aphaenogaster and to provide identification keys to species in this genus.
Future career plans: I would like to determine the relationships between currently described species worldwide and create a comprehensive key to identify them. I would also like to continue my involvement in the Bug House to promote children’s interest in insects.
What or who inspired your interest in entomology? I began college at Purdue University as a general biology major, with no specific career goal in mind. I always liked insects, and when nothing else fit my sophomore schedule, I took an introductory entomology course taught by Dr. RC Dobson. He was enthusiastic about the subject and gave me a number of suggestions about what I could do with a B.S. in entomology. By the end of that semester, I had changed majors.
What has been your best experience in entomology? I landed my dream job right out of college at the Smithsonian Institution. I was chosen out of 100 applicants because I was the only one with museum experience. After working there for six months, an opportunity came up to travel to the Amazon with Dr. Terry Erwin and two other curatorial assistants to Manaus. We were in the Amazon for six weeks fogging trees with pyrethrum in forested areas that were scheduled to be demolished. We collected in three very different habitats, and brought back 200,000 insects to be curated and added to the collection at the Smithsonian. The story doesn’t end there. After I started graduate school at MSU, Sarah Smith, a recent MSU entomology graduate, visited the Smithsonian to look at bark beetles in their Coleoptera collection. She discovered two new species of beetle from the material I had collected in the Amazon over 20 years ago, Camptocerus igniculus and coccoformus.
Name: Stephen Curtiss Ireland
Hometown: Detroit, MI
Future plans: I'm hoping to join a Master’s program for the fall 2014 semester, and after that make a quick transition from academia into private industry while maintaining involvement in community IPM activities.
Why study entomology? There are lots of good reasons. I particularly like the notion of developing efficacious molecular pest solutions that also minimize harmful environmental externalities, so the results are good for us and good for the environment. Also, as an entomologist, our research subjects are highly usable model organisms. Finally, there are a number of compounds still unknown in insects that could potentially have applications in many areas of technology.
Who inspired your interest in entomology? My list of heroes is long, but Richard Feynman, Barbara McClintock and Niel deGrasse Tyson are a few standouts. All share an unmistakable veneration for the world as it is, and I think it's in that spirit that I am inspired to pursue my own inclination: entomology.
What has been your best experience with entomology? A toss-up between a study abroad in Gainseville, FL and a summer Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) spent in up-state New York. The Florida trip was part of the MSU Forensic Entomology (ENT 401) directed study and took place at the University of Florida's Department of Entomology. It was a great first step into insect study and was a chance to meet some pretty amazing people and tour the entomology department. The REU was a Summer Research Scholars program at the Cornell Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, NY. This was a chance to see what others are doing in agricultural research and meet many new people.
Name: Roger Duncan Selby, although I go by Duncan
City of Origin: Oakville, Ontario, Canada
Major Professors: Mark Whalon and Stuart Gage
What are you researching? The central theme of my thesis research is to enhance alternative controls of the plum curculio, a pest of many tree fruits. The term “alternative” is used because the methods I work with are designed to replace existing methods that are effective, but controversial enough that their use has recently been curtailed by federal regulation. My research has three aspects: developing automated camera traps that precisely monitor insect activity in field conditions; lab and field observation of plum curculio behavior to improve trap and control efficiency; and extending and improving weather-based models used to predict and control increases in plum curculio populations.
Future career plans: Many academic and industry careers are attractive to me.
Why study entomology and what do you wish people understood about entomology? In my experience, people stereotype entomologists as hunters of miniature fauna. We’re either running around with nets and kill jars looking for rare or beautiful specimens; or we’re seeking out a destructive and ugly foe to smother with our arsenal of chemicals. However, I entered entomology because insects offer a vast array of study possibilities. Their impact on our lives and planet is extensive; pollinators, pests and predators influence the plants we depend on for food, bloodsuckers plague us, butterflies entrance us, fruit flies help us understand how genes can work, and ants help us understand how societies works.
What is your opinion on entomophagy (eating insects) as practiced in other world cultures? I have tried insect cuisine before, and highly approve of the concept for ecological and economic reasons, as long as the bug is disease-free and cooked. I confess I’ve only tried food using larvae, where the defining flavor tends to be the added spice, and the cooked insect resembles a harmless beansprout. I would probably think twice before eating a cooked adult arthropod that had legs and wings attached. In that scenario, I probably would do something silly like detach all the legs to eat them separately.
Name: Chelsea Rawe
Hometown: Clarkston, MI
Future plans: May be interested in something related to medical entomology, human health and international development.
What or who inspired your interest in entomology? When I first arrived at MSU I did not even know that entomology was its own field, however, as a freshman I was searching for a field that was both scientific and had reasonably direct, real-world impacts. I happened upon entomology. After a meeting with Walter Pett and Chris DiFonzo, I was hooked. I enjoyed my first summer working in the turfgrass lab with Terry Davis, and then I was set on studying entomology.
What do you wish other people understood about entomology? Many people don't realize that insects impact their daily life. When I tell people I am an entomologist, people often take a few minutes to consider how that might fit into the world as a whole. I think entomology is an important field to study because insects impact food production, human health, economics and they are a beautiful example of diversity in the animal world. I hope others have the pleasure of being introduced to the field of study like I have been.
What is your opinion on entomophagy (eating insects) as practiced in other world cultures? I think eating insects makes a lot of sense. They are high in protein and readily available even to people with little economic power. When presented the opportunity, I have eaten several insects – both living and cooked – including several species of grubs and ants. The ants tasted much better than I had expected them to.