Allison Zahorec shares experiences she values as a graduate student

Entomology doctoral student Allison Zahorec has found meaning through researching tiny arthropods, helping children overcome fear of insects and experiencing scientists opening up to social justice.

Graduate student Allison Zahorec.

Hometown: Lorain, Ohio

Previous education: Bachelor of science degree in Zoology, Kent State University

Major professor: Doug Landis

What inspired your interest in entomology?
I spent a significant portion of my childhood outside flipping over rocks and logs to look for insects and feeding honey to the ant colonies in my backyard. My parents caught on to my fondness for the six-legged and gave me lots of opportunities to further pursue my interests in insects and the natural sciences.

What is your favorite activity as part of your graduate studies?
Conducting research as part of the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center has been the highlight of my graduate career. The natural world is full of questions and being able to design and carry-out experiments to begin to answer some of them is incredibly fulfilling.

What are you researching?
My research is focused on microarthropods, a group of tiny soil-dwelling arthropods including springtails and mites, living in bioenergy cropping systems. I am interested in seeing how the characteristics of these cropping systems impact microarthropod community structure and function, as well as the potential for microarthropods to influence the ability of bioenergy cropping systems to accrue carbon.

What is your favorite thing about MSU?
Definitely the students. I’ve met so many wonderful people within the Department, the Ecology, Evolution and Behavior program and beyond who have helped me become a better scientist. My fellow graduate students have been such a huge support system for me, and I am grateful to be a part of the MSU graduate student community.

Tell us about your experience with the Bug House.
I’ve had many great experiences in my time volunteering at the MSU Bug House, but the most memorable moments for me are when kids overcome their fears of holding the insects and tarantulas. These kids always end up having the most fun interacting with the arthropods and wanting to come back. It’s very rewarding for me to see them leave with that positive experience and appreciation for insects.

Allison Zahorec holds a tarantula in the MSU Bug House.

What is your favorite way to spend your time outside of your studies?
When the weather is good, I love to get outside and go on nature walks. There is so much natural beauty in Michigan, which I look forward to continuing to explore.

As a student during a global pandemic, what is something positive you found in the past year?
Spending so much time at home gave me time to reevaluate my academic, professional and personal goals and how they align with my key values. It’s been encouraging to see numerous scientific communities and institutions becoming more proactive and vocal about issues of equity and social justice.

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