Featured Entomology undergraduate student Caitlin Peffers

Caitlin Peffers shares how working in an entomology lab taught her valuable methods, why she’s fond of a certain mosquito and why other students should consider majoring in entomology.

Caitlin Peffers

Name: Caitlin Peffers

Hometown: Okemos, Michigan

Future study or career plans: I want to get my masters in entomology. From there, I might go on for a PhD or try to find work related to entomology.

Tell us a little about your experiences in working in different labs and with Henry Chung. I first volunteered in a lab for Michigan Natural Features Inventory when I was in high school. I sorted through samples from vernal pools for arthropods. I got to see a lot of aquatic insects and was amazed at how many were dependent on temporary ponds at some stage in their life cycle. This was one of the experiences that cemented my desire to become an entomologist.

Once I came to MSU, I became the first member to join Dr. Henry Chung’s insect physiology lab. I get to study pheromone synthesis genes in spotted winged Drosophila. Working in Dr. Chung’s lab has taught me valuable methods in molecular biology that I hope to build on and use in my future studies.

What is the best selling point about an entomology major that you would like others to know? The learning is great fun! All the entomology courses I have taken have been the highlight of every semester. They have been interactive and engaging and often include outdoor excursions.

What or who inspired your interest in entomology? My parents recognized early on that I had a particularly keen interest in insects and were all about allowing me to follow my interest to see where it might lead. It lead to endless explorations for insects, nature camps, bug camps, stream sampling, etc. It must have been around my early middle school years when I learned from my mom that entomology was an actual field of study. Learning this, my direction was set, and here I am finishing up my undergraduate degree in entomology and getting ready to go on for a graduate degree.

What has been your best experience with entomology? Hard to choose. Attending the Entomological Society of America conference, working in Dr. Chung’s lab, interacting with peers. I have to say, though, learning to pin and spread specimens for my insect collection was fun. It makes the specimen look pretty and dramatic.

What is your favorite activity/way to spend your time outside of your studies? I draw and paint things, often people, arthropods or natural scenes. I also play the cello, crochet, knit, listen to audio books and read mystery novels.

What is your favorite insect? I don’t have one favorite insect, but there is a mosquito that ranks pretty high. It is Toxorhynchites because they do not require a blood meal. Their larvae eat the larvae of other mosquitos, and these large mosquitoes can be very pretty and colorful.

What is your favorite thing about MSU? The Beal Botanical Garden. I did a lot of collecting in that area and the garden is a nice place to relax in the summer.

Do you have advice for anyone interested in an entomology major? Take ENT 404 Fundamentals of Entomology. You will learn so much about insects, and it is a good course to take if you are wondering if entomology is for you. Also, the department has great faculty advisors and mentors. Definitely find time to talk with them!

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