Friend and mentor inspired Louise Labbate to pursue career in entomology

Graduate student Louise Labbate talks about her time at MSU and how a fellow Spartan sparked her desire to learn more about entomology.

Louise Labbate

Name: Louise Labbate

Hometown: Traverse City, Michigan

Previous education: Associate degree from Northwestern Michigan College, bachelor’s of science from Michigan State University

Major professor: Deborah McCullough

What are you researching? I am researching an invasive insect that entered Michigan in 2015 called the Asian chestnut gall wasp (Dryocosmus kuriphilus), which attacks and causes damage to chestnut trees. I am monitoring this pest’s phenology and its interactions with the chestnut trees and an introduced natural enemy. I have been working towards an integrated pest management strategy to limit yield loss while minimizing costs to the growers and negative effects on the environment.

Why study entomology? Entomology is one of those natural science studies that gets overlooked because it is not obvious how much insects are involved in ecosystem functions. Insects play a huge role in the health of many ecosystems and are crucial in the sustainability of the planet. As I continue learning about the many facets of this study, I am continually amazed by how intricate it is.

What or who inspired your interest in entomology? My first exposure to entomology was in a required class for my degree program taught by my current adviser, Deb McCullough. In that class I met Sara Tanis, the McCullough lab manager and the person who would ultimately guide me to pursuing a master’s degree. Sara’s genuine passion and enthusiasm for entomology drove my interest and desire to learn more. She was, and continues to be, not only a mentor but a friend, and I would not be where I am today without her.

What is your favorite activity or responsibility as part of your graduate studies? Definitely the field work. I have always loved being outside and I feel like I really got to enjoy my summers because my job was outside. An added bonus was that my field sites were really close to Lake Michigan so after a long day in the field, I got to relax on the beach.

What is your favorite thing about MSU? At MSU, at least in the Department of Entomology, student life is easily accessible and widely encouraged. There are many opportunities to meet and interact with other students.

"Even in the last few months while we have all been socially distancing, the organization of virtual events and encouragement to remain social has been ever present."

What is your favorite insect? The cicada. I think they are absolutely adorable and we have a lot in common, both the cicada and myself have exactly one volume—loud!

What is your favorite way to spend time outside of your studies? Hang out with friends. I am a bit of a social butterfly (pun intended) and I like being around people. Whether we are playing games or just relaxing together and chatting, I enjoy being in the company of friends.

Below, take a look at what it’s like to work in the Forest Entomology Lab with professor Deb McCullough.

Read about our past Featured Students.

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