Undergraduate student gains multiple successes through experience in entomology research lab

Michael Killewald has executed two research projects, published his first study, improved his bee and pollen identification skills, gained connections and entry to a doctoral program all while pursuing a minor in entomology.

Name: Michael Killewald

Hometown: Alpena, Michigan

Future study or career plans: Earn a PhD in entomology with Jason Gibb’s lab, University of Manitoba.

What is your major? Fisheries and wildlife with a concentration in wildlife biology and management

Why add a minor in entomology to your major? I took AP biology in high school, which included a large section on insect diversity and it peaked my interests in entomology. My fisheries and wildlife degree requires taking electives on top of the required classes. I decided to complete a minor in entomology so I could fulfill my fisheries and wildlife degree, better my chances at being accepted for an entomology position and continue to study my interests. 

What has been the most challenging aspect of adding an entomology minor to your degree? Scheduling classes. Since most of the classes are only offered every few years or during one particular time, they often overlap with my required fisheries and wildlife classes. However, despite the lack of classes, I was able to complete an independent study with Rufus Isaacs, which has ultimately led to my first publication, “Use of nest and pollen resources by leafcutter bees, genus Megachile (Hymenoptera: Megachilidae) in central Michigan”, which will be featured in the Great Lakes Entomologist sometime soon.

How has working in an entomology lab helped you in your college career? I have worked in the Isaacs lab for roughly three years, and through this position I have proposed and executed two independent research projects related to the pollen use of different groups of bees. These research projects have helped me gain experience that you cannot gain in a traditional classroom, such as bee and pollen identification skills. This position has also allowed me to gain connections that have helped me to obtain a PhD position in entomology at the University of Manitoba.

Do you have advice for anyone interested in an entomology minor? Try a few classes. Most of the professors are amazing and very passionate about what they teach. ENT404 was one of the best classes I have taken at MSU and I would highly recommend this class for anybody that is remotely interested in entomology. My other advice would be to schedule all four years of classes early. I had issues completing my minor because some of the entomology classes are only offered in odd or even years. If I had planned earlier, I could have made a schedule that wouldn’t have left me scrambling at the end.

What or who inspired your interest in entomology? My high school teacher, Peter Doubek, taught an advance biology class that had a large section on insect diversity and biology. Through this class I learned just how much fun it is to catch insects, even when the only tools I had available were an old mason jar and my own two hands. After this class I took a job in the Isaacs lab at MSU and my passion for pollinators grew exponentially after I started identifying the bees that we collected. Without Mr. Doubek or the Isaacs lab, I probably wouldn’t be where I am today.

What is your favorite activity/way to spend your time outside of your studies? I like to spend most of my time outside when I can. During the summer, I try to plan camping and fishing trips across Michigan. Of course, I always bring an insect net when traveling anywhere cool. I also like to wood and metal work, or take trips on my motorcycle if the weather is nice.

What is your favorite thing about MSU? Most of the degree-specific professors are very knowledgeable, passionate and fun. I find that a good professor makes a huge difference in how much I want to learn the material, and most of the entomology professors make this easy.

Read about our past featured students in the Featured Students section.

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