April 15, 2013
Shelomi, who studies with major professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology, received the award at the PBESA meeting on April 9 at South Lake Tahoe.
Shelomi will be one of six John Henry Comstock Award recipients, one from each ESA branch, to be honored at the ESA annual meeting, Nov. 10-13 in Austin, Texas. Each winner receives an all-expenses paid trip to the annual meeting, a $100 cash prize, and a certificate.
Kimsey described Shelomi, an insect physiologist, as “an incredibly outstanding doctoral candidate in entomology.” Shelomi graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in organismic and evolutionary biology from Harvard University in 2009 and then joined the UC Davis graduate student program.
Matan is seeking a doctorate in entomology with a designated emphasis in organism-environment interactions. He maintains a perfect 4.0 grade point average. His current research deals with the anatomy, microbiology, and enzymology of the Phasmatodea (walking sticks) digestive system; with side interests including delusional infestations and forensic entomology. In his research on the digestive system, he is looking for bacteria or fungi that can break down cellulose in leaves, or the toxic compounds in Eucalyptus for walking sticks that feed on them.
Kimsey said that Shelomi excels in academics, research, publications, student activities, professional activities, presentations, writing, outreach, and leadership activities. Shelomi won a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Student Fellowship in 2012. He won the NSF East Asian and Pacific Summer Institutes Fellowship twice. Through the latter, he has done research at the National Institute of Agrobiological Science (Tsukuba, Japan) and Academia Sinica (Taipei, Taiwan).
Shelomi has served on multiple ESA Debate and Linnaean Games teams, captaining both at one point or another. He was on the Linnaean Games team that won first place at the Pacific Branch meeting in 2012. He and his debate team won the championship at the national ESA meeting in 2011. Shelomi is an active member of the PBESA’s Physiology, Biochemistry, and Toxicology Section. He has presented talks at every ESA meeting, branch and national, since 2011, and has volunteered at the national branch meetings.
He is also known for a humorous paper on Pokémon phylogenetics in the Annals of Improbable Research. He organized and ran a workshop at the International Science in Society Conference in Berkeley last November, and will be speaking this August at the International Congress of Orthopterology in Kunming, China.
Active in the Entomology Graduate Student Association, Shelomi served as treasurer from 2010 to 2011 and participates annually on the UC Davis Department of Entomology Picnic Day Committee.
Shelomi and Kimsey are coordinating a UC Davis freshman seminar this spring on Evolution vs. Creationism. He has also served as a teaching assistant for forensic entomology, and guest-lectured for several introductory biology and entomology classes.
In addition, Shelomi works with the UC Davis Entomology Club, presenting informative talks at local high schools. In the spring of 2012 he served as a columnist for the California Aggie student newspaper, writing on graduate student life, and also contributed opinion (op-ed) pieces.
Shelomi and his work are featured on a video on the PhD TV website.
“Matan is also a top writer, specializing in entomology and biology questions, on the question-and-answer website Quora,” Kimsey said. In 2012, he won a Shorty Award, the social-media equivalent of an Oscar, for his answer to an insect question. Today, he has nearly 500 followers. The Huffington Post recently spotlighted one response. Another was printed in the "Best of Quora 2010-2012" book.
“Frankly,” Kimsey said, “I don’t know when he sleeps.”
--Kathy Keatley Garvey
UC Davis Department of Entomology