- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Gilik graduated this year with double degrees--a bachelor's degree in entomology and a bachelor's degree in neurobiology, physiology and behavior--in a five-year program.
“Susan's undergraduate GPA is 3.589,” said Professor Sharon Lawler, who nominated her for the award. “She completed an impressive 231 units, in addition to arriving with 40 Advanced Placement (AP) units.”
Gilik, who grew up in San Diego, traces her interest in entomology to her childhood. “My mom tells me that I have been preoccupied with the little animals since I could walk,” Gilik said. “She said that I would sit and watch the little guys for hours. As I grew, I got into rearing caterpillars. My mother was a hobbyist rose breeder and grew many plants. She was very supportive and when we found caterpillars chomping her plants, she let me keep them and feed them her plants.”
While rearing caterpillars, young Susan marveled over their physiology and development. “From the delicate and difficult task of shedding their skins to the dissolution of their internal workings during metamorphis, it seemed difficult being an insect. Later, when I learned more about evolution and ecology, it started to hit me how important insects are for pollination, in the spread of disease and as food for other animals.”
“I loved the entomology classes here ... there were so many on such varying topics! I really enjoyed that I could learn both about physiology and ecology/evolution of insects. It was great to be taught by professors who had a lot of experience--and fun stories--on the topics they were teaching.”
In addition to her studies, Gilik served as a student firefighter with the UC Davis Fire Department. “During high school I became interested in becoming a firefighter," she said in a quote on the department's website. "I found out about the program after coming to Davis and saw that it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. “
Her favorite part of the student firefighter program? "I love the camaraderie. Everyone puts in an enormous effort to help each other out.”
This summer Gilik is assisting with the David Rizzo laboratory research in the Sierra Nevada on forest fire effects on plant pathogens--“how native pathogens of conifers are affected by native fire regime,” she said. Rizzo is a professor in the Department of Plant Pathology. His research focuses on the ecology and management of exotic and native forest tree diseases, primarily in California ecosystems.
Her future goals? “I want to try out as many different things as I can before making any decisions and going back to school to start my career.”
In addition, Stephanie Calloway received the 2012 Alumni Association Award for Outstanding Senior in Entomology and Ivana Li won the 2013 Alumni Association Award for Outstanding Senior in Entomology.