- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
It's not just future entomologists who study insects. So do future physicians, veterinarians, chemists, ecologists and scores of others.
Indeed, insects are involved in many biological fields, including genetics and molecular biology; biochemistry and physiology; cell biology; population biology; behavior and ecology; biodiversity and evolutionary ecology; and agroecology.
At UC Davis, a trio from the Department of Entomology faculty wants to make a difference in college students' education. They've formed a campuswide Undergraduate Honors Research Program in Insect Biology to help undergraduates obtain long-term mentoring and research experiences.
Veteran professor Jay Rosenheim and newer faculty members Louie Yang and Joanna Chiu said they want to "provide academically strong and highly motivated undergraduates with a multi-year research experience that cultivates skills that will prepare them for a career in biological research. This will be useful for students whose career goals will take them to medical school, veterinary school, or graduate programs in any biological sub-discipline.”
UC Davis freshmen and sophomores interested in applying for the program must do so by May 15 by sending an email to Elvira Hack (email@example.com). In a one-page letter, they will explain their motivation to join the program, and their special interests. Selected students will then be interviewed.
The gist of the program:
- During an initial academic retreat (at the Sagehen Creek Field Station in the Sierra Nevada mountains), faculty will instruct students about the process of science, approaches to choosing research questions, and the core elements of experimental design.
- Students will be placed in a faculty mentor’s laboratory. The goal: to find a strong match between the student’s research interests and the research focus of the mentoring faculty member’s lab.
- Students will be encouraged to take supporting coursework in insect biology (that is, general entomology, insect physiology, insect ecology) to provide the most relevant foundational information for conducting research in insect biology.
- For many participating students, it’s expected that there will be a natural transition from paid positions (when the students are contributing to a larger research effort) to course credits (when the students are pursuing their own independent research).
- Students will receive ongoing training and career guidance in conducting research, scientific writing, presentation of research results at professional scientific meetings, and all aspects of preparing applications for graduate or professional schools.
We applaud the work that Rosenheim, Yang and Chiu are doing, and the 30-some members of the mentoring faculty.
Rosenheim, who joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty in 1990, has long supported the academic and research needs of students. In fact, on May 11, he will receive a UC Davis Distinguished Teaching Award for Undergraduate Teaching. Faculty and students consider him "an extraordinary educator, a remarkable scholar and a superb teacher and mentor."
The ultimate compliment, however, came from an unsolicited comment on the web: “the best teacher at (UC) Davis. Hands down. Take him if you can.”