It's exciting to see a promising career unfold.
We first met UC Davis graduate student Alex Van Dam in 2010 when he received a $12,000 award from the University of California Institute for Mexico and the United States (UC MEXUS), an academic research institute dedicated to encouraging, securing, and contributing to binational and Latino research and collaborative academic programs and exchanges.
Then later in 2010 he received a Robert and Peggy van den Bosch Memorial Scholarship for his research on a scale insect. His project: "Investigating Host-Associated Lineage Splitting Within Dactylopius Using Molecular Phylogenetics."
Now Van Dam has just been selected for a National Science Foundation (NSF) Postdoctoral Fellowship to work on insect/host plant research.
The postdoctoral fellowship award is supported by both the Directorate for Biological Sciences and the Office of International Science and Engineering at NSF. During his two-year fellowship, he will work on a project, “New Insights into Insect Host-Plant Generalization: Population Transcriptome Sequencing of Porphyrophora spp.,” under the sponsorship of Uffe H. Mortensen at the Department of Systems Biology, Technical University of Denmark.
Van Dam will identify genes responsible for host-plant range in scale insects, and how they are maintained across populations. “This will be accomplished by testing hypotheses delineating physiological genes responsible for insect host-plant generalization,” he said. “Host-plant generalization is the ability to feed on many different species of plants. I will test if increased dispersal of host-plant detoxification genes in generalists leads to maintenance of functional gene paralogs, that is, gene duplications, across large effective populations.
A native of Los Angeles, Van Dam received his bachelor's degree and master's degree in entomology at UC Riverside and is currently a doctoral candidate and a member of the Entomology Graduate Group. He studies with major professor Bernie May in the Department of Animal Science. Professors Jay Rosenheim and Steve Nadler of the Department of Entomology are members of his dissertation committee.
Meanwhile, Van Dam is gearing up for his exit seminar at the Animal Science Spring Seminar Series. He'll present his seminar on Monday, April 29 from 12:10 to 1 p.m. in Weir Room 2154, Meyer Hall.
Another great success story!
Want to develop skills that will make your application to graduate school, medical school or veterinary school really stand out from the crowd?
The UC Davis Research Scholars Program in Insect Biology is recruiting undergraduate students who are eager to experience one-on-one research training and mentorship.
This will be the third cohort of students.
The program, now officially approved by the Academic Senate, is coordinated by professor Jay Rosenheim and assistant professors Louie Yang and Joanna Chiu, all of the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
The Research Scholars Program in Insect Biology provides the opportunity to learn research skills in all areas of biology, including:
- behavior and ecology
- population biology
- mathematical bology
- human health
- cell biology
- molecular biology
Applications are now being accepted from first and second-year students and first-year transfer students. The application deadline is April 10, 2013. More information on the program and how to apply is on the program’s website.
Successful venture? Yes, indeed. Two members of the Research Scholars Program in Insect Biology recently received President's Undergraduate Fellowship Program (PUF) grants.
They are Sarah Staley, mentored by medical entomologist Anthony “Anton” Cornel, associate entomologist with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and based at the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center, Parlier; and Don Hoang, mentored by evolutionary geneticist Artyom Kopp, professor in the Department of Evolution and Ecology.
Staley and Hoang were among 25 undergraduate students receiving grants from a pool of 62 applicants. Staley submitted her proposal titled “Prevalence of Leucocytozoa Infections in Potential Vector Populations of Black Flies in Alaska.” Hoang's proposal: "The Yeast/Drosophila Relationship: Is it Meant to Last?”
Read their story on the UC Davis Department of Entomology website.
No small feat. Great things are happening in the Research Scholars Program in Insect Biology. Jay Rosenheim, Louie Yang and Joanna Chiu are making it happen.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org). 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.”
It's quite an honor to be elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
And it's a double honor when two persons from the same department at the same university receive the honor the very same year.
That's what happened today.
Professors Richard "Rick" Karban and Jay Rosenheim of the Department of Entomology, University of California, Davis, were both named Fellows. They're among the 531 new Fellows announced today--with eight from UC Davis. Fellows are selected by their peers for their “scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications.”
Karban was selected for “distinguished contributions to the field of plant-herbivore interactions, particularly for work on induced plant resistance and volatile cues used by plants” and Rosenheim for “distinguished contributions to the field of ecology, particularly for empirical and theoretical contributions to our understanding of insect predator-prey and host-parasitoid interactions.”
Rosenheim and Karban share a love of entomology, research and teaching. You can read more about their accomplishments here.
The UC Davis Department of Entomology now has a total of seven AAAS Fellows: James Carey, elected in 2000; Bruce Eldridge, elected in 1981; Waler Leal, 2006; Robert Page (UC Davis emeritus professor who's now at Arizona State University), 2006; Thomas Scott, 2007, and now Karban and Rosenheim
Rosenheim, who joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty in 1990, received another outstanding honor earlier this year: he was honored by the Associated Students of UC Davis for excellence in the classroom. In fact, he was singled as the most outstanding teacher in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
And Karban? Since joining the UC Davis Department of Entomology in 1982, he's graduated 14 graduate students or post-docs; 13 are professors at top institutions, including UC Davis (3) and Cornell (3).
Yes, and Briggs beckons.
"Midge madness" will occur from 12:10 to 1 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 25 in 122 Briggs Hall on the University of California, Davis, campus.
That's when Claudio Gratton of the Department of Entomology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, will discuss "Midge Madness! Quantifying Linkages Between Lake and Land" during the eighth of 10 winter seminars sponsored by the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
You've probably heard of the billions of midges--small two-winged flies--that swarm periodically at Lake Myvatn, Iceland. An article published last March in Science Daily indicated that at their peak, "it is difficult to breathe without inhaling the bugs, which hatch and emerge from the lake in blizzard-like proportions. After their short adult life, their carcasses blanket the lake, and the dead flies confer so much nutrient on the surrounding landscape that the enhanced productivity can be measured by Earth-observing satellites."
Enter Claudio Gratton, who studies f "R
Enter Claudio Gratton, who studies food web ecology, insect-plant-virus interactions, herbivore-natural enemy interactions, invasive species, biological control, and soil food webs.
"Recent empirical and theoretical models," he says, "indicate that the dynamics within food webs are often influenced by resources coming from outside of the focal food web, also termed a 'spatial subsidy.' "
By the way, Lake Myvatn means "midge lake" in Icelandic.
"We used this lake and the surrounding landscape to examine the effect that large-scale spatial subsidies have on terrestrial arthropod food webs," said Gratton, who received his doctorate in entomology from UC Berkeley in 1997. "Our studies have shown that by moving from lake onto land, the midges act as two types of subsidies."
"First, they can transfer as much as 70 kg N and 10 kg P ha-1 yr-1 to a 100-200m wide area surrounding the lake, resulting in increased plant quality, biomass and increased detritivore and herbivore abundance."
"Second, they subsidize the food base of the natural enemies (mainly spiders) on the terrestrial shoreline. As a result, food web interactions on land are significantly affected by the adjacent lake ecosystem, effects that have the potential to propagate over the long-term, even after midge abundances subside."
Want to learn more about the mighty midges of Myvatn? Attend Gratton's presentation next Wednesday. UC Davis Department of Entomology hosts are Peter Epanchin of the Graduate Group in Ecology (he's in professor Sharon Lawler's lab), and professor and insect ecologist Jay Rosenheim./o:p>/st1:place>/st1:placename>/st1:placetype>/o:p>/o:p>/st1:place>/o:smarttagtype>/o:smarttagtype>/o:smarttagtype>