- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
“Jess” with “icicles.”
That's because Jessica Gillung, who received her doctorate in entomology last Friday at the University of California, Davis, is heading for snowy Ithaca, New York, where she has accepted a postdoctoral position with professor Bryan Danforth at Cornell University.
In the Cornell lab, "Dr. Jessica" or "Dr. Jessicles" will be researching Apoidea (stinging wasps and bees) phylogenomics, evolution and diversification.
At UC Davis, she studied the parasitoid flies commonly known as spider flies with major professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at UC Davis; mentor Shaun Winterton of the California Department of Food and Agriculture; and collaborator Phil Ward, UC Davis professor of entomology.
Last Friday afternoon, Gillung delivered her exit seminar on “Phylogenetic Relationships of Spider Flies (Acroceridae) – Discordance, Uncertainty and the Perils of Phylogenomics” to a packed crowd in 122 Briggs Hall.
Acrocerid adults are floral visitors, and some are specialized pollinators, while the larvae are internal parasitoids of spiders.
At the exit seminar, she professed “I love parasitoids.” She comically described Accoceridae species as varied; some look like “boomerangs,” some are “fuzzy” and some are "metallic."
The entomologist said she looks forward to researching Hymenoptera (including “vegan hunting wasps”).
It was a whirlwind day for Jessica Gillung. First the exit seminar at 2 p.m., followed by the awarding of her doctorate, and then a party at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, where she and her colleagues dined on pie, cake and ice cream; toasted her with champagne, and lavished her with gifts. She and Amir Ghoddoucy (they met at the California Department of Food and Agriculture office in Sacramento), are traveling--by car--to Ithaca.
She doesn't know where she'll be at Christmas. “On the road somewhere,” she said, smiling.
Highly honored for her research and leadership, Gillung recently won the prize for best student presentation at the recent 9th International Congress of Dipterology in Windhoek, Namibia, and won the prestigious 2018 Student Leadership Award, presented by the Pacific Branch, Entomological Society of America (PBESA), which represents 11 states, seven U.S. territories, and parts of Canada and Mexico.
Gillung, a native of Brazil, holds a bachelor's degree in biology from the Federal University of Paraná, Curitiba, Brazil and a master's degree in zoology from the University of São Paulo, Brazil. She speaks four languages fluently: Portuguese, Spanish, English and German.
At the Bohart party, she briefly conversed in Portuguese, accepting warm congratulations from a longtime friend.
None of the non-speaking Portuguese guests surrounding them knew if she answered to “Dr. Jessicles..."