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The Power of Collaboration: A Symposium You Won’t Want to Miss

student collaboration

Amid the deep lineup of content and activities developed for and by students at Entomology 2017 will be a symposium on the power of scientific collaborations.

By Casey Parker

Editor’s Note: As Entomology 2017 approaches, today we continue with the fourth in a five-part “Students at #EntSoc17” series on Entomology Today, in which members of ESA’s Student Affairs Committee share what fellow student members need to know to be prepared to ignite, inspire, and innovate at Entomology 2017. 

Casey Parker

Casey Parker

With just more than two weeks before Entomology 2017, some of you might be beginning to plan your conference experience. What social events will you attend? What connections are you hoping to make? What talks will you go to? There will be an array of symposia to choose from covering a variety of topics. Every year, the ESA Student Affairs Committee (SAC) organizes a symposium. Last year at the International Congress of Entomology, for instance, the student symposium covered aquatic entomology and featured students, early-career professionals, and established members of the field. This year, the SAC will host another symposium, on a subject that any member of the scientific community can appreciate: collaboration.

More specifically, the symposium will explore how the power of cooperation can aid in advancements in science. This topic is relevant to scientists from any background with any level of experience, from the most senior professors to undergraduate and graduate students new to the research world. We have an accomplished lineup of speakers that are sure to provide powerful insights into how collaborations can further improve the science we pursue.

The symposium, titled “The Power of Cooperation: Collaborations that Facilitate Advancements in Science” will take place November 8 at 8 a.m.

If that wasn’t enough to sell you, below you will find more information on our speakers as well as some sneak peeks into their presentations. As a note, the title of each speaker’s presentation is linked below so you can easily access it in the Entomology 2017 online program and add it to your schedule.

The Xs and Os of Academic Collaboration

Henry Fadamiro, Ph.D., is the associate dean for research and associate director of the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station at the College of Agriculture at Auburn University. Before arriving at Auburn, he received his B.S. and M.S. from the Federal University of Technology in Nigeria and his Ph.D. from Oxford University in England. He then worked at the Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Iowa State University, University of Minnesota, and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. Some of his achievements include facilitating exchange programs between foreign universities and Auburn university and stimulating research collaborations in Cuba, Ocean University in China, and many more. He currently works on a variety of applied and international research projects. During his time at the various research institutions, it is safe to say he has learned a thing or two about collaboration. He will present to us the opportunities and the challenges that come along with collaboration as well as some helpful tips on how you can develop these collaborations.

Extending, Improving, and Applying Your Research Through Interdisciplinary and International Collaboration

Matt Jones is a Ph.D. candidate at Washington State University. Prior to starting his Ph.D., he earned his B.S. from Gardner-Webb University and M.S. from the University of Maine. During this time, he also worked at the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service. He has studied pollination mechanisms, spatial ecology of weeds, biocontrol, dung beetles, and, now, suppression of human pathogens. So, why is his work a good example of collaboration? And what does he have to share? Jones told me “Honestly, there’s no way I would have been able to pull this project off without the expertise and facilities provided by my collaborators.” He then proceeded to list the various ways in which he has collaborated with the vet school, farmers, statisticians, and more. He added that we can expect a story about living in a van, deadly diseases, and poop!

Strategies for Managing Collaboration Between Distant Laboratory Groups

Robert Zinna, Ph.D., earned his B.S. from Winthrop University and Ph.D. from Washington State University and is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Arizona. He describes himself primarily as a systems biologist and insect physiologist. Some of his work has included studies on the effects of nutrition on insect weaponry, as well as how temperature and nutrition affect vector competency of mosquitoes. During these projects, he has collaborated with individuals on four continents on everything from data analysis to experimental design, all while overcoming many cultural barriers or time zone challenges. Through these interactions, he has discovered effective strategies to maintaining strong collaborations. When asked what we might hope to learn from his presentation, he replied, “Establishing and maintaining strong collaborations across language, cultural, and time zone barriers is a challenging but worthwhile endeavor, and I hope to share some of the strategies and opportunities I have found most effective.”

Translational Plant Sciences: A Unique Graduate Program Fostering Collaboration

Ashley Yates earned a B.S. in biology at Illinois College and an M.S. in entomology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she studied RNA interference as a tool to study gene function in the Colorado potato beetle. Yates was drawn to entomology because she has an agricultural background and enjoyed entomology courses in college. Her career goal is to become a researcher in the agricultural industry with a focus on sustainable methods of crop protection against insect pests. Yates is currently a Ph.D. student at Ohio State University in the Translational Plant Sciences (TPS) graduate program, where she studies the molecular mechanisms of aphid adaptation to host plant resistance. The TPS graduate program is an interdisciplinary research program designed to prepare students for careers in agriculture and plant biology and prides itself on its interdisciplinary approach to learning. Students are co-advised by faculty from different departments and expected to take on leadership roles as well as participate in an internship. She has just completed a three-month internship with an agricultural industry company, where she was able to experience teamwork and professional development within the industry research environment. As a graduate student in TPS, Yates has been exposed to different projects, improved her communication skills, and learned new techniques. During her presentation, we can hope to learn how this unique graduate program that emphasizes collaboration has enhanced her research and graduate school experience.

From the Forests of French Guiana to the City of Singapore: Exploration, Discovery, and Cooperation in Taxonomic Research

Sarah Meierotto is a Ph.D. student at the University of Kentucky. Before starting her graduate program, she received her B.S. from the University of Alaska, where she worked in a variety of ecosystems, from boreal forests to swamps. However, where she really wanted to work was in tropical forests. She took an internship in Puerto Rico, where she studied the effects of hurricanes on seedlings. After completing this internship, she sought a graduate program that would allow her to pursue her interest in tropical insect diversity. She is currently studying parasitoid wasp diversity and DNA barcoding. This work has taken her to three continents and has resulted in collaborations in five countries. From her presentation, we will hear how these collaborations changed her view on the future of taxonomy.

Bioinspiration: Bringing Together Entomologists, Microbiologists, Engineers, and More

Catherine Dana is a Ph.D. student at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She is primarily interested in the conservation and natural history of cicadas. This interest has led her into a wide network of collaboration. She is currently working on “characterizing the superhydrophobic nanostructures on the wing surface” of cicadas. This topic is of interest not only to entomologists but also to engineers, material scientists, microbiologists, and the U.S. Army Construction Engineering Research Lab. Together, this group is working on the fabrication of other nanostructure-inspired materials that repel water, are antimicrobial, or self-cleaning. We can hope to hear from her about how scientists with varied expertise can come together around a common project to advance science in many ways.

Ph.D. in 36 Months via Collaboration, Prioritization, and Dedication

Major Hee Kim, Ph.D., is a medical entomologist with the U.S. Army. He recently completed his Ph.D. at Texas A&M University, where he was stationed for the last three years. He joined the Army in 2005 as a medical entomologist after completing his B.S. and M.S. Ten years later, he was selected to return to school for his Ph.D., which he had only three years to complete! Completing a Ph.D. in 36 months required Kim to exchange information with his peers. He learned new molecular techniques by shadowing colleagues and had to collaborate with various entities to complete the field component of his research. Through these interactions, he was also able to share potential career opportunities that exist within the Army. While speaking with Kim, he informed me that, when you set out to complete a Ph.D. in 36 months, you can’t do it alone. You need the help, collaboration, and support of others to make it happen. From his talk, we will hear the secrets to success for getting a Ph.D. done.

The Ecology of Dog Heartworm Disease

Meredith Spence-Beaulieu is a Ph.D. candidate and National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow at North Carolina State University, where she also completed her B.S. During her time as a Ph.D. student, she has studied the dynamics of heartworm disease as well as the effects of suburban development on mosquito assemblages. While it is obvious now that her passion is for vector-borne disease ecology, Spence-Beaulieu initially thought she wanted to be a veterinarian and completed her B.S. in zoology with a minor in mathematics. During her pursuit of vet school, she fell in love with insects while still maintaining her interest in the health of animals. These interests have had a strong influence on the direction her research has taken and has allowed her to collaborate with individuals from a variety of fields. Her project requires her to work with veterinarians and to communicate her research findings to concerned groups, like pet owners. During her presentation, we can hope to learn how collaboration has helped her succeed in the realm of vector-borne disease ecology.

From the Individual Scientist to the Scientific Community: Multi-Trophic Collaborations Pave the Way for Success

Our symposium will end with a presentation from William Walker, Ph.D., senior research scientist at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. Much of his work focuses on projects fundamental to developing novel and sustainable control strategies for agricultural systems. This work allows him to collaborate with scientists in China, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Pakistan, Sweden, and the U.S. But as far-reaching as his collaborations are, he emphasizes the importance of even informal collaborations, like coffee breaks, which can stimulate scientific conversations, ideas, and even land you a job in another country. His career in Sweden may not have happened if it weren’t for a lucky encounter at an ESA meeting, which led to a visit to Sweden, which led to a fruitful career and life. Walker will wrap up our symposium by discussing the importance of all types of collaboration, from the most informal to those that reach across the globe!

At the conclusion of the student symposium will be a 60-minute roundtable networking period, so stick around to make some new connections or chat with our wonderful lineup of speakers. We are looking forward to seeing you there!

Casey Parker is a Ph.D. and Master of Public Health student at the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory at the University of Florida and vice chair of the ESA Student Affairs Committee (SAC), as well as ESA Southeastern Branch representative to the SAC. Her research focuses on insecticide resistance in mosquito vectors of human disease. She is also interested in extension and developing more effective communication tools for disseminating information about mosquitoes, especially during times of vector-borne disease crisis.

Blog post edited by Student Affairs Committee members Alix Whitener and Adekunle Adesanya

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