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How Five Entomologists Advanced Their Careers at an ESA Annual Meeting

ICE 2016 Expo Hall

“It all started at an ESA Annual Meeting … .” With Entomology 2021 on the way, five entomologists share their stories of research and career advancements sparked by interactions at past ESA Annual Meetings—plus their advice for making the most of your time at a scientific conference.

With close to 3,000 presentations and posters across dozens of symposia, the ESA Annual Meeting is always a fountain of knowledge for those who participate. You never know what new connections you might make that could lead to an exciting new research or career pursuit.

Entomology 2021 is still about 3.5 months away, but registration is open now and already beginning to fill. This year’s conference will return with a hybrid format, offering both in-person and virtual options for participation.

As we look ahead to Denver, some ESA members share their stories about how their experience at an ESA Annual Meeting changed their careers—and some advice for making the most of a scientific conference.

Ronda Hamm, Ph.D.

Ronda Hamm, Ph.D.

Ronda Hamm, Ph.D.

Leader, Global Academic Relations, Corteva Agriscience, Indianapolis, Indiana

My story is how I became an industry entomologist when I least expected it. I was at the 2007 ESA Annual Meeting and attended a symposium that was focused on outreach. That symposium included industry entomologists, which was odd to me at the time. After the symposium was over, I asked the moderator if she had time to explain the connection between industry science and outreach. That moderator was none other than our current ESA President, Michelle Smith, BCE. She graciously provided me her time and invited me to get a cup of coffee and chat. Seeing as how I was graduating in Spring 2008, I had my CVs with me and handed her one. Little did I know that one question after a symposium would lead to my career as an industry entomologist.

What value do you get from attending the ESA Annual Meeting or other scientific conferences?

Connections for both expanding my network and my scientific background.

What’s your advice to colleagues for making the most of their time at an ESA Annual Meeting?

There’s always so much going on during the annual meeting that it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Make a plan but remain flexible for things that will come up or connections that you make during the meeting. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to someone you’ve never met and spend time cultivating relationships.

Lowell “Skip” Nault, Ph.D.

Lowell "Skip" Nault, Ph.D.

Lowell “Skip” Nault, Ph.D.

Professor Emeritus, Entomology, Ohio State University, Wooster, Ohio

At the Annual Meeting I attended in 1971, we learned from a 10-minute paper given by a graduate student from the University of Massachusetts that, when aphids are disturbed, they emit repellant odors from their cornicles. This launched a several-year study in my lab where we conducted studies on the chemistry of aphid alarm pheromones and the behavioral responses of aphids and ants to these pheromones. This pioneering work on aphid alarm pheromones, and the conference encounter that got it started, is documented in an article I published, “Aphid Alarm Pheromones … and Now for the Rest of the Story,” in the Winter 2013 issue of American Entomologist.

What value do you get from attending the ESA Annual Meeting or other scientific conferences?

The most important reasons are to learn about the latest findings in my fields of research and to meet with scientists, face to face, to discuss common research interests and plan for future work, including collaborative studies. Also, it was at the Annual Meetings that I met prospective graduate students and post-docs to bring to Ohio State University to study in my lab.

What’s your advice to colleagues for making the most of their time at an ESA Annual Meeting?

Before the meeting, study the program in detail and plan your time to attend papers, posters, and symposia of greatest interest. When two oral presentations of interest are presented at the same time, find a friend so that both papers are covered, and later compare notes. This is how the work on aphid alarm pheromones was brought to our attention.

Adalberto “Beto” Angel Pérez de León, Ph.D.

Adalberto (Beto) Angel Pérez de León, Ph.D.

Adalberto (Beto) Angel Pérez de León, Ph.D.

Director, U.S. Department of Agriculture–Agricultural Research Service, San Joaquin Valley Agricultural Sciences Center, Parlier, California

Being able to speak with world-class investigators after their presentation at the ESA Annual Meeting boosted my career in entomology. Later, the ESA Annual Meeting provided the perfect medium to network, which advanced my research. For example, in 2007, after serving on the organizing committee for the joint meeting of the International Symposium on Ectoparasites of Pets and the Livestock Insect Workers Conference, Dan Strickman approached me at the ESA Annual Meeting about career opportunities with the USDA-Agricultural Research Service. By the beginning of 2009, I had joined the USDA-ARS as director of the Knipling-Bushland U.S. Livestock Insects Research Laboratory.

What value do you get from attending the ESA Annual Meeting or other scientific conferences?

Access to diverse scientific topics related to insects under one roof provides a unique opportunity to catch up with the latest entomological research. The ESA Annual Meeting provides a bridge to develop international research collaborations. I once met with a scientist from the Middle East during an ESA Annual Meeting to discuss common research interests after corresponding with a common colleague via email earlier in the same day.

What’s your advice to colleagues for making the most of their time at an ESA Annual Meeting?

Do your homework and review the ESA Annual Meeting scientific program before traveling to the venue to identify sessions of interest, which will help maximize return on investment of your attendance.

Identify speakers or colleagues also attending the ESA Annual Meeting and set up in-person meetings with those you need to visit with.

Above all, have fun attending your Section meeting and networking.

Hanayo Arimoto, Ph.D.

Hanayo Arimoto, Ph.D.

Hanayo Arimoto, Ph.D.

Lieutenant Commander, Medical Entomologist, and Department Head, Vector Control and Training, Navy Environmental and Preventive Medicine Unit 5, San Diego, California

It was at my first ESA Annual Meeting during my first year in graduate school at the University of California, Davis, where I learned about careers as a military entomologist. After noticing uniformed personnel at the conference, I fed my curiosity by attending a talk about a career in the armed forces as an entomologist. The presenter talked about how you can have a rewarding career as a scientist while safeguarding our forces against vector-borne diseases, through applied vector management, research, teaching, global health engagement. Prior to this presentation, I never thought my profession and interest could be employed to protect our servicemen and women.

What value do you get from attending the ESA Annual Meeting or other scientific conferences?

The ESA Annual Meeting is a great place to learn about the latest research and make meaningful connections with scientists who share research interests. However, the top reason I find value in attending the Annual Meeting is that it’s a chance for me to sample new entomological areas and develop new professional relationships. Personally, I find this experience brings fresh perspective to research ideas and even open doors to new career paths.

What’s your advice to colleagues for making the most of their time at an ESA Annual Meeting?

My advice is, if you have time to attend a presentation or a poster session outside of your wheelhouse, do it, and challenge yourself to ask the presenter one question. You never know where that conversation will lead to!

John Aigner, Ph.D.

John Aigner, Ph.D.

John Aigner, Ph.D.

Technical Services Manager, Pacific Northwest, UPL NA, Boise, Idaho

In 2012, I presented a poster at the ESA Annual Meeting titled, “Temperature extremes of the brown marmorated stink bug, Halyomorpha halys.” I was approached by a student from the University of Minnesota, Theresa Cira, who was working on a similar project, but with slightly different methods. After exchanging information, we started collaborating on the project and merged our data from two geographies that resulted in us co-authoring a paper in Environmental Entomology that was a part of each of our graduate programs. I love that this was a cross-institutional collaborative project that blossomed from a chance meeting in Knoxville.

What value do you get from attending the ESA Annual Meeting or other scientific conferences?

First, I love that I have the opportunity to see new research that has been brought forward from new perspectives. The ESA Annual Meeting is an ever-evolving landscape of diversity that brings worldwide experiences, conditions, and educations together in one space. Being exposed to that kind of academic melting pot is invigorating and motivating. Second, I love gathering with friends, old and new. It’s an opportunity to share our experiences in life and science in both formal and informal settings. I am able to take those conversations and make myself a better researcher and person.

What’s your advice to colleagues for making the most of their time at an ESA Annual Meeting?

I think it’s important to broaden your knowledge base and take a step back to see the big picture. Is there a better place to do that than an ESA Meeting? We are all budding or professional entomologists there, so take the opportunity to learn something new or meet a new group of people. It may lead to new research ideas or partnerships, funding, employment opportunities, or—best of all—friendships.

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Entomology 2021

Entomology 2021, October 31–November 3, In-Person + Virtual, Denver, Colorado

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