Entomology Graduate Student Symposium

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Entomology Graduate Student Association

Welcome to the EGSA website!

The Entomology Graduate Student Association is open to any person affiliated with North Carolina State University who has an interest in entomological endeavors. The objectives of the association are to provide members an opportunity to organize seminars, meetings, field trips and other functions concerned with common interests of EGSA  members. Feel free to contact this organization at entomology_gsa@ncsu.edu or check out our facebook page.





Gabriel Zilnik: President

Gabriel is a PhD student from Arizona studying the evolution of insects in agricultural systems. He is broadly interested in how historical patterns in pest management shape current practices and thus impact insect pests on a broad scale. He completed a BA in Anthropology from Arizona State University with a thesis on intraguild predation and scavenging in Arizona cotton systems. He spends his free time on a myriad of creative activities.






Fallon Fowler: Vice President

Fallon graduated with a B.S. in entomology from UC Riverside, but came to NC State in Fall 2014 to work with Wes Watson. Because of her passion for dung (yes, her passion), her MS currently revolves around where and why face fly maggots move through dung. Fallon hopes that this research will improve current dung techniques, validate (or invalidate) dung-fly theories, and further answer why adult flies might select certain types of dung pats to oviposit in (lay eggs). In her free time, Fallon enjoys drawing comics, reading epic novels, and generally frolicking about in nature.





James Withrow: Treasurer

James is a MS student studying social behavior and evolution in the lab of Dr. David Tarpy. His current research is focused on royal succession in honey bees: how workers collectively select which larvae to rear as new queens. He is also interested in the selective forces driving social evolution, caste evolution in social insects, and factors affecting queen quality in honey bees. Outside of research, James is interested in philosophy, politics, classical music, food, and wine.






Jeremy Slone: Secretary

Jeremy is a Master’s student in Hannah Burrack’s lab focusing on integrated pest management (IPM) and barriers to IPM adoption in flue-cured tobacco. He received a B.S. in Biology with a concentration in Ecology and environmental studies from UNC Charlotte. While in his undergrad, he studied honeybee biology and communication under Dr. Stan Schneider. He plans to continue into a PhD at NC State working on integrating pollinator and pest management in NC blueberry agroecosystems. He enjoys the outdoors, movies, and cooking and spends much of his free time with his wife and dogs.







Kristi Backe: Outreach Coordinator

Kristi is a PhD student studying the insects that live on trees in cities. She's interested in understanding how certain features of cities - lots of hard surfaces, higher temperatures, etc. - affect plants and animals. Kristi graduated from Purdue University with a degree in Elementary Education and worked as a science teacher and curriculum developer before joining Steve Frank's lab at NCSU in 2014. When she's not out climbing trees, she enjoys showing off wild and crazy insects to elementary school students, riding her bike, and trying new restaurants.




Meredith Spence: Outreach Coordinator

Meredith is pursuing a PhD under the direction of Drs. Michael Reiskind and Rob Dunn. Her research interests include the dynamics of dog heartworm disease (a mosquito-vectored nematode), the effect of suburban development on mosquito assemblages, and the mechanics of mosquito host attraction. She holds a BS in Zoology with a minor in mathematics from NCSU, and has also worked as a veterinary technician for the past 5 years. When not working, she can be found snuggling her beloved fur-babies: Wren the lab/poodle/shar-pei mix (labradoodlepei for short), Logan the boxer, and Grim the cat.








Katharine Swoboda Bhattarai: Symposium Coordinator

Katie is a PhD student in Dr. Hannah Burrack's lab. Her research is focused on identifying factors that determine host use by Drosophila suzukii, a devastating invasive pest of soft-skinned fruit crops, in blackberry agroecosystems in western North Carolina. Her research is designed with two goals in mind, to help growers better manage risk associated with D. suzukii in the short term and to help develop an integrated pest management program for D. suzukii in the long term. Katie also worked with managed pollinators in agroecosystems as a Masters student at Utah State University, and evaluated two native, cavity-nesting bee species for their potential use as managed pollinators of legume seed crops. Ultimately, Katie would like to combine her experience working with managed pollinators and integrated pest management to help growers both produce and protect their crops.





Johanna Elsensohn: Symposium Coordinator

She is a second year Ph.D. student in Entomology, with minors in Biotechnology, and Genetic Engineering and Society. Her research focuses on the use of emerging technologies in sustainable agriculture and how scientists can communicate better with the public about those technologies. When not at school, Johanna enjoys exploring the woods, lakes and rivers across the state. 







Pete Nelson: Social Chair

Pete is a PhD student co-advised by Drs. Clyde Sorenson and Hannah Burrack. He completed his BS and MS in Entomology at Michigan State University where his research focused on the ecology and biological control of tree fruit pests. His current research is focused on assessing the impacts of grower management practices and pest control tactics on biological control agents in Nicotiana tabacum. Additionally, he is interested in plant-insect interactions especially on trichome defended plants including N. tabacum. In his free time Pete enjoys cooking and spending time outdoors.





Steve Reyna: Social Chair

Steven Reyna is a PhD student from Texas studying molecular biology of insect with Dr. Marce Lorenzen. Steven has a BS in entomology for Texas A&M University where he studied population genetics in two agriculturally import pest of row crops. After his BS he received his M.S. in Plant and Soil Science from Texas A&M University- Kingsville where he studied citrus mites in conventional and organic grapefruits. During his M.S. he received the Borlaug Fellows in Global Food Security graduate research grant, and traveled to Kenya and spent 5 months at icipe documenting citrus pests in Kenya. In his current research, Steven is evaluating if RNAi is a feasible control for the Small hive beetle, a pest that infest honey bee hives. In his spare time Steven likes to play guitar, BBQ, and hike with his wife Amanda.





Fundraising Chair: Sophia Webster

Originally from Washington DC, Sophia received her BS from Virginia Tech. Sophia is part of the first cohort of students supported by the NSF IGERT training grant on “Genetic Engineering and Society: the case of transgenic pests”. Her research is on (1) Development of killer-rescue gene drive systems in the dengue fever vector Aedes aegypti and (2) Evaluation of the reduce & replace model in Drosophila. When not in the lab, Sophia enjoys camping, hiking, half marathons, kayaking, and anything that can take her out into nature!