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Life in the Lab

I recently heard a quote attributed to Nathan Day Wilson, "It's pretty easy to do extraordinary things with people when they are exceptional to begin with." If you've ever had a chance to meet or hang out with my students, you would know why I feel like a pretty lucky prof.

My students come to the lab with a variety of life experience and educational backgrounds. At first glance, some backgrounds might seem rather unconventional routes to forest entomology: physical education, business, biochemistry, virology, insect physiology, geography... The common denominator, however, is initiative and interest - whenever acquired - in forest entomology. Once on board, I do whatever I can to help them pursue our common goals.

Photo of lab members making a pyramid.Expectations

If you are interested in joining my lab for graduate studies, you should know what I expect from my students:

  • Please give an honest effort for the duration of the program here. This is not usually a problem, and in fact, if you find your project toooo interesting, I may be pestering you to take a breath from time to time.
  • Please treat your fellow students and colleagues with respect. I do my utmost to foster a cooperative lab environment, recruiting nice people with whom you will enjoy sharing ideas and space.
  • Please balance your studies with leisure time, friends, and family: graduate school should be one of the best times of your life!

Similarly, from me you may expect:

  • A platform for a solid project. I strive to set students up with solid projects, often with the help of stellar collaborators, and provide input when and where necessary. Moreover, I try to ensure that students can pursue their own, unique research interests around the central focus of each project. If all goes well, students should be able to graduate on schedule with a thesis of which they are proud.
  • Opportunities to present your work. This takes many forms, such as posters or oral presentations at workshops and scientific meetings, and publishing in peer-reviewed journals.
  • Open-door access. Yes, we may have to make an appointment for the next day, but even when I'm really busy, I like meeting with my students waaaay more than the current paperwork under my nose.

The Department of Entomology at the University of Minnesota

I relocated the research program from a government lab based at the University of Northern British Columbia to the University of Minnesota in August 2010. The Department of Entomology is ranked in the top ten of graduate programs in insect science annually. The Twin Cities offer all the amenities of a large metropolitan city - restaurants, sports, the arts, culture - yet the Department's location on the St. Paul campus provides a small-town feel. Off campus, there are a wealth of outdoor recreational opportunities at state parks and more throughout the upper midwest.

The Twin Cities is a great place to study forest entomology. The state's diversity of ecosystems provides study opportunities from bark beetles to defoliators. Invasive insects such as the emerald ash borer and gypsy moth add both scientific and social underpinnings to urban forestry concerns. In addition, the university is surrounded by a wealth of great colleagues and cooperating agencies: the offices of the USDA Forest Service right next door, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (despite the name, they also work with invasive insects in forestry), city arborists and foresters, and more!


I welcome serious inquiries from potential students, postdocs, interns, or collaborators at any time. If you are interested in exploring opportunities, please send me an email at