ESA Names 2023 Professional and Student Award Honorees

Annapolis, MD; August 23, 2023—The Entomological Society of America congratulates the recipients of its 2023 awards. ESA Awards & Honors recognize scientists, educators, and students who have distinguished themselves through their contributions to entomology. Award honorees will be showcased during Entomology 2023, November 5-8, in National Harbor, Maryland.

Earlier this year, ESA also named the entomologists receiving the following honors:

The following individuals are recipients of the 2023 ESA professional, certification, early career professional, and student awards.

Professional Awards

Award for Excellence in Integrated Pest Management

This award, which is sponsored by Syngenta Crop Protection, recognizes outstanding contributions that have a direct relation to integrated pest management (IPM).

John Palumbo
University of Arizona

Dr. John C. Palumbo is an extension specialist, distinguished outreach professor, and the endowed chair in integrated pest management in the Department of Entomology at the University of Arizona. Palumbo  is an Arizona native and received his B.S. and M.S. degrees in entomology from the University of Arizona and a Ph.D. degree in entomology from Oklahoma State University. He joined the department in 1990 as a faculty member at the Yuma Agricultural Center in Yuma, Arizona, where he has developed an internationally recognized extension and research program in IPM for desert vegetable and melon crops. He has previously served as the state IPM coordinator and state liaison to the IR-4 Program.

His translational research and outreach programs provide Arizona and California growers with innovative insect management solutions that emphasize the development of environmentally sound IPM tactics that reduce grower reliance on broadly toxic pesticides without sacrificing yield, quality, and profitability. For the past 33 years, he and his colleagues have worked collaboratively to develop pest management alternatives and grower educational programs for several insect species, including Bemisia tabaci, Bagrada hilaris, Plutella xylostella, and Frankliniella occidentalis. These efforts have resulted in hundreds of referred journal articles, book chapters, and extension publications.

He has delivered more than 700 presentations to growers, consultants, and industry stakeholders during his tenure on a wide range of topics on vegetable pest management, scouting, reduced risk insecticides, and resistance management. His formal teaching responsibilities include teaching an undergraduate course, Insect Pest Management in Desert Cropping Systems.

Distinguished Achievement Award in Extension

This annual award recognizes outstanding contributions to extension entomology.

Rufus Isaacs
Michigan State University

Dr. Rufus Isaacs is a professor and extension specialist in the Department of Entomology at Michigan State University (MSU). He holds a Ph.D. from Imperial College, University of London, and has been on the faculty at MSU for 24 years. His program develops management tools for economically important insects in berry crops, with a focus on blueberries and grapes in Michigan. Currently, this includes research on spotted wing Drosophila and its natural enemies, using phenology prediction to improve control of grape berry moth, and optimizing pollination of highbush blueberries.

His team's pollinator research has recently been exploring the interactions of pest management intensity and landscape composition for exposure and risk of agrochemicals to bees in blueberry farms. In collaboration with farmers, extension educators, and colleagues across the United States, his group is also developing educational resources to help land owners make informed decisions about their management of pests and pollinators. Isaacs currently teaches two graduate seminar classes, one on IPM and the other on pollinator ecology and management.

Distinguished Achievement Award in Teaching

This award is presented annually to the member of the Society deemed to be the most outstanding teacher of the year.

Rebecca Baldwin
University of Florida

Dr. Rebecca Baldwin, BCE, received her B.S. and M.S. degrees from the University of Louisiana Monroe and her Ph.D. from the University of Florida. She is an associate professor and undergraduate coordinator for the University of Florida Entomology and Nematology Department. Her interest in insects began as a child through 4-H, and she shares her love of entomology by directing the University of Florida Entomology Education and Outreach Program, by mentoring and advising both graduate and undergraduate students, and by teaching general education and introductory courses.

Baldwin promotes STEM disciplines to youth by hosting a summer Bug Camp and an annual 4-H Insectathon, and by providing workshops and laboratory tours to first-generation, low-income, special needs, and underrepresented youth. Her research program focuses on integrated pest management of urban pests. Outside of the classroom, Baldwin provides CEU training for teachers as well as many local, state, and national pest management and entomological associations.

Nan-Yao Su Award for Innovation and Creativity in Entomology

Each year this award is given to an ESA member who is able to demonstrate through his or her projects or accomplishments an ability to identify problems and develop creative, alternative solutions that significantly impact entomology.

Mary Gardiner
Ohio State University

Dr. Mary M. Gardiner is a professor in the Department of Entomology at the Ohio State University (OSU) and co-director of the OSU Environmental Science Graduate Program. Her research focuses on the ecology and conservation value of urban greenspace, with a focus on vacant land.

Vacant land is common within legacy cities, which are characterized by long-term economic disinvestment and shrinking populations. Although vacant land is viewed as blight, it represents an opportunity to reclaim greenspace in the built environment. For instance, vacant land provides the bulk of tree-derived ecosystem services to lower-income neighborhoods, including atmospheric pollutant removal, cooling, and stormwater infiltration. Further, vacant land can be managed to aid urban arthropod conservation. The Gardiner Lab found that 30 percent of Ohio's bee fauna forage within these habitats.

The NSF-funded Cleveland Pocket Prairie Project fueled much of this work by establishing a network of 64 vacant lots across the city of Cleveland, Ohio. Over many years, the environmental benefits derived from vacant land were compared among lots containing urban spontaneous vegetation, flowering lawns, or mixtures of native Ohio wildflowers and grasses.

The Gardiner Lab has published 72 peer-reviewed publications and been awarded $8.1 million in grant support, with current funding from NSF, USDA, and the MITRE Foundation. Gardiner is also a state specialist in extension and is active in the Ohio Master Gardener Volunteer Program. She has advised 23 graduate students and postdocs and teaches graduate courses in presentation skills and grant writing.

Distinguished Achievement Award in the Promotion of Diversity and Inclusion in the Field of Entomology

This award honors a member or member's team for creating and promoting a diverse and welcoming environment for entomologists in their university, place of employment, or community.

Laura Lavine
Washington State University

Dr. Laura Lavine is professor and chair of the Washington State University (WSU) Department of Entomology. Lavine received her Ph.D. in entomology at the University of Kentucky and was a USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture postdoctoral fellow at the University of Wisconsin—Madison in entomology. Her research program on the evolution of adaptation has focused on understanding the mechanisms underlying an organism's ability to rapidly adjust to its environment. Her research has been funded by the NSF and USDA as well as commodity commissions, and she has published her work in diverse journals such as Nature, Science, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. Lavine has dedicated her career as a professor, scholar, and administrator to creating a climate and a culture that encourages equity and diversity of thought, competence, and connection. Her leadership style combines critical and evidence-based approaches while placing high value on relationships, vision, curiosity, and openness.

While at WSU, Lavine has held many formal and informal leadership roles, nationally, regionally, and within WSU. A few highlights include associate director of the WSU College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences Agricultural Research Center; interim director of ADVANCE at WSU; president of the WSU Association for Faculty Women; chair of the WSU Conflict of Interest Committee; chair of the Experiment Station Committee on Policy, Science, and Technology; and member of the WSU Teaching Academy.

Science Communication Award

This award honors impactful and innovative communication projects or programs that engage diverse public audiences with entomology-related scientific information.

Pollinator Education Toolkit
Elaine Evans, University of Minnesota

The University of Minnesota Pollinator Education Toolkit was produced through collaboration between pollinator researchers, educators, and a visual communication specialist.

Dr. Elaine Evans is a University of Minnesota (UMN) extension educator and researcher working on pollinator education and research relating to bee conservation. After completing M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in entomology at the University of Minnesota, Evans has worked to monitor pollinators, improve the impact of pollinator habitat, raise awareness of the importance of pollinators, provide action steps for pollinator conservation, and connect people and pollinators.

Anne Turnham designs and creates graphic and digital communications and educational materials as the director of visual communications for the University of Minnesota Bee Lab. She loves collaborating with scientists, beekeepers, and pollinator educators to create new content for diverse audiences.

Katie-Lyn Bunney is an education coordinator with Monarch Joint Venture, where she has 10 years of training teachers and the general public on monarch butterfly and pollinator ecology, biology, citizen science, and habitat, keeping up to date with recent data trends and information.

Sarah Foltz Jordan's work as a senior pollinator conservation biologist with the Xerces Society focuses on interpreting and communicating the best available science on pollinator conservation to diverse audiences, including farmers, land managers, state and local government agencies, and the general public. She regularly designs and delivers conference presentations, workshops, field days, webinars, and other trainings on native bees, habitat installation methods, and insect identification.

Extensión en Español Blog
Anahí Espíndola and Macarena Farcuh, University of Maryland

Although the Maryland Spanish-speaking population is large (about 12 percent of the state population—approximately 750,000 people—and more than 20 percent of the most populous counties) and one of the largest working forces in the green industry and agriculture, there are locally very few high-quality resources in Spanish to serve them. To provide access to high-quality materials in Spanish on topics related to nature, agriculture, fruit production, landscaping, pest control, etc., in 2021 Drs. Anahí Espíndola (left) and Macarena Farcuh (right) decided to use their expertise, combined with their cultural and linguistic backgrounds, and launched the blog "Extensión en Español."

The blog is fully in Spanish, visually engaging, and easy to navigate. Espíndola and Farcuh contribute monthly with posts related to their areas of expertise, and coordinate with experts and – when needed – translators to contribute other topics. Associated with it, the blog has a social media presence (@ExtensionEspUMD on Twitter and Facebook), which broadens its audience. The blog has published more than 100 posts since its creation, offering varied expert information that is inclusive, culturally relevant, accessible, and understandable to its target population. The blog currently reaches more than 9,000 monthly readers and has become a prime extension resource in Spanish for the state and beyond.

ESA Certification Corporation Awards

ACE Professional Award

This award recognizes superior contributions of an Associate Certified Entomologist in the field of structural pest management.

Randy McCarty
ABC Home & Commercial Services

Randy McCarty is a graduate from Texas State University. He joined ABC Home & Commercial Services in 1982 as a pest technician and has moved through the ranks as a salesperson, branch manager, and education and training director, and currently serves as director of safety. McCarty is responsible for the health and safety of approximately 1,000+ employees.

He has held a Certified Applicators license in Texas, Florida, and Oklahoma. He is a member of ESA, American Society of Safety Professionals, National Safety Council, National Pest Management Association, and Texas Pest Control Association. He currently serves on the Structural Pest Control Advisory Committee for the Texas Department of Agriculture, where he is a voice for pest control companies throughout Texas.

Some of his many accomplishments include assisting in the development of pest management programs and agreements not just for ABC but for several pest management companies, as well as developing quality assurance and safety programs. He has created and assisted in the development of several training programs for the pest industry as well as implemented and created service protocols, safety, and educational and training videos for the industry. McCarty has been a spokesperson for organizations such as U.S. Naval Sea Cadets and South Texas Blood Bank, and has volunteered for several nonprofit organizations.

He believes in paying it forward to the hundreds of individuals he has mentored over the past 40 years in the pest industry by sharing the knowledge and skills he has gained as an Associate Certified Entomologist, A.C.E.

Early Career Professional (ECP) Awards

Henry and Sylvia Richardson Research Grant

This grant provides research funds to postdoctoral ESA members who have at least one year of promising work experience, are undertaking research in selected areas, and have demonstrated a high level of scholarship.

Enakshi Ghosh
Colorado State University

Dr. Enakshi Ghosh is a Fulbright postdoctoral researcher at Colorado State University, specializing in understanding the intricate ecological interactions between plants, herbivorous insects, and their natural enemies. Her research encompasses several key aspects, including the investigation of plants' early herbivore defenses to advance biological control programs. She also focuses on integrating eco-immunology into plant protection strategies to enhance the success of biocontrol agents.

Additionally, Ghosh explores the impact of human-mediated processes, such as invasion and domestication, on the ecology and evolution of plant-insect interactions. Ghosh holds a Ph.D. in insect ecology and biological control from India. Her expertise and contributions to the field have led to her appointment as an associate editor for the Journal of Insect Science. Furthermore, she has been recognized as a Young Science Leader in India.

Early Career Innovation Award

This award honors young professionals working within the field of entomology who have demonstrated innovation through contributions within any area of specialization (research, teaching, extension, product development, public service, etc.).

Zachary DeVries
University of Kentucky

Dr. Zachary DeVries is an assistant professor of urban entomology at the University of Kentucky. He completed his B.S. in zoology and M.S. in entomology at Auburn University (with Dr. Art Appel) and his Ph.D. and postdoctoral training in entomology at North Carolina State University (with Dr. Coby Schal).  His work encompasses three main goals: (1) understanding how urban/indoor pests function and behave, (2) utilizing this information to improve indoor integrated pest management strategies, and (3) improving human health and quality of life through pest management.

In his current research/extension position, he conducts cutting-edge activities to achieve these goals, while also training students and educating the public on safe and effective pest management strategies. DeVries also works hard to serve the pest management industry through training and education events, including serving as the educational director for the University of Kentucky Pest Control Short Course, a pest control training program that annually draws attendees from Kentucky and surrounding states.

Through his research and extension efforts, he strives to provide scientifically backed evidence to support the most effective, affordable, and sustainable pest management strategies, facilitating proper pest control for everyone.

ECP Extension, Outreach, and Engagement Award

This award is given to a student transition or early professional who excels in entomological extension.

Dalton Ludwick
Texas A&M University

Dr. Dalton Ludwick attended the University of Missouri—Columbia as a first-generation college student. There, he pursued and attained a bachelor's degree in plant sciences, with an emphasis in plant protection, in 2014. Dalton then sought a Ph.D. in plant, insect, and microbial sciences at the University of Missouri—Columbia under the guidance of Drs. Deborah Finke and Bruce Hibbard. His doctoral research focused on Bt resistance in western corn rootworm. After graduating in May 2018, Dalton went on to a postdoctoral associate position with the USDA-ARS in West Virginia, where he studied invasive species, biological control, and behavioral ecology in orchard agroecosystems.

Dalton began as an assistant professor and extension entomologist with the Department of Entomology at Texas A&M University in June 2020. His primary role now is to interact with stakeholders to address issues that impact productivity in row crops, forages and pasture, and stored grain, primarily in the Coastal Bend of Texas. In tandem with his extension efforts, Dalton's lab studies management practices to identify problems and provide solutions through collaborative research with entomologists around the United States.

Dalton currently serves as an associate editor for the Journal of Economic Entomology and the Southwestern Branch's representative to the Early Career Professional Committee and also is chair of the NC246 Multistate Research Project, Ecology, and Management of Arthropods in Corn. He was awarded the 2022 Excellence in Early Career Award by the Southwestern Branch.

ECP Research Award

This award recognizes a student transition or early professional who has made outstanding research contributions to the field of entomology.

Isobel Ronai
Harvard University/HHMI

Dr. Isobel Ronai is a Life Sciences Research Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) and a former American Australian Association Scholar in the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University. Her research focuses on ticks and tick-borne diseases of medical and veterinary importance. Ronai is currently investigating the genetics of the blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis), the vector species implicated in the highest number of disease cases in the United States, with the ultimate aim of developing novel tick control strategies that will reduce tick-borne disease risk.

Previously, Ronai held an Endeavour Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at Columbia University, where she led research projects on the genetics and behavior of ticks. Her project on the aversion behavior of the invasive Asian longhorned tick (Haemaphysalis longicornis) was awarded the Best Paper Published in the journal Medical and Veterinary Entomology from 2020 and 2021. Ronai completed her Ph.D. in genetics and entomology at The University of Sydney (Australia). Her Ph.D. research was recognized with awards such as ESA's John Henry Comstock Award (International Branch) and the University of Sydney's Jabez King Heydon Memorial Prize for the most meritorious biological sciences Ph.D. thesis.

To raise awareness about the threat of tick-borne diseases in the United States, Ronai collaborates with key stakeholders, such as government legislators and Harvard Medical School clinicians. Ronai has served in ESA leadership roles since 2016 and is currently the twice-elected Early Career Professionals representative on the International Branch Governing Board.

ECP Teaching and Mentoring Award

This award is given to a student transition or early professional who excels in entomological education.

Kathryn Weglarz
Westfield State University

Dr. Kathryn Weglarz is an assistant professor in the Biology Department at Westfield State University (WSU). She received her B.S. in zoology from Colorado State University, her M.S. in entomology from University of Delaware, and her Ph.D. in biology at Utah State University (USU) under the advisement of Dr. Carol von Dohlen. She served as postdoctoral scholar at USU in a joint project with the USDA Forest Service.

Since joining the faculty at WSU in 2020, Weglarz has focused on educational equity in the science classroom. She ensures that all undergraduates who take Introductory Biology II have a chance to develop their scientific identity by converting the course to an entomological collections-focused course-based undergraduate research experience (CURE). This CURE was developed as part of the Biological Collection in Ecology and Evolution Network (BCEENET) and utilizes digitized natural history collection data so that it is accessible to any student with access to a computer and the internet. This has helped Weglarz ensure students can participate in lab regardless of barriers that may prevent students from physically attending.

As part of her work with BCEENET, she is the principal investigator on an NSF grant that is assessing the impacts of BCEENET CUREs and offers students who complete the CUREs the opportunity to attend a national conference to present their research.

Student Awards

Alate Award

This grant honors students currently enrolled at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other Minority-Serving Institutions (MSI), to promote interest in entomology and to stimulate interest in attending the ESA Annual Meeting.

Keiana Briscoe
Central State University

Keiana Briscoe is an undergraduate student researcher in the Department of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Central State University. She is pursuing her bachelor's degree in general biology with concentrations in sustainable agriculture and chemistry. She matriculated in the fall of 2022 and is a rising junior.

She began working at her university's bee lab in November 2022 under the guidance of Dr. Hongmei Li-Byarlay. Her research is focused on the effects of pest management on the oxidative stress levels of managed and feral pollinators from agroecological landscapes. She has presented her work at the ESA-IB Virtual Symposium, Central State University's Scholarly Activities Day, and Penn State's Conference on Pollinator Biology, Health, and Policy.

During her time at Central State University, Briscoe has been able to work with chemistry professor Dr. Natosha L. Finley on the evaluation of agricultural soils using low-field nuclear magnetic resonance. Her work with Finley provided her the opportunity to present at the 2023 Dayton Chapter American Chemical Society Meeting. While exploring the fields of entomology and chemistry, she has developed her research areas of interest, which include ecology and molecular biology. More specifically, she is interested in how human intervention affects species on the molecular level.

Genesis Chong
University of California Riverside

Genesis Chong is a first-generation Ph.D. student under the direction of Dr. Boris Baer in the Department of Entomology at the University of California Riverside (UCR). Supported by a prestigious fellowship from SENACYT, Chong's research focuses on the survival of honeybee immune defense against the Varroa destructor mite, a parasitic mite that poses a significant threat to honeybee colonies worldwide. Survival honeybees exhibit resilient behavior when infested with Varroa mites, making them an important subject of study.

Her research topic is of utmost importance due to the severe consequences of Varroa infestations on honeybee health and the global impact on pollination services. She seeks to unravel the underlying mechanisms of the impact of the honeybees' immune response on the mite population. Her main objective is to identify defense traits that survival bees use to defend themselves against the Varroa mite to create a molecular breeding program focusing on honeybee health. Chong is committed to the beekeeping community and wants to contribute in the field by finding sustainable ways to treat honeybees.

Chong received her B.S. in biotechnology at the Latin University of Panama. Her thesis work was centered at the hygienic strategies that leaf cutter ants use to protect their cultivar against funguses. Her thesis work led her to work in INDICASAT and STRI, two prestigious research institutions with the aim of understanding the immune mechanisms of the leaf cutter ants, to find a biocontrol for them as an agricultural pest. Moreover, she found her passion in understanding immunity in host-parasite interactions, leading her to pursue research in honeybee health.

​​At UCR, she is an active member of the Entomology Graduate Student Organization, and she is the student representative for the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. Chong has mentored multiple students throughout her academic career, and she has been part of the Women in Science mentoring program. She has also mentored minority students and volunteered in several outreach events to educate beekeepers and Spanish-speaking communities, the general public, elementary and high schools, and livestock handlers on the importance of honeybee research.

The Larry Larson Graduate Student Award for Leadership in Applied Entomology

This ESA award, sponsored by Corteva, recognizes Dr. Larry Larson's role as a leader and pioneer in insect management and carries that legacy to the next generation of leaders in applied entomology.

Kushal Naharki
West Virginia University

Kushal Naharki is a graduate research assistant at West Virginia University under the supervision of Dr. Yong-Lak Park. He received his B.S. degree in agriculture from Tribhuvan University, Lamjung, Nepal. His areas of research interest include insect ecology, precision agriculture, integrated pest management, and plant insect interaction. His graduate research work focuses on the detection of tree of heaven, a major host plant of the spotted lanternfly using drones equipped with optical sensors and risk assessment of this invasive pest in West Virginia. He is fascinated by research on monitoring and managing invasive insects in agricultural and forest ecosystems by using drones and remote sensing.

Naharki has actively engaged in outreach and extension activities by organizing awareness campaigns, writing articles, and conducting insect education programs for the general public. He strives to contribute to outreach and extension by providing information about insect pests: insect detection and management to growers, stakeholders, and the public. He is also a coauthor of open educational resources for entomology developed at West Virginia University. Along with his outstanding academic achievements, he has presented his research findings at conferences and published research both as author and co-author. He has won several international awards, conference awards, and scholarships. 

In addition, Naharki has experience in teaching, leading youth organizations, facilitating webinars, and helping farmers as an extension officer. He has demonstrated strong leadership skills through his involvement in professional societies and committees. He is currently serving as an international advisory board member for the Feed for Future Horticulture Innovation Lab.

Lillian and Alex Feir Graduate Student Travel Award in Insect Physiology, Biochemistry, or Molecular Biology

The purpose of this ESA award is to encourage graduate students working with insects or other arthropods in the broad areas of physiology, biochemistry, and molecular biology to affiliate with ESA's Integrative Physiological and Molecular Insect Systems Section and to attend the ESA Annual Meeting.

Heena Puri
Impetus Ag

Heena Puri is originally from Punjab, India. She received her B.S. in agriculture and M.S. in entomology from Punjab Agricultural University, India. She pursued her Ph.D. in entomology from University of Nebraska—Lincoln (UNL) in spring 2023 under the supervision of Dr. Joe Louis. Her dissertation focused on deciphering the mechanisms of resistance underlying sorghum-sugarcane aphid interactions. Her projects involved the utilization of different approaches like transcriptomics, lipidomics, molecular biology, phytohormonal studies, and electrophysiological studies to understand the plant defense mechanisms. She published seven peer-reviewed articles and worked on different collaborative projects that are expected to yield additional publications.

Puri enthusiastically contributed to departmental activities and outreach events. She served as president of the Entomology Graduate Student Association at UNL and also served on different committees such as the Welcoming Committee, Social Committee, and Graduate Student Committee at the departmental and university level. Puri is an active member of ESA. She has participated in the Entomology Games, Student Debates, PACT, and EntoMentos; served as a moderator; co-organized workshops; regularly presented her research work; and volunteered during every ESA meeting. During her graduate program, she did her internship with Syngenta and worked on early-stage products against diversity of insects.

Currently, she is working as an insect testing scientist at Impetus Ag, St. Louis, working on development of new-generation biopesticides. Puri has also received a graduate student scholarship and the Kenneth and Barbara Starks Plant Resistance to Insects Graduate Student Award by ESA. She is honored to receive this award and couldn't be more grateful to the Physiology, Biochemistry, & Toxicology Section and ESA for the recognition.

Student Activity Award

Sponsored by Bayer, this award will be presented annually to recognize a student for outstanding contributions to the Society, their academic department, and the community, while still achieving academic excellence.

Hannah Quellhorst
Kansas State University

Dr. Hannah Quellhorst is originally from Lebanon, Indiana, and completed B.S. and M.S. degrees in entomology at Purdue University. She recently completed her Ph.D. in entomology at Kansas State University, and was co-advised by Drs. Rob Morrison (USDA-ARS) and Kun-Yan Zhu (KSU). Her research focused on improving postharvest integrated pest management of maize, with special focus on invasive species. Her research interests include global food security, women empowerment, insect biochemistry and physiology, and insect behavior.

She is currently a postdoctoral researcher at Kansas State University, working on a multi-institutional project to identify important semiochemicals for management of red sunflower weevil. She has maintained a high level of productivity, including publishing 12 peer-reviewed papers, and has given more than 60 presentations. She is also highly involved in service for her professional homes and ESA—for example, serving as the 2021 NCB SAC chair, then on the national SAC, and now as an ESA Science Policy Fellow. In the future, she hopes to focus on humanitarian science through a career in entomology. Ultimately, she hopes to apply her skills to fight world hunger.

John Henry Comstock Award

These six awards are given to one graduate student from each ESA Branch to promote interest in entomology and to stimulate interest in attending the ESA Annual Meeting.

Jessica Awad
State Museum of Natural History Stuttgart

Jessica (Jess) Awad is a researcher at the State Museum of Natural History Stuttgart, where she recently completed her Ph.D. under the mentorship of Prof. Dr. Lars Krogmann and Dr. Elijah Talamas in cooperation with the University of Hohenheim. As part of the German Barcode of Life III: Dark Taxa project, she is untangling the Gordian knot of central European Platygastrinae, enabling more effective biodiversity monitoring and insect decline research. Her general research interests include the evolution and ecology of gall midge parasitoids, the development of diagnostic resources for agricultural and ecological research, and improving the digitization of historical insect and gall specimens.

Awad holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in entomology from the University of Florida. During her time as a student with ESA, she competed successfully in the Student 10-Minute Paper and Photo Salon competitions, captained the 2019 championship University of Florida Linnaean Games team, received a SysEB Student Research Travel Award, and served on the Insect Biodiversity Task Force and the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. In addition to her ESA activities, she worked to make parasitoid research more widely accessible through online events such as Hymathon and the WaspID Course, mentored two M.S. students from the University of Hohenheim, and participated in public outreach in both Germany and the United States.

Dowen Jocson
Washington State University

Dowen Jocson is a recent graduate of Washington State University (WSU). Jocson was advised by Dr. David Crowder and Dr. Elizabeth Beers. She received her M.S. degree in biology from Saint Louis University in 2017, looking at the effects of temperature on the vibrational mating songs of a treehopper species. Her doctoral research is focused on the vibrational communication of pear psylla and the evaluation of using vibrations or acoustics in a mating disruption strategy for controlling pear psylla populations. Her research will be the first to describe Cacopsylla pyricola's vibrational mating signals of both males and females of the species. Her research, both her master's thesis and Ph.D. dissertation, has been featured in the media, including Good Fruit Grower, Capital Press, Scientific American, and St. Louis Public Radio.

She was a USDA NIFA Predoctoral Fellow, an ESA Science Policy Fellow, and an ARCS Foundation Fellow. Dowen also organized the first-ever Entomolympics during the 2022 PB-ESA in Santa Rosa, where she helped put together the student activities, employment fair, and a symposium. The WSU Department of Entomology recognized her as the 2022 Outstanding Ph.D. Student of the Year, and she was the college's three-minute thesis winner in 2020. During her time as a graduate student, she served as president of the Entomology Graduate Student Association in 2020 and 2021 and vice president in 2022, and she was a founding member of the department's DEI Committee. Jocson currently works as a pre-license pesticide safety educator at WSU.

Alex Orfinger
Dalton State College

Dr. Alex Orfinger is currently an assistant professor of biology in the Department of Life Science at Dalton State College in Dalton, Georgia. Originally from Ormond Beach, Florida, Orfinger completed his Ph.D. in entomology and nematology at the University of Florida. Previously, he received his bachelor of science in biology with honors, followed by his master of science in biology, from the University of Central Florida. Orfinger has broad scientific interests and experience in natural history, taxonomy, ecology, evolutionary biology, and invasion biology of a wide range of taxa, but especially aquatic insects and fishes, as well as a deep passion for science education.

Reflective of his broad interests, Orfinger has more than 30 peer-reviewed publications, including more than 20 first- or sole-authored papers, spanning caddisflies, mayflies, flies, jumping bristletails, reptiles, fishes, mollusks, and even plants across several continents. Though his scientific background is varied, Orfinger's greatest expertise lies in caddisfly (Trichoptera) systematics and aquatic entomology in general, in which he uses a variety of molecular, morphological, and ecological methods to study some fascinating freshwater animals. Outside of the classroom and lab, you'll typically find Orfinger watching or playing soccer, hiking, traveling, and/or spending time with his wife and pups.

Hannah Quellhorst
Kansas State University

Dr. Hannah Quellhorst is originally from Lebanon, Indiana, and completed B.S. and M.S. degrees in entomology at Purdue University. She recently completed her Ph.D. in entomology at Kansas State University, and was co-advised by Drs. Rob Morrison (USDA-ARS) and Kun-Yan Zhu (KSU). Her research focused on improving postharvest integrated pest management of maize with special focus on invasive species. Her research interests include global food security, women empowerment, insect biochemistry and physiology, and insect behavior.

She is currently a postdoctoral researcher at Kansas State University, working on a multi-institutional project to identify important semiochemicals for management of red sunflower weevil. She has maintained a high level of productivity, including publishing 12 peer-reviewed papers, and has given more than 60 presentations. She is also highly involved in service for her professional homes and ESA—for example, serving as the 2021 NCB SAC chair, then on the national SAC, and now as an ESA Science Policy Fellow. In the future, she hopes to focus on humanitarian science through a career in entomology. Ultimately, she hopes to apply her skills to fight world hunger.

Morgan Thompson
Texas A&M University

Morgan Thompson is a Ph.D. candidate in entomology under the supervision of Dr. Anjel Helms at Texas A&M University. She previously completed her M.S. in entomology with Dr. William Lamp at the University of Maryland, and earned a B.S. in biology from The College of William and Mary. She has worked to build her expertise in chemical ecology, plant-insect-microbe interactions, plant physiology, and plant defense against insect herbivory.

Her doctoral research centers on identifying local and systemic plant defense responses to above- and below-ground herbivory and determining how these responses shape plant interactions with other members of their ecological communities. Throughout her graduate career, Thompson has received numerous research grants, fellowships, and awards for outstanding accomplishments, as well as recognition for her strong commitment to excellence in mentorship and promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion. Moving forward, her ambition is to lead a research group with the ultimate goal of developing sustainable pest management strategies that are less reliant on conventional pesticides.

Hannah Tiffin
Penn State University

Dr. Hannah Tiffin, who has 10 years of experience in wildlife disease research, frequently at the intersection of human-animal health, is passionate about reducing the burden of disease through One Health approaches. Currently a postdoctoral scholar at Penn State University in the Veterinary Entomology Lab, she is investigating bed bugs in poultry systems and part of an international collaboration to assess cacao farmer vector-borne disease risk. In her previous postdoctoral position at USDA-ARS, she focused on tick control and tick-host behavior on wild mice. Tiffin earned her Ph.D. in entomology at Penn State under the direction of Dr. Erika Machingter. Her research on sarcoptic mange and ticks in wildlife species contributed to changes to state and regional mange management decisions in black bear populations.

As part of PSU's Vector-Borne Disease (VBD) Extension Team, Tiffin co-developed workshops and "tick talks" on integrated vector management. In her current position, she contributes to the VBD and Poultry Extension teams as well. Tiffin earned a M.S. in environmental toxicology from Texas Tech in the Vector-Borne Zoonoses and Bioterrorism Response Labs, fueling her interest in zoonotic and VBD research at the intersection of human and wildlife health. A Pennsylvania native (#shiphappens), she enjoyed work as a GIS specialist at the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natual Resources before graduate studies. Tiffin is particularly passionate about accessible science, engaging with the public through extension talks, "Science on Tap," and community science. When not "science-ing," Tiffin loves hiking with her family – running after their vizsla, Hunter, with their rescue, Shadow, stuck to her side.


CONTACT: Joe Rominiecki,, 301-731-4535 x3009

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