Department of Entomology Newsletter | Spring/Summer 2023

bug bites logo - maroon BUG yellow BITES

Message from Department Head, Sujaya Rao

Sujaya Rao


In Spring 2023, after the third snowiest winter on record in the Twin Cities, and a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic, we were excited to resume two major in-person events - Celebrate Entomology 2023, and The Great Minnsect Show (which drew over 900 attendees!). Meanwhile, we connected virtually with alumni and friends during the spring UMN Ento Alumni Social.  We also welcomed a new Assistant Professor, while faculty, staff and students were recognized with a range of awards during the joint North Central and South Western ESA 2023, the Borealis Night of Excellence, CFANS College Assembly, and the Entomology Department Awards Ceremony. Spring 2023 was a semester packed with achievements, celebrations, and social gatherings!

Don’t miss our next event, the joint retirement celebration for Prof. Tim Kurtti and Prof. Uli Munderloh and mark your calendar for other events planned later this year. Details below under ‘Upcoming Events’.  We’d love to stay in touch!

Happy Summer!



Carol Anelli - greay long hair in a pony tail, glasses, wearing a pink Ohio State sweatshirt

Celebrate Entomology, our showcase event, featured the Richards-Hodson Endowed lecture, sponsored by the late Dr. Sping Lin, an alum (MS, 1950: PhD, 1952). This year’s lecture was presented by Dr. Carol Anelli, ESA Fellow and Professor at The Ohio State University, who is well-known for her outstanding teaching and her contributions to the history of entomology.  In her engaging talk ‘Captivated by insects!  Darwin, Research, and Education Abroad’, Carol shared her studies on Darwin and his work, and her exciting education abroad course to London and Cambridge that explores ‘Evolution in Darwin’s World and Ours’. It was a course in graduate school that peaked her interest in the history of entomology and led to her research on Benjamin Walsh, a 19th century entomologist and correspondent of Charles Darwin.  Prof. Anelli left us with a strong desire to join her next study abroad trip!

Celebrate Entomology also included a poster session that showcased research by graduate and undergraduate students, the Hodson Graduate Alumni Seminar, and presentation of department awards to graduates, undergraduates, faculty and staff.

The Hodson Graduate Alumni Award, named in honor of Dr. Alexander Hodson, Department Head from 1960-1974, recognizes and honors outstanding alumni of the Department of Entomology. Dr. Robert Suranyi, Director of Business Development at MGK who was selected for the 2020 Hodson Graduate Alumni Award presented an inspiring talk entitled ‘Entomology does not have an “I” in it’ which enticed, besides the UMN entomology community, cheerleading youth from his neighborhood, and an alumna from a neighboring state!

Photos from Celebrate Entomology 2023 - students around a poster, speaker giving a presentation, students and guest accepting award certificates

The Great Minnsect Show was held on Earth Day, April 22. Drawing in over 900 attendees from far and wide, the Cargill building was packed the entire day! The rooms buzzed with activities - insect petting, insect games and crafts, edible insects, maggot races, maggot art, and more!  Entomologists from local agencies shared the many ways insects touch our lives. Emeriti Roger Moon, Mark Ascerno, Jeff Hahn, and alumna Val Cervenka hosted an ‘Ask an Expert!’ booth for answering insect questions.

Lots of bugs and insect knowledge shared plus hundreds of kids and parents resulted in a day full of enjoyment! The Great Minnsect Show was covered by several local media networks including Fox9, KARE11, and the Star Tribune! Agency reps hosting tables expressed deep appreciation for being included and planned to be back while several more signed on to participate next year. One commented that this was the best outreach event they had participated in! Many offered suggestions for next year's event - evidence of a sense of belonging and building of a community!

Thank you, all participants and attendees!

Stay tuned for information on The Great Minnsect Show in 2024!

Photos from The Great Minnsect show - large crown in a room with large windows, child at a table, people walking around booths
Virtual UMN ENTO Alumni Social

The 6th UMN Ento Alumni Social held on March 31 featured new hires Dr. Fei Yang (Assistant Professor, Corn Entomology), Dr. Cristian Beza-Beza (President’s Postdoctoral Fellow), and Ellen Reed, the new Office Manager, replacing Tammi Pekkala Matthews who is now the Administrative Director for the department. With 36 attendees at the event, we shared achievements related to undergraduate education - scholarships and awards received by undergraduates, updates on the growing enrollments in our undergraduate courses and the Insect Science Minor, and images of Prof. David Andow’s retirement celebration. The social ended with a drawing for door prizes!

Mark your calendars for the 7th UMN Ento Alumni Social to be held on October 27, 2023. Don’t miss the chance to win an interesting entomological door prize!

Upcoming events

  • Joint Retirement Celebration for Prof. Tim Kurtti and Prof. Uli Munderloh - Thursday August 17, 2:30 pm to 5:30 pm, Zoom and in-person on the St Paul Campus.
  • Virtual Alumni Social - Friday October 27, 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm
  • Minnesota/Wisconsin Mixer, ESA 2023, Monday, November 6, 8:00 pm to 10:00 pm, National Harbor, MD
  • Fall Welcome and Bug Out - dates and locations to be determined.

Stay connected! Submit this form to get email alerts for all the department's upcoming events!

Welcoming Corn Entomologist, Dr. Fei Yang!

Fei Yang - black hair, glasses, sitting at a desk.

Dr. Fei Yang joined our team as a tenure-track Assistant Professor & Extension Entomologist, Corn Entomology, in May 2023. In just a month, he has met with corn growers, hired a postdoc, and set up experiments at Lamberton and Rosemount for testing the efficacy of Bt corn and insecticides against corn insect pests. He has also submitted proposals for research on emerging European corn borer resistance to Bt corn, and studies on western and northern corn rootworms. He is off to a great start!

Welcome to UMN Entomology, Fei!


Congratulations to our Graduates!

grad reception cake - rectangle cake, white frosting base, insects in the center, black writing "Congratulations graduates!"


Aaron Irber
August Kramer
Adam Toninato


Michelle Boone
Maggie Shanahan

Welcoming New Graduate Students

welcome students! 2023-2024- yellow background, marron M in the cetner, digital drawing of people surrounding the M, marron text "Welcome Students"

M.S. Entomology

Jay DeLacy

Ph.D. Entomology

Sayesha Khanna
Mary Powley


Reflections by recent graduate students:

Michelle Boone - long black hair, black graduation cap and gown

Michelle Boone

I recently completed my Ph.D. in Entomology studying detection and occupancy probabilities of bumble bee communities in response to weather and habitat, focusing on the federally endangered rusty-patched bumble bee, Bombus affinis, the official Minnesota State Bee! Throughout my graduate program, I had the honor to work with top bee researchers, engage with various research and outreach projects, and complete two virtual internships with federal agencies. One of my most memorable experiences was a side project related to developing non-destructive genetic sampling for endangered bumble bees. Through this project, two undergraduates were also able to pursue their own independent research projects. The experience helped me develop research collaborations both internally and external to the Entomology Department. Currently, as a post-doctoral researcher at Washington State University, I am working on a monarch breeding phenology project as well as continuing research on non-lethal bee sampling methods as the lab plans to venture into bee research. Ultimately my goal is to continue working on endangered species conservation with a federal agency.

A big thanks to all the faculty, staff, students, and alum at the UMN Entomology Department for supporting student growth and success! I learned so much in the graduate program and look forward to seeing where my career takes me.


Maggie Shanahan - shoulder length brown hair, floral shirt, standing outside

Maggie Shanahan

I completed my PhD in Entomology in May studying honey bees in MN and stingless bees in Mexico. One of my most treasured experiences in graduate school was collaborating with beekeepers and bee researchers based at El Colegio de la Frontera Sur in Chiapas, Mexico to study resin use by stingless bees. I look forward to continuing these collaborations post-PhD, in projects that work to curb the expansion of industrial agriculture in the U.S. and Mexico.


August Kramer - short blonde hair, glasses, mountains in the background

August Kramer

I came into forest entomology with some experience from past jobs, but throughout my masters degree program I was pleasantly surprised to be presented with opportunities to learn about much more than just my study system. I was encouraged to take courses that provided pertinent and useful information to me in spite of existing outside of the scope of my research. In addition, I found that my classmates were just as willing and excited to share what they had learned. As a result, I graduated as a more complete and well-rounded scientist, and feel better equipped to approach challenges in forest entomology in the future.

Insect Science Minor Spotlight

We are excited that the Insect Science Minor continues to draw undergraduates from majors across UMN thanks to the efforts of our faculty in offering appealing courses. In Spring 2023, 37 students had enrolled in the Minor, a new record for our program! Undergraduates are gaining entomological knowledge through a wide range of in-person and online courses, and experiential learning opportunities. They participate in research through credit and the competitive Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP). In their research, undergraduates have examined ant-butterfly mutualisms in insect conservation, explored insects as food for astronauts during their long journey in space, and the ecology of a new insect pest in soybeans (just to name a few!). This year, two Insect Science students traveled to and presented their research at the joint North-Central and Southwestern Branch meeting - one as an invited speaker in a symposium!

Congratulations to our recent Insect Science Minor Graduates:

College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS)

  • Adam Lee Mastel (Major: Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology)
  • Emilie McCormick (Major: Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology)
  • Adam Louis Schacherer (Major: Plant Science)
  • Paige Waddick (Major: Plant Science)

College of Science & Engineering (CSE)

  • Alexis Ariana Lipstein (Major: Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering, CFANS/CSE)
  • Andrew Surine (Major: Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics)

College of Liberal Arts (CLA)

  • Isak James Stillwell Jardine (Major: Biology, Society, & Environment)

Reflections by recent Insect Science Minor graduates

Adam Mastel (Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology, CFANS)

Adam Mastel - short blonde hair, mustache, black t-shirt, houseplant in background

I recently graduated with a degree in Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology with a minor in Insect Science. My whole life I have been interested in insects, but my parents were a little more hesitant. As a child my earliest memory of insects was when I collected dozens of ladybugs in a small, easily escapable box, without telling my parents. They had supported my passion for insects until that day, but seeing dozens of ladybugs crawling around your child’s room tends to make you question your kid’s passion. Thankfully, I never lost that spark, and after a rule of no bugs in the house was created, my parents were back on board.

The insect science minor here at the University of Minnesota allowed me to live that passion and learn more about insects in a way that I couldn't otherwise do. One of the first classes I took was called Bugs in Bodies and was all about forensic entomology. It really opened my eyes about the diversity of insect professions, that there aren't just jobs in research or pest control. I have enjoyed every class I took here from eating bugs to learning how to control them in crop systems, there wasn't a single class I regret. This minor has helped me build a more well rounded education and I couldn't be more thankful for all the faculty and staff that have made the past few years great!

Andrew Surine (Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics, CSE)

Andrew Surine - shoulder length curly brown hair, red button down short sleeve shirt, standing at a railing outside

​I gained my interest in insects in second grade during a series of hands-on class activities with live bugs, and arrived at the University with the idea to research the use of insects as food on deep space missions. I was delighted to have the opportunity to learn from amazing entomologists in several classes and get a minor in entomology. The department was immediately receptive to my project as well, and has supported me in a variety of ways, even sending me to a scientific conference to give a presentation!

I have become an aerospace engineer to contribute to space exploration, which I believe is the most important thing I can do. My knowledge of insects has given me a greater appreciation for the world I live in, and the ability to find the ways in which they might help us along in the journey to space. Someday, I intend to look back at the brilliant blue Earth under the light of Mars’ twin moons. When that time comes, insects might be on the menu!

Insect Science Pathways Scholarship

The Insect Science Pathways Scholarship aims to increase student diversity in our Insect Science Minor while also enhancing awareness about the Minor. Thanks to contributors during the Give to the Max Day and throughout the year, we doubled the number of scholarships and scholarship amount ($1,000 each).

Spring 2023 recipients:

Jena and Andrew Insect Science Pathways Scholarship

If you would like to make a gift to help build a pipeline of diverse entomologists for the future, please make an online gift here.

Give to the Insect Science Pathways Scholarship today!

Achievements & Honors

Congratulations to UMN entomology faculty, staff, postdocs, graduates and undergraduates, for their selection for fellowships, awards, student competition prizes, and other honors and achievements, at UMN and nationally!


  • Promotion
    Dr. Robert Koch promoted from Associate Professor to the rank of Professor
  • CFANS Distinguished Teaching Award
    Dr. Matt Petersen
  • CFANS Borealis Award - Exemplary Faculty (less than 5 years)
    Dr. Matt Petersen
  • Frenatae FAME (Faculty Award for Mentorship in Entomology)
    Dr. Sujaya Rao

Staff and Post-Docs

  • CFANS Distinguished Academic (P&A) Staff Award
    Dr. Robin Thomson

Graduate Students

Entomology Department Scholarships

  • Marion Brooks-Wallace Scholarship
    Ismael Ramirez
  • Morris and Elaine Soffer Rockstein Scholarship
    Laura Fricke  (PhD category)
    Gloria Melotto (MS category)
  • Dr. Allan G. Peterson Scholarship
    Sally Nelson


University of Minnesota 
  • UMN Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship
    Emily Althoff, Advisor Brian Aukema
  • Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellowship 
    Laura Fricke, Advisor Amelia Lindsey
Department of Entomology
  • Excellence in Entomology Fellowship
    Sayeesha Khanna, Advisor, Brian Aukema
    Mary Powley, Advisor, Dan Cariveau
  • MGK Fellowship
    Jay Delacy, Advisor Mary Rogers
  • Sping and Ying-ngoh Lin Fellowship
    Megan Jones, Advisor Amelia Lindsey
  • Lugger-Radcliffe Summer Fellowship
    Sally Nelson, Advisor Bill Hutchison
  • Marion Brooks-Wallace Summer Fellowship
    Ismael Ramirez, Advisor George Heimpel
  • Cox Family Graduate Research Award
    Isabell Dyrbye-Wright


  • Robert C. Hodson Memorial Undergraduate Entomology Award
    Ellie Meys (Major: Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology)
    Adam Schacherer (Major: Plant Science)


ESA Medals
  • Student Competition 10-Minute Paper: PhD
    Michelle Boone, third place
  • Student Competition Poster: MS
    Sally Nelson, third place
  • NCB Graduate Student Scholarship
    Hailey Shanovich
  • Student Competition Poster: PhD
    Hailey Shanovich, second place
  • NCB Educational Project Award
    Elaine Evans, Anne Turnman, Bridget Mendel and Katie-Lyn Bunney
    Project: Pollinator Toolkit

Robert Suranyi

Alumni Spotlight

Robert Suranyi - recipient of the Hodson Graduate Alumni Award. Congratulations, Robert!

Robert received a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Engineering from Szent Istvan University, Godollo, Hungary. He pursued MS (1997) and PhD (2000) degrees under the mentorship of Prof. Ted Radcliffe and Prof. Dave Ragsdale. As R & D leader at MGK in the Twin Cities, he led an interdisciplinary team conducting product development research in agricultural and urban pest management. He was recently promoted as Director of Business Development. Robert presented an inspiring Hodson Graduate Alumni Seminar during which he shared his upbringing in Hungary, his graduate days at UMN and his rewarding and fulfilling career at MGK.

Congratulations on their Retirements

Ralph Holzenthal, 1980's - short black hair, mustache, white stiped shirt. Standing next to a desk.

Dr. Ralph Holzenthal joined the Department of Entomology in 1986 as a tenure-track assistant professor in Insect Systematics, and Director of the Insect Collection. Ralph’s research covered the taxonomy, evolution, and natural history of caddisflies. His ‘Biodiversity and Evolution of Insects’ and ‘Scientific Illustration of Insects’ courses were both very popular with students! Over his career he published 160 publications and served as the Advisor for eight M.S. students and 12 Ph.D. students. Ralph was recognized for his achievements with the CFANS Distinguished Faculty Teaching Award in 1994-1995 and the FAME (Faculty Award for Mentorship in Entomology) from Frenatae three times (2005, 2010 and 2019). He retired on December 29, 2022.

Dr. Holzenthal’s exciting career at UMN described in the special ZooKeys issue published in his honor - an amazing compilation by Steffen Pauls, Robin Thomson and Ernesto Razuri-Gonzales which includes all the new species he described (>700, so far), his students, his publications, and more!


Uli Munderloh, 1980's - shoulder length brown hair, blue long sleeve button down, sitting in a lab

Dr. Ulrike Munderloh joined the Department of Entomology in 1986 as a Research Associate and moved to a tenure-track Associate Professor position in 2007. She gained an international reputation for her research on cellular and molecular relationships between arthropod-borne microbial pathogens, their vectors and mammalian hosts, the genetics and functional genomics of tick-borne pathogens, and medical and entomological aspects of vector-borne pathogens. She published 135 journal articles, and served as advisor/co-advisor for four Ph.D. students at UMN and as the external examiner for PhD thesis of students in other countries. She retired on January 3, 2023.


Thank you, Ralph and Uli, for your countless contributions to entomology and the department, happy retirement!

Staff that have moved on - Eric Burkness

Eric Burkness - brown baseball cap, grey sweatshirt, crouching in a plowed field.

Following a long and distinguished career in Entomology as a Research Scientist, Eric Burkness transitioned to working in the Department of Horticultural Science in 2022. He received his MS in 1996 under the mentorship of Prof. Bill Hutchison studying the striped cucumber beetle.  He continued to work with Bill for 30 years on various fruit and vegetable insect pest projects including early detection and monitoring of invasive pests, evaluation of pest-resistant crop cultivars, and diverse pest management strategies such as biological control and pest exclusion with fine-mesh netting on high value fruit crops. His stellar career in Entomology included co-authorship on 75 refereed journal articles, including one in Science, and numerous Extension articles on fruit and vegetable insect pests. Eric was recognized for his contributions with the CFANS Distinguished Academic (P&A) Staff Award in 2019.

Thank you, Eric, for your many contributions to fruit and vegetable IPM, and the department! We wish you the best for your next chapter working with alumna, Dr. Mary Rogers (MS, 2008: Entomology Graduate Faculty member) in Horticultural Science.

UMN Entomologists in the News

Small Wonders

Small wonders logo

Check out the latest Small Wonder, the brown marmorated stink bug!

Small Wonders is a regular feature that profiles insects and other arthropods found in Minnesota. These are intended to inform our citizens, and generate interest in entomology!

Interested in writing about your favorite arthropod in upcoming features? We are currently in need of contributors for 2023. Contact Ellen Reed ( to sign up!


Alumni, get involved! The UMN Alumni Association recently developed and funded the Maroon and Gold Network, a free, online platform for career-related advice and networking that has grown to more than 5,000 alumni and students in 44 countries and 46 states plus Washington DC! 

Join The Maroon & Gold Network today!

Support Us

Your support will help us achieve our mission of providing world-leading research and education that inspires society to value the environmental contributions of insects and their relatives, and to use best management practices to protect our food, health, and environment.

Donate Here

Thank you to all donors and their support of our faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate students.

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