Department of Entomology Newsletter | Fall 2022


Bug Bites

Message from Department Head, Sujaya Rao

Sujaya Rao


Fall 2022 has been an exciting semester of growth and achievements for the department!  A faculty member was hired, and new graduate students and an Office Manager were welcomed to the department. Also, a new enrollment record was reached with the undergraduate minor! Faculty and students received numerous awards at ESA 2022, while we connected with alumni and friends during the virtual UMN Ento Alumni Social and the in-person ESA Mixer.

Happy Reading! Send us your thoughts and ideas for the department, and on our successes and events – we welcome your feedback!

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!


Welcoming New Members to the Department

Dr. Fei Yang

Fei Yang

Dr. Fei Yang has been hired as a tenure-track Assistant Professor & Extension Entomologist. He will be joining the department in early May 2023.

Dr. Yang received his Ph.D. in Entomology in 2014 and worked as a postdoctoral researcher from 2015-2017, both at the Louisiana State University. He is currently an Associate Research Scientist at the Texas A & M University. Dr. Yang is a well-trained and competent field entomologist who has a special set of skills, knowledge, and abilities in the area of row crop pest management, insect ecology, insect behavior, and insecticide resistance management. He has >10 years of basic and applied research experience focused on the sustainable use of Bt corn and cotton technologies for pest management in the U.S. Dr. Yang has actively engaged with growers, Extension Specialists and IPM Agents through field days and Extension meetings. As a graduate student, he received many awards, including the Louisiana Agricultural Consultants Association Scholarship in 2014. Dr. Yang has an excellent record of scholarship with 46 peer-reviewed publications and >$2.5 million in grants from federal and industry agencies. He is incredibly excited about working with us and contributing his expertise to the department, the university, and the stakeholders.

“I am very excited to have the opportunity to work in this prestigious university, learn more about corn pest management in Minnesota, and enjoy the beauty of the state”.

Congratulations, Dr. Yang! Welcome aboard!

Ellen Reed

Ellen Reed

We are fortunate to have Ellen Reed join our team in December as our Office Manager. Ellen comes to us with a BS from Iowa State University in Global Resource Systems and Horticulture. ‘Introduction to Insects’ and ‘Insects and Society’ were two of her favorite courses in college! Ellen has a wide range of customer service experiences gathered while working for Agricultural and Forestry related businesses.

“Thank you to everyone who took the time to be involved in the interview process and ultimately chose to hire me. I am so excited to join the department! I know it will take a while, but I hope to be as helpful and knowledgeable as Tammi and fill the needs of the department the best I can. Don’t be afraid to stop by the office so I can get to know you all!

Congratulations, Ellen! Welcome aboard!

Transitioning to a new position

Tammi Pekkala Matthews

Tammi Pekkala Matthews has transitioned from Office Manager to Administrative Director for the department. She joined the department in November 2015 and has excelled in handling a range of responsibilities related to undergraduate and graduate programs, hiring, organizing department events and much more! The remarkable achievements in her many capacities earned her the CFANS Civil Service/Bargaining Unit Staff Award, and the CFANS Borealis Exemplary Staff Award. As Administrative Director, Tammi is looking forward to providing the services everyone has come to expect in the office. Congratulations, Tammi!

Thank you, I’m excited to start this new role and hope I can provide the level of service my predecessors provided. I look forward to working with Ellen and each of you to support our students and our department.

Congratulations, Tammi!

Congratulations to our Summer & Fall Graduates!

UMN diploma with a graduation cap

Aaron Irber 
Adam Toninato

Corrie Nyquist

Welcoming New Graduate Students

Welcome students poster with UMN M

M.S. Entomology
Pheylan Anderson
Isabell Dyrbye-Wright
Sarah Lisak
Maya Vellicolungara

Ph.D. Entomology
Sabrina Celis
Mauricio Ramirez

M.S. in other programs, mentored by Entomology Faculty
Grace Graham - NRSM
Rose Picklo - NRSM

Insect Science Minor Spotlight

New in 2023!

Students across UMN campuses will have the additional opportunity of enrolling in the new online Insect Science Minor in Spring 2023.

As highlighted in our Spring-Summer 2022 newsletter, for the first time in the program’s history, 11 students from majors in three colleges graduated in the 2021-2022 academic year with the addition of the Insect Science Minor on their transcripts! We are pleased that our program provided them courses that enabled them to pursue their diverse entomological interests. It has been great to hear from alumni who were inspired to continue entomological pursuits including graduate degrees across the US.

In Fall 2022, we are pleased to welcome ten students across four colleges to the Insect Science Minor - a new record!

College of Biological Sciences (CBS)

  • Naomi Stow (Neuroscience)
  • Logan Wehr (Biology)

College of Design (CDES) 

  • Bryce Mason (Graphic Design - Pre-Major)
  • Joe Sanders (Pre Architecture)

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

  • Emma Ambrosi (Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology)
  • Jon Hjelm (Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology)
  • Liz Perelman (Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology)
  • Pablo Stilwell (Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology)

College of Liberal Arts (CLA)

  • Gideon Lundin (Music Education)
  • Renee Rademacher (Biology, Society, & Environment)

Reflection by a recent Insect Science Minor graduate

Jay DeLacy (Major Plant & Microbial Biology)

Jay Delacy in a forest

"Deciding to add insect science as my minor was an easy decision after how much I enjoyed my first entomology class. I was catapulted into a field I knew very little about, but I was so fascinated by every new fact I would learn. I’m surprised my friends didn’t get tired of me relaying insect related fun facts after every class. I would recommend a class but I enjoyed pretty much every entomology class I took! I was able to pursue my interests further by getting involved in spotted wing drosophila research in Mary Rogers’ lab and in the process I became interested in getting my Master’s in entomology. I am currently in the process of finding graduate programs so that I can turn my passion for insects into a career."


Insect Science Pathways Scholarship

Thank you to all contributors to the Give to the Max Day drive in November for funding the Insect Science Pathways Scholarship. The department's goal is to grow the fund to award larger and more scholarships as time goes on. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, we are increasing the scholarship to $1,000 each to be awarded to two recipients later this semester. 

The Insect Science Pathways Scholarship aims to increase student diversity in our Insect Science Minor while also enhancing awareness about the Insect Science Minor. 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

ESA medals

Congratulations to faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, and alumni who received ESA awards, student competition prizes, and other honors during ESA 2022!


Graduate Students

  • ESA Activity Award 
    Hailey Shanovich
  •  ESA student competition - 10-Minute Paper

    Pheylan Anderson - First Place, P-IE: IPM - Field Crops
    Chan Dolan - Second Place, P-IE: Conservation and Ecology
    Laura Fricke - Second Place, PBT and SysEB: Biocontrol
    Sarah Lisak - First Place, P-IE: Biocontrol
    Tina Lozano - Second Place, PBT: Genetics and Insecticide Resistance
    Sally Nelson - First Place, P-IE Biodiversity - Horticulture

  • Elected as student representative to the P-IE Governing Council
    Hailey Shanovich

Undergraduate Students

  • ESA student competition - 10-Minute Paper
    Hannah Bodmer - Second Place, SysEB: Evolution and Ecology 
    (Spring 2022 graduate with Insect Science Minor)
    Chloe Weingarten - First Place, P-IE: IPM 
    (Mayo High School student, Rochester, MN, mentored by Sally Nelson and Bill Hutchison) 


ZooKeys cover

Faculty Spotlight

Prof. Ralph Holzenthal

An amazing special ZooKeys issue published in honor of Prof. Ralph Holzenthal, compiled by Steffen Pauls, Robin Thomson and Ernesto Razuri-Gonzales includes all the new species he described (>700, so far), his students, his publications, and more!

Prof. Sujaya Rao

After many years of addressing insect issues as pests and pollinators in food crops, Professor and Department Head Sujaya Rao is now promoting insects as food sources for humans - entomophagy!

CFANS Featured story - Let’s just eat the bugs! 

TEDx Minneapolis  Why we should all eat bugs

Upcoming Retirement

After successful careers in the department, Prof. Ralph Holzenthal and Prof. Uli Munderloh will be retiring at the end of 2022/early 2023. Stay tuned for information on opportunities to celebrate their careers and wish them well in their retirement!

Alumni Spotlight

Jana Lee

Jana Lee was the recipient of the ESA Pacific Branch Award for Excellence in IPM. Congratulations, Jana!

Jana Lee is currently a USDA-ARS Research Entomologist based in Corvallis, Oregon

woman, long black hair, wearing a mask covering her nose and mouth, holding a tarantula in her right hand

Jana graduated with her Ph.D. from the Department of Entomology in 2004. She was advised by  George Heimpel. Her love of insects flourished when she took an undergraduate entomology course at UC Berkeley. She moved to Michigan State University to work with Doug Landis on predatory carabid beetles for a M.S. Loving biological control, Jana was thrilled to study cute parasitoid wasps with George. Then she studied bark beetles as a postdoctoral research associate at UC Davis in Steve Seybold's Forest Service lab. As a postdoc, Jana often approached private property and park managers to convince them to let her look for bark beetles which helped her develop more people skills. Since 2007, Jana has been a Research Entomologist at the USDA Agricultural Research Service, Horticultural Crops, in Corvallis, Oregon. 

What is working at ARS like? It is similar to academic research labs; teaching and extension are not formally required but still done regularly for service. Jana’s laboratory focuses on managing pests of small fruits (blueberry, grapes, raspberry) and ornamentals (maples, spruce). Biological control is one of the main approaches and her lab is currently examining very cute parasitoids of spotted-wing drosophila and brown marmorated stink bug.  Other approaches are also pursued to help growers incorporate non-toxic alternatives. This includes using erythritol, an artificial sweetener, to kill spotted-wing drosophila. Her lab is testing sterile male insects in quarantine that were created via gene-editing by a company.

When Jana is not working, she is playing with her 10 and 11-year old. During the pandemic, she enjoyed sewing insect masks for entomologists.

In Memoriam - Dr. Phil Harein

older Caucasian man, glasses, beard and mustache, cream sweater

Honoring and Remembering Dr. Phil Harein, Professor in the Department of Entomology

Dr. Phil Harein, who was a professor in the Department of Entomology, passed away peacefully on July 22, 2022. His research was focused on stored product pests. During his career at UMN he co-authored many publications on management of stored product pests, shared his expertise with food processors in the Midwest and the pest control industry in Minnesota, and assisted with planning the annual conference of the Minnesota Pest Management Association.

Read more - Obituary


Virtual UMN ENTO Alumni Social

UMN Ento Alumni Social

The 5th UMN Ento Alumni Social held on October 28, 2022 featured incoming graduate students. We shared with the 29 attendees at the virtual event updates on the growing undergraduate Insect Science Minor, fellowships, awards and honors received earlier in the year by faculty, staff, students, and alumni, and for the first time, we drew names for door prizes!

Mark your calendars for the 6th UMN Ento Alumni Social to be held on March 31, 2023. Don’t miss the chance to win an entomological door prize!

Minnesota/Wisconsin Mixer

The UMN mixer was back in ESA 2022! The event, jointly hosted by Entomology Departments at the University of Minnesota and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, gave us an opportunity to catch up in-person with alumni and friends.

Minnesota Wisconsin Mixer ESA 2022

Fall Welcome and Year End Bug Out

After a two year gap due to the covid-19 pandemic, we hosted two in-person events on campus. At the Fall Welcome in September, we welcomed incoming graduate students and Insect Science Minor students. The Year End Bug Out included good food and socializing, and the white elephant gift exchange added excitement to the evening.

2 photos form the bug out

Upcoming Events

6th Virtual UMN Ento Alumni Social - March 31, 2023

Celebrate Entomology & Hodson Alumni Talks - April 21, 2023

The Great Minnsect Show - Spring 2023 (date to be determined)

small wonders logo

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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