Students Receive Top Awards at ESA Annual Meeting

Alex Payne standing to receive her award.

Alex Payne, center, with Dr. Tyler Wist, research scientist for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and a member of the Entomological Society of Canada’s Awards Committee, and Dr. Michael Parrella, 2017-2018 president of the Entomological Society of America. Photo by the Entomological Society of America

The Department of Entomology had a winning year as several students received awards and were recognized at this year’s Entomological Society of America’s annual meeting in Vancouver, B.C Canada.

The first of the students was Ph.D. student Alex Payne who won  first place in the Physiology, Biochemistry and Toxicology Section with her talk titled “Spillover in eusocial insects: Detection of honey bee (Apis Mellifera) associated viruses in ants”

Xiaotian Tang, center, with Dr. Tyler Wist, left, and Dr. Michael Parrella. Photo by the Entomological Society of America

Xiaotian Tang, center, with Dr. Tyler Wist, left, and Dr. Michael Parrella. Photo by the Entomological Society of America

Franchesca Rodriguez, center, with Dr. Tyler Wist, left, and Dr. Michael Parrella. Photo by the Entomological Society of America

Franchesca Rodriguez, center, with Dr. Tyler Wist, left, and Dr. Michael Parrella. Photo by the Entomological Society of America

“I am very proud of Alex. She’s a great presenter and it doesn’t matter what project it is, she does it very well and she is very well prepared,” said Dr. Rangel, her PhD advisor.

Ph.D. student Xiaotian Tang received first place in the Plant-Insect Ecosystems section for his talk titled “Reduced intracellular immune response of potato psyllids, Bactericera cockerelli, to ‘Candidadus Liberibacter solanacearum’ in the gut interface” while senior Francesca Rodriguez received second place in her section of the undergraduate 10-minute presentation category “Behavioral effects of Juvenile hormone on the worker caste of the red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta

“Xiaotian is an outstanding PhD student,” Dr. Tamborindeguy said. “He is hard-working and very dedicated to his research. His presentation was flawless, he engaged the audience and presented clearly a large body of research. I am glad that he was recognized at the national level with a first place in the graduate student competition.”

Tamborindeguy also was proud of Rodriguez’ hard work and dedication.

MacKenzie Kjeldgaard, right, with Dr. Tyler Wist, left, and Dr. Michael Parrella. Photo by the Entomological Society of America

MacKenzie Kjeldgaard, right, with Dr. Tyler Wist, left, and Dr. Michael Parrella. Photo by the Entomological Society of America

“Franchesca is an excellent undergraduate student in our department,” she said.  “Her presentation was excellent and she was very calm. I am very happy that she received the First place in the undergraduate student competition and I am certain that Franchesca will achieve a successful career in entomology.”

Ph.D. student MacKenzie Kjeldgaard received first place in the Systematics, Evolution, and Biodiversity section for her talk titled “Sugar is an ant’s best friend: Testing food web theory predictions in invasive ants.”

“MacKenzie is an outstanding researcher and one of the best public speakers I have worked with in my twenty years as a faculty member,” Kjeldgaard’s faculty advisor Dr. Eubanks said.

Zach Popkin-Hall, center, with Dr. Tyler Wist, left, and Dr. Michael Parrella. Photo by the Entomological Society of America

Zach Popkin-Hall, center, with Dr. Tyler Wist, left, and Dr. Michael Parrella. Photo by the Entomological Society of America

Ph.D. student Zach Popkin-Hall advised by Dr. Slotman received second place in the Medical, Urban, and Veterinary Entomology section for his presentation titled “Differential expression of chemosensory genes in the proboscis of the sibling species Anopheles (An.) coluzzii and An. quadriannulatus”. Jocelyn Holt, advised by Dr.

Jocelyn Holt, center, with Dr. Tyler Wist, left, and Dr. Michael Parrella. Photo by the Entomological Society of America

Jocelyn Holt, center, with Dr. Tyler Wist, left, and Dr. Michael Parrella. Photo by the Entomological Society of America

Medina, also received second in the Plant-Insect Ecosystem section for her presentation titled “Characterization of the sugarcane aphid microbiome in the continental U.S.”

“I am glad that I had the opportunity to present my research at ESA in Vancouver and I am honored to represent Texas A&M’s Entomology Department as well as Aggie Women in Entomology,” Holt said. “It is exciting to be recognized for my research presentation and I will continue to work to communicate invasive insect pest mutualisms in an engaging way.”

The graduate Linnaean Team received second place during the annual Linnaean Games competition after defeating the University of Georgia in the first round, then being defeated by the University of California-Davis and Berkeley in the finals.

The Linnaean Team.

The Linnaean Team. From left to right, Dr. Deane Jorgenson, grad students Mark Janowiecki, Mackenzie Tietjen, Joanie King, Fabian List, and Dr. Michael Parrella. Photo by the Entomological Society of America.

The graduate team included students Joanie King, Fabian List, Mackenzie Tietjen, and Mark Janowiecki. King said she was very proud of her teammates and enjoyed competing against top teams.

“It was a lot of fun. For me, it was really exciting to go up against the University of Georgia because I did my Master’s there in the Entomology Department,” she said. “We tied and had a “sudden death” match and the last question was about insect pin sizes. It was a special moment for me because I talked about insect pin sizes to Dr. Rangel during practice one day.”

Rangel said that this year’s competition was challenging, but said that the team did well against a tough team in the finals.

“I am actually incredibly proud that they got second place,” Rangel said “They are a great team and hope they can get first place next year.”

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