The Department

Entomology at UW-Madison

Background

The program in Entomology began in 1909 when Dean Harry L. Russell, responding to a host of insect pest problems, authorized the creation of a Department of Economic Entomology. The first classes in Entomology were offered in 1910 and by 1914 the first two undergraduates had matriculated. In that same year, the first M.S. in Entomology was awarded while the first Ph.D. in Entomology was awarded in 1928. The Department changed its name to the Department of Entomology in the 1950s.  Over the past century, over 700 students have received either an M.S. or Ph.D. from the Department.  

The Department is housed in Russell Laboratories and makes extensive use of campus greenhouse facilities and the agricultural research stations located throughout the state. Russell Labs houses three departments, Entomology, Forest and Wildlife Ecology, and Plant Pathology. The building is centrally located on the UW-Madison campus making it ideal for collaborative work with other departments.

The Department of Entomology is comprised of 16 faculty members. The faculty is also assisted by 6 adjunct and affiliated faculty who serve on graduate student exam committees, provide entry into off campus programs and industry, offer graduate seminars, and increase our visibility in the scientific community. At the present time, there are 8 postdoctoral research associates and 36 graduate students whose major professors are members of this department. (Some graduate students working under the direction of our faculty are taking an advanced degree in another department). Of the graduate students, approximately 40% are M.S. students, many of whom continue their pursuit of the Ph.D. in this department. 


UW Madison Entomology Department Faculty, January 2011. photo: Wolfgang Hoffman

UW Madison Entomology Department Faculty, January 2011. photo: Wolfgang Hoffman

Facilities

Research

Russell Laboratories was completed in 1964 and has housed the department since that time. The Department of Entomology utilizes approximately 15,000 square feet in the north tower of Russell Laboratories.  This space includes labs, insect museum, and faculty and staff offices. Seating for graduate students and post-docs is normally found within the principal investigator’s lab space. The department houses a number of insect growth chambers for general use; also available for general use are -80C freezers, imaging equipment, cell and tissue culture facilities, isotope rooms, cold rooms and freezers. Individual labs house various specialized lab equipment that is freely available. 

Facilities outside of Russell Labs include a newly renovated museum complex in the Stock Pavilion. Researchers also use the Biotron facilities, Walnut Street greenhouses, and UW-Madison CALS Agricultural Research Stations throughout the state.     

Computing

Computing facilities have been a joint Entomology-Plant Pathology venture since the early 1990s. With the formation of the Russell Labs Administrative Service Center, Forestry and Wildlife Ecology has joined our IT group under a single administrative staff plan. IT personnel housed in the Help-desk suite are available for consultation. The Help-desk suite also houses computers, scanners, and printers for departmental use. Programs available in this suite include graphics, word processing, databases, statistical and GIS packages. Each faculty office is equipped with computers and the building is cabled and can be used in a wireless mode.  Most labs have at least one desktop computer for general lab use.

Insect Research Collection

The University of Wisconsin Insect Research Collection (WIRC) contains nearly three million specimens.  Active participation in ongoing taxonomic, biodiversity, ecological, and natural history research projects has led to an aggressive growth rate of 10,000-20,000 specimens/year in recent years.  Although worldwide in scope, the WIRC is the only collection in Wisconsin subscribing to a primary mission of representing the insect fauna of Wisconsin and the western Great Lakes region.  Ordinal taxonomic strengths are understandably in the five largest orders: Coleoptera, Lepidoptera, Hymenoptera, Diptera, and Hemiptera. These orders also reflect past and current faculty/staff/student expertise; growth and expansion is currently greatest in the Coleoptera, micro-Hymenoptera, micro-Lepidoptera,  and Diptera.  The collection is housed in Russell Laboratories and newly remodeled space on the third floor of the nearby UW Stock Pavilion. The goals and mission of the WIRC are overseen by the faculty Director, Prof. Daniel K. Young; daily activities are supported by the Academic Curator, Mr. Steven Krauth. The WIRC subscribes to the UW Land Grant Mission and actively engages in support of educational and outreach activities on and off campus in addition to supporting a variety of research in basic and applied areas.

Instructional

Instructional facilities include a lecture room with 56 seats and two laboratory classrooms, with occupancy for 24 and 16 students, respectively. The computer-help desk area is also used as a classroom.

Departmental Climate

The department has an exceptionally healthy climate for graduate education and for faculty academic collegiality and cooperation.  Academic cooperation is quite evident in the number of weekly joint lab meetings.  At least 8 faculty hold joint lab meetings that encourage cross-talk among the members of the group.  Thus, most graduate students have a weekly opportunity to converse with faculty members who are outside their immediate lab and can become conversant with other graduate students outside their narrow research interests. 
 
The graduate students organize and direct the Entomology Graduate Students Association (EGSA) that provides a forum for graduate students to discuss issues of common interest, and organize several all-department social events.  The EGSA interacts with the faculty by providing representatives to each of the departmental committees (excluding the Executive committee). The students developed an outreach program, Insect Ambassadors, which sends members to classrooms around Dane County to talk about insects.  This organization, started in 2000, was entirely graduate student conceived, directed, and funded. The students were given an endowment ($40K) by an emeritus faculty member and were awarded a Vilas grant to fund the operation. 
 
To foster a more cohesive departmental climate a social is held every Friday afternoon during the academic year. Faculty, post-docs, staff, and students meet over drinks and snacks to socialize and hear the latest departmental news from the chair. New students are introduced at this gathering. The event is hosted by a different lab each week. 

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