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    Ten years of Entomology and IPM - Ruth and Todd's stories

    27 June 2023

    More than a decade of Entomology and IPM courses have now run at Harper Adams University.

    In 2022, it was exactly 10 years since the first students were welcomed to their studies – and throughout 2023, we’ve been catching up with some of our alumni to find out where they are now.

    The series of blogs began thanks to one ofthe original team of entomologists who joined Harper Adams when a suite of dedicated Masters courses launched in 2012 – this was Dr Tom Pope, now Reader in Entomology.

    As the 10 year anniversary approached last summer, Tom decided to mark the decade and got in touch with some of the courses’ many alumni.

    He wanted to find out more about their recollections of Harper Adams and their studies – and replies came in from across the globe.

    Our students spoke fondly of their studies, the Harper Adams campus, and the University’s staff. Many cited the impact of the late  Professor Emeritus – and leading entomologist -  Simon Leather in their recollections.

    In the latest of our series of pieces catching up with these graduates and where they are now, this blog focuses on Ruth and Todd – who are both now undertaking PhDs into their specialisms.

    Both Ruth and Todd began their studies in the 2015-16 academic year.

     

     

    Ruth Carter

     

    Ruth Carter

     

    What was it like studying at Harper?

    I loved the course, it was worth the wait: It was the first time I made lifelong friends, and I could discuss insects all the time!

    The Masters was long-awaited as I have wanted to do an Entomology degree for as long as I can remember. It was fantastic to be lectured by some amazing people, including Simon Leather and my MSc project supervisor Mike Copland. My favourite memories include using skills such as pinning insects, collecting insects with a torch in the winter, trying not to faint in Erica McAlister's forensic entomology lecture, and being spoken to as a true expert during a Hymenoptera lecture  - (although I think my level of expertise was drastically misunderstood.)

    My favourite lecture was learning to make entomology equipment by hand, including olfactometers and incubators. The skills, connections and memories I made were invaluable.

    What is it like doing what you're doing now?

    Straight out of my Master's, I got a job as a Research Assistant at The Pirbright Institute researching the Diamondback Moth (Plutella xylostella) and mosquitoes.

    Two and a half years on, I'm now a PhD student at Lancaster University in collaboration with Rothamsted Research.

    In my PhD research, I am investigating the interactions between the Fall Armyworm moth (Spodoptera frugiperda) and the African Armyworm moth (Spodoptera exempta).

    These species threaten African food security as their caterpillars feed on many important crops, including sweetcorn or maize.

    Day-to-day, I could be in the laboratory culturing moths, watching them fight (all in the name of science), using r to analyse my analytical data, travelling to Tanzania for field work, attending conferences, or spending my day drinking tea and writing.

    I love my PhD, even if the moths don't understand holidays. I'm still fascinated by unlocking insects' secrets and using insects to solve some of the world's problems.

    Before I started my PhD, I had never heard of the African Armyworm, but now I have seen first-hand the absolute devastation it can cause, bare stalks or just soil where once there were plants.

    How did the first prepare you for the second?

    My Master's degree from Harper gave me the qualifications that made me stand out in interviews.

    I even presented my MSc project as a poster at the International Congress of Entomology 2016 in Florida.

    The MSc increased my passion, gave me practical skills and improved my out-of-box thinking, scientific paper writing skills, problem-solving and teamwork. I learned to use R for the first time, which I now use constantly.

     

     

    Todd Jenkins

     

     

    What was it like studying at Harper?

    Studying at Harper allowed me to not only grow my interest and passion in entomology and ecology, but also discover a new fascination for the area of agroecology.

    Before Harper, I had very little knowledge of agriculture and agroecology, only a passing interest, but attending the Masters course here really opened my eyes to the subject area and has led me to where I am today. The staff and support I have received before  -with lots of help during my application and deferral process – during, and after - with assistance in job application, connections and wider networking - has been above and beyond anything I expected.

    This support has led me to a career path in agroecology having worked at Rothamsted Research for four years and now returning to Harper Adams University to undertake a PhD.

    My time at Harper Adams allowed me to develop the skills and gain the experience I required to be where I am today, I will always be grateful for that.

    What is it like doing what you’re doing now?

    As mentioned above I am now undertaking a PhD at Harper Adams University and although the workload is intense, the satisfaction and enjoyment of the project is amazing.

    Working collaboratively with European partners (as part of the wider EU project my PhD is associated with) is an integral part of my studies, and to have the ability to influence protocols and produce reports within the project has helped me to develop further as a researcher.

    I find the day-to-day work challenging in a good way and also find myself learning, improving and developing each week whilst working on this project.

    This is because not only am I developing my academic skills, but as I am working within a wider, pan-European team, also developing my teamwork and communication skills.

    I believe this project has the potential to be an amazing piece of work and am very much looking forward to researching this subject for the next couple of years at least.

    How did the first prepare you for the second?

    Without the guidance, direction and general assistance of all the Entomology team at Harper Adams during my time there, I honestly believe I would not have made the career steps that I did since graduating.

    They helped me get into an institute that I really enjoyed working at and gave me the skills and aptitude in order to successfully apply for a PhD back here at Harper.

    When weighing up the decision to continue on the career path I had chosen and returning to Harper for the PhD, it was a tough choice, but made easier knowing how supportive the staff were here within the department.

    I look forward to being here for the next couple of years and continue to improve and develop as a researcher and academic.

     

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