Increasing numbers of undergraduate students are catching the bug for courses in the Department of Entomology, thanks to the Sping and Ying N. Lin Fund for Teaching and Outreach in Entomology. The fund paved the way for a new teaching assistant professor position, which was offered to Matt Petersen, PhD, in 2019.
“This position has allowed us to build a strong foundation of undergraduate courses that increase access to entomology classes and get students interested in our insect science minor,” said department head Sujaya Rao, PhD, noting that the minor has grown exponentially, from three to 28 students in just a few years. “It has helped us to reimagine our entire entomology offering to undergraduates who come from a diverse range of programs throughout the University.”
Petersen’s classes, including “How Insects Shape Society: Pollinators, Pests, and Policy,” are in high demand, attracting students who may be pursuing vastly different majors but share the desire to explore the world of insects. Petersen has created a number of new courses, both in-person and online, that have allowed him to reach hundreds of eager new students each year.
“For me, entomology was the spark that allowed me to more fully understand the natural world,” said Petersen, who was recently promoted to associate teaching professor. “I enjoy presenting entomology content to students where I can create ‘aha’ moments. In these moments, they see insects in a new context and can develop their own passion for lifelong learning.”