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Student Spotlight – Laura Flandermeyer

Once a month we sit down with an Entomology graduate student to get to know more about them, how they became interested in Entomology, and what their research is about. This month, we sat down with Laura Flandermeyer!

Q1: Masters or Ph.D, and how far into your program are you? 
I am a master’s student in my second semester, and my advisor is Dr. Tobin Northfield.  
Q2: What is your research project? 
I am studying X-disease, a problematic plant disease vectored by leafhoppers in stone fruit. The complex disease heavily impacts Washington cherry orchards, and the Northfield lab is focused on informing and assisting growers. I’m working on a mathematical model to simulate the effects of various management strategies on disease transmission and the number of infected trees in an orchard. I’ll also create a phenology model of phytoplasma quantities throughout the season. 

Q3: How did you become interested in entomology? 
I became interested in entomology during a summer internship with Corteva Agriscience. During my internship, I conducted field trials to evaluate various traited corn in Illinois. I worked with all life stages of corn rootworm and had a blast collecting adults with Milwaukee hand vacs. Before that summer, I hadn’t noticed the large impact that insects have on our food systems. I was exposed to entomology as a career for the first time, and my manager showed such enthusiasm for the work being done that I simply was hooked. 
Q4: Why would you recommend entomology as a career? 
I am constantly learning about new career possibilities relating to entomology, and I find the breadth of the field of study exciting. Individuals can work in almost any context, from academia to government or industry. There are endless possibilities for those who are passionate about their work and willing to try new things. 

Q5: What are your future career plans after graduation? 
Coming into my master’s, I would have told you that I wanted to work with agricultural pests in industry or extension after graduation. I’ve been exposed to new areas of entomology, like medical and veterinary, and I hope to further explore these before solidifying my plans. Luckily, Rich Zack’s special topics course on medical entomology this semester is helping with my exploration! 
Q6: What is your favorite thing about your Master’s/PhD journey? 
I’ve loved connecting with people on all fronts. I’ve participated in outreach to teach kids about insects, met with industry professionals at a conference, and learned a great deal from other students and researchers. I enjoy learning from others with unique interests and backgrounds, and I feel my master’s has really allowed me to explore new areas. 

Q7: Something you’re proud of that you made, found, received during your time here at WSU. 
So far, I’m proud of the insect collection I created for taxonomy last semester. It was my first time curating insects, and the collection took a lot of time and effort. I enjoyed sharing what I learned through that process with my family and others. Most people have enjoyed the large cerambycid beetle that I was gifted by the Northfield lab. 
Q8: What is your favorite insect and why? 
Right now, I really like snakeflies! Maybe it’s the long prothorax “neck” region or the fact they look like less-threatening miniature snakes, but I imagine they have a spunky personality.