Dr. Elizabeth Long is an NC State and University Scholars Alumna (Class of 2007). After leaving NC State she pursued a Ph.D. in Plant, Insect and Microbial Sciences at the University of Missouri and is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Entomology at the Ohio State University. Dr. Long spoke in Scholars Forum about the risks posed to non-target organisms (like honey bees) by the broad scale use of pesticides and share work conducted by others as well as research that suggests that bees can come into contact with pesticides in many ways that have not been considered until more recently: for example in pollen, nectar and even in the dust arising from the sowing of seeds by tractors. After her presentation we took some time to ask her a few questions about her education, career and advice she has for undergraduates.
CB: What did you officially study at NC State?
EL: My official degree was in biological sciences, so my course work included topics in biology relating to animals, plants and humans. I was originally aiming for pre-vet, so I also took courses focused specifically on human/animal physiology and animal nutrition.
CB: What is your fondest memory of your time in the USP?
EL: This is a tough one because I really have many fond memories! I think the times that really stand out in my mind were when I worked with the Scholars program as a Scholars Village Assistant. It was a new position at the time that was kinda like being an RA, but without the major responsibilities. During my semesters in that position, we baked cookies every Sunday night to get residents to come out of their rooms and socialize and even though it was hot baking all those cookies, it was a really great time because I met so many people and really felt connected as part of the residence hall community.
CB: Who was one very influential professor during your time as an undergrad and why?
EL: Definitely Dr. Nick Haddad in Zoology. It’s interesting though, because it wasn’t in the classroom that he really influenced my undergrad experience, it was working in the field doing research with his lab group studying impacts of habitat fragmentation on ecological communities. I would never have had such a hands on research experience or contemplated careers beyond veterinary medicine if I wasn’t for him and the encouragement and enthusiasm of his research group. So even though I never took his class (he was on sabbatical when I finally registered for Ecology and Evolution), he really made a strong positive impression on my time and experience during my undergraduate career.
CB: What do you hope will be the ultimate outcome of your research?
EL: I am a nature lover and I have always been fascinated by how organisms interact with each other and how they are able to survive different kinds of conditions in the wild. I want to be able to help maintain the diversity of plants and animals so that they will be around for future generations to see and enjoy! So as I continue my research, my ultimate hope is that I can contribute to a better understanding of how organisms interact with their environment and how that affects us as humans so that we can be aware and mindful of how we might balance the needs of a growing population with the integrity of the environment, which all creatures (big or small!) rely on to survive and be successful.
CB: What advice would you give students pursuing a degree in hopes of becoming a researcher or faculty member in the future?
EL: I would definitely tell students to be open to all the opportunities, even if they aren’t ones you ever think you’d be interested in. Just have fun and learn lots of different kinds of skills so that when the time comes to make big decisions about where your future takes you next, you will know not only what excites you, but also what you never want to do again! This sounds simple, but in the long run it is really empowering! I would also tell students to really value relationships with peers and mentors because they can really have lasting positive influences on you in the future.
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