GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences graduate student received the prestigious Kirby L. Hays Memorial Award. The award, from the Entomological Society of America’s southeastern branch, was presented at the branch’s 91st annual meeting in Memphis, Tenn., on March 12 to 15.
Casey Parker recently began her Ph.D. program at the Florida Medical Entomology Lab and is dual enrolled in the master of public health program. She hopes to become a leader in the field of medical and veterinary entomology.
The award honors her work as an outstanding master’s student in entomology and nematology, taking into account her teaching experience, outreach, research and past awards.
“This is a huge honor for me,” Parker said. “Before I was presented the award, the chair of the student awards committee said one of the many reasons I was chosen for this award was because of my leadership ability in teaching, research and Extension like Dr. Hays, after whom the award is named.”
Parker’s interest in science came from growing up on a horse farm in Ocala, Fla., where she learned the power of observation and hard work from her father, also a CALS graduate. During her time as an entomology and nematology student, Parker was a CALS Ambassador, participant in the CALS Leadership Institute, student liaison to the faculty assembly and grand prize recipient of the 2015 One World competition of the Challenge 2050 Project.
“Casey is one of our most accomplished students and those accomplishments stem directly from her willingness to jump in, try new things and find her niche. Fortunately for CALS, her niche is in entomology,” said CALS Dean Elaine Turner. “I’m very proud to call her a CALS student and look forward to even greater things from Casey in the future.”
As an undergraduate student, Parker did not anticipate pursuing a graduate degree. However, her experiences doing undergraduate research in CALS changed her career path.
“I think having undergraduate research opportunities is one of the best things CALS does for students,” Parker said. “If I hadn’t been in CALS or done research through CALS, I wouldn’t be doing a Ph.D. program.”
Parker’s master’s research involved devising a trap for controlling the mosquitoes that carry Zika, dengue, and chikungunya viruses, which can help prevent transmission to humans. She also conducted research at the United States Department of Agriculture lab in Thessaloniki, Greece, by surveying the population fluctuation of the specific mosquito species that carry these diseases. Her EDIS publication titled “Zika Vector Control for the Urban Pest Management Industry” can be found here.
On April 1, the Gainesville community will have the opportunity to hear Parker discuss how to fight mosquito-borne illnesses at the TEDxUF event. She will be the first TED Talk speaker of the day. The program begins at 1:30 p.m.
The College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) administers the degree programs of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS). The mission of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences is to deliver unsurpassed educational programs that prepare students to address the world’s critical challenges related to agriculture, food systems, human wellbeing, natural resources and sustainable communities. Visit the CALS website at cals.ufl.edu, and follow CALS on social media platforms at @ufcals.