I’ve been struggling with how to start this blog. I’m much more accustomed to scientific writing and haven’t had to write in a different way since completing my undergrad or preparing my personal statements for grad school. I’m excited to practice writing outside of scientific contexts!
My name is Nicole Quinn. I am a second semester PhD student in the department of Entomology here at Virginia Tech. Entomology is the study of insects (though it often includes other invertebrates too, such as spiders). I am studying the brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys), otherwise known as BMSB, and how it interacts with wild insects and plants found near apple and peach orchards. BMSB cause millio
ns of dollars in crop damage yearly, so understanding how it interacts with its environment is important in developing management programs to help farmers. I am passionate about entomology. While I love insects and find it very satisfying on an intellectual level to study them, I also find it personally fulfilling to help society in this way.
However, I did not always think that I would be an entomologist. While I always had a strong interest in insects and ecology from a young age, I always thought I would be a veterinarian. I left Massachusetts for Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, PA to begin my undergraduate pre-vet studies in 2008. It quickly became clear to me that it was not the right fit. I stayed in the biology major but did not stay on the pre-vet track. Instead, I took more ecology courses, including a study abroad in Ecuador and a thesis project South Africa. I ended up completing two more thesis (or capstone) projects because I loved doing research so much, even though only one was required. I knew that I wanted a career in independent research, preferably involving insects. This was further cemented by an internship with Penn State that I had in my last semester, where I worked in an entomology lab with BMSB, among other insects. But, with student loan debt bearing down on me, I thought I would at least try to work for a couple years before going to grad school.
After graduating in 2012, I worked at a science journal in Cambridge, MA, and quickly became bored with the mundane office work and daily commutes. I began applying to grad school almost immediately. I ended up quitting my science journal job after 6 months to work on a research project in east Texas, where I hiked and drove an ATV around all day checking insect traps. I felt revitalized to be back in the field and back in the world of science and insects. Around this time, I was also offered an assistantship at Michigan State University to complete an MS in Entomology, which I accepted. Completing my master’s was an incredible growing experience for me personally and professionally that I am still processing since I only just completed it in December 2015. I met so many incredible, supportive people there, and have met many wonderful people here too. I am excited to continue to grow and explore here at Virginia Tech.