May Roberta Berenbaum

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Entomologist; Educator
Biological Sciences
Evolution and Ecology

Dr. May Roberta Berenbaum has been on the faculty of the Department of Entomology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign since 1980, serving as head since 1992 and as Swanlund Chair of Entomology since 1996. Berenbaum has had an unparalleled impact on the environmental sciences through a rare combination of path-breaking scientific discovery and influential public engagement. Berenbaum’s research transformed the field of chemical ecology with discoveries that provided a genetic basis for the theory of coevolution. Her investigations have encompassed elegant ecological experiments, elucidated proximate physiological mechanisms, included chemical and genetic analyses, and clearly showed the evolutionary consequences of an “arms war” that exists between plants and insect herbivores. Her research has also provided a clear paradigm for understanding the evolution of insect resistance to insecticides. Her work gives a vivid example of how studies in the basic realm of chemical ecology can inform agricultural practices.

Berenbaum has also had a major impact on the environmental sciences through her public engagement work. She is the leading public intellectual for information on insects in the country. Berenbaum’s writing for the public is prolific and highly acclaimed, with a torrent of lively magazine articles, columns, and three books about insects to her name. She has likewise produced over 230 refereed scientific publications and 35 book chapters. Berenbaum has received numerous accolades for her research and teaching including, among many others, a Guggenheim fellowship, the E. O. Wilson Naturalist Award, the AAAS Award for Public Understanding of Science and Technology, and the Entomological Society of America’s Distinguished Teaching Award. She is a Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society, the Ecological Society of America, the Entomological Society of America, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society in addition to her American Academy of Arts and Sciences Membership

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