Murray B. Isman, ESA Fellow (2014)


Dr. Murray B. Isman, a professor of entomology and toxicology at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, was elected as Fellow in 2014. He is internationally recognized for his discoveries and development of botanical insecticides and antifeedants, and for research in insect-plant chemical interactions and insect chemical ecology.

Isman was born in Vancouver, Canada on 14 June 1953. He attended the University of British Columbia, receiving his B.S. degree in 1975 and his M.S. degree in 1977. At the University of California, Davis, he earned a Ph.D. in entomology in 1981, followed by a postdoctoral position in insect toxicology at the University of California, Irvine. In 1983 he accepted a position as assistant professor in the Department of Plant Science at UBC, attaining the rank of professor in 1994. He later served as dean of the faculty of Land and Food Systems at UBC from 2005–2014.

Early in his career he became known for his thorough studies on neem insecticides and azadirachtin, helping to bring some clarity to research of variable quality, dubious claims, and redundancy. More recently he worked with a team to provide research and development support for EcoSMART Technologies Inc., propelling the company to become the world leader in pesticides based on plant essential oils. While Isman became an authority on the development of pesticides based on natural products, he maintained basic research on insects, with fascinating observations on insect feeding and oviposition behavior, insect memory, and the metabolism of plant toxins by insects. Isman published more than 180 scientific papers, reviews, and book chapters. His review of botanical insecticides, published in 2006 in the Annual Review of Entomology, is among the most cited reviews of that journal. In 31 years at UBC, he has supervised 22 graduate students, 13 postdoctoral fellows, and 16 visiting scientists.

Isman has presented more than 50 invited symposium papers and 40 invited lectures worldwide. He is a subject editor for the Journal of Economic Entomology and the Journal of Pest Science, and serves on three other editorial boards. He has won numerous awards during his career, including the Entomological Society of Canada’s Gold Medal in 2011, the C. Gordon Hewitt Award (1991) for outstanding achievement by an entomologist under the age of 40, and the PheroTech Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014. In 2010 he delivered the Thomas and Nina Leigh Distinguished Alumni Lecture at the University of California, Davis. He has presided over the International Society of Chemical Ecology (2002), the Phytochemical Society of North America (1993; he remains the only entomologist to have done so), and the Entomological Society of British Columbia twice (1988 and 1999). He also organized and chaired two conferences in Vancouver: the 14th Annual Meeting of the International Society of Chemical Ecology (1997) and the Fourth World Neem Conference (1999).

Isman is married to Susie, and they have a daughter, Carly, and son, Adam. His hobbies include ice hockey (he and Adam are both goaltenders), motorsports, contemporary and native art, and fine wine.

(updated February, 2015)