Chemical Ecology Plenary Speakers

Nectar microbe-produced semiochemicals as mediators of species interactions 
John Beck, PhD
USDA-ARS, CMAVE


John is a Research Leader with the USDA-ARS Center for Medical, Agricultural, and Veterinary Entomology, Chemistry Research Unit in Gainesville, Florida. John received a B.Sc. in chemistry from the University of California, Riverside and a Ph.D. in organic/natural products chemistry from Colorado State University. Prior to joining the ARS as a career employee in 2006, John was an Associate Professor of Chemistry. While his formal training was in organic chemistry and the isolation, characterization, and bioassay of natural products from terrestrial sources, his research now focuses on plant-, insect-, and microbial-emitted volatiles and their role as semiochemicals. His research has included discovering host plant-based attractants for the California insect pest, navel orangeworm utilizing electrophysiological and behavioral responses to select compounds or blends. More recent work has focused on nectar microbe-produced semiochemicals and their role in pollination. John has authored or co-authored over 70 peer-reviewed publications, and has authored four patents. Professional memberships include the Entomological Society of America (ESA) Plant-Insect Ecosystems section, and the International Society of Chemical Ecology (ISCE). Professional service includes serving as an Associate Editor for Environmental Entomology, and a member of the Editorial Boards for the Journal of Food and Agricultural Chemistry and Phytochemistry Letters.


Application of chemical ecology for food production and environmental sustainability in Africa through companion cropping
Charles Midega, PhD
International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology


Dr. Charles Midega, a Marquis Who’s Who in the World biographee, is an international agricultural development expert, a Senior Research Scientist at icipe (international centre of insect physiology and ecology) (Kenya), and a Distinguished Africanist Scholar, Cornell University (USA). He holds a PhD in Agricultural Entomology from Kenyatta University (Kenya), and postdoctoral fellowships from icipe and Kyushu University (Japan). He is actively involved in agricultural development initiatives in Africa, in addition to development and implementation of agricultural technologies, including their adaptation to different agro-ecologies, crop systems and farmer profiles, with a view to advancing food security and environmental sustainability in the continent. He is also involved in management of research, including landscape studies, plant signaling and plant-insect interactions. He has authored/co-authored over 100 scientific papers in refereed journals, book chapters, books and educational materials in these fields.


Chemical ecology in the era of genomes, transcriptomes and proteomes
Zainulabeuddin 'Zain' Syed, PhD
University of Kentucky


Dr. Syed and his laboratory study chemosensation (ability to detect and respond to chemicals) in insects at the University of Kentucky. The overall research objective is to understand the evolutionary and functional biology of olfaction. His research group uses the insect olfactory system and its cellular and molecular components as biological detectors to isolate and identify volatile organic compound (VOCs) that mediate insects' critical life traits, such as finding suitable hosts and mates, and avoiding predators. These integrated approaches are broadly aimed to understand and exploit the remarkable insect chemical communication with a goal to develop novel tools in the fight against world’s deadliest crop pests and disease vectors. Dr. Syed studied biology and chemistry for his BS degree, and pursued MS in agricultural entomology. He then started his career researching insect sex pheromones of rice crop pests in India for over 4 years. He obtained his PhD from the University of Neuchatel in Switzerland in the areas of insect chemical ecology, sensory physiology and behavior. He did his post-doctoral work in Germany and California: a year and half stint in Berlin with Marien de Bruyne in Randolf Menzel’s research group where he studied the plasticity of olfactory coding in Drosophila, and later at the University of California-Davis with Walter Leal before starting his independent research career. He currently serves as a Councilor to the International Society of Chemical Ecology and has been an active member of the Entomological Society of America since 2005.

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