Angela Douglas to Give Founders’ Memorial Lecture

Lanham, MD; June 10, 2011 -- Dr. Angela Douglas, the Daljit S. and Elaine Sarkaria Professor of Insect Physiology and Toxicology at the Department of Entomology at Cornell University, has been selected to deliver the Founders’ Memorial Award lecture at Entomology 2011 – the 59th Annual Meeting of the Entomological Society of America (ESA) – this November in Reno, Nevada. This year’s honoree is the late Dr. Reginald Frederick Chapman (1930-2003), who had a long and distinguished career as an entomologist in university and government institutions in Britain and America.

ESA established the Founders’ Memorial Award in 1958 to honor scientists whose lives and careers enhanced entomology as a profession and who made significant contributions to the field in general and in their respective subdisciplines. At each Annual Meeting, the recipient of the award addresses the conferees to honor the memory and career of an outstanding entomologist.

Dr. Angela Douglas studies nutritional physiology, including the contribution of symbiotic microorganisms to insect nutrition. She has worked for some years on plant sap feeding insects—especially aphids—and has recently initiated a parallel program on the interactions between drosophilid fruit flies and their gut microbiota. In her research, Angela seeks to explain how insects work in terms of underlying molecular mechanisms, and to use this information to predict how insects interact with other organisms and the wider environment. She also has a general interest in cooperative relationships and has written three books on the subject, including The Symbiotic Habit (Princeton University Press), published in 2010.

Angela hails from the New Forest in the south of England. She received a BA in zoology at Oxford University and a Ph.D. at the University of Aberdeen. She worked at the Universities of East Anglia, Oxford, and York in the UK, before moving to the US in 2008. She has received various awards, including a 10-year research fellowship from the Royal Society of London (1986-96), and a research fellowship from the Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (2005-08). Angela is a Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society of London.

At Cornell, Angela is taking forward her strong research and teaching commitment to insect physiology. Her greatest achievement by far is her contribution to training students and postdoctoral associates, many of whom have successful careers in research and teaching at various universities around the world, in industry, and in non-governmental organizations.

Dr. Reginald Frederick Chapman, the subject of Dr. Douglas’s speech, had the unusual ability to combine exacting original research with inspired teaching. His early career in Africa encouraged a broad approach and exercised his curiosity about the natural world. Later, at Birkbeck College, he had responsibility for an M.Sc. course in entomology, most of which, initially, he taught by himself.

This gave him a very wide grasp of entomology and provided the basis for his extremely successful book, The Insects: Structure and Function. First published in 1969, The Insects has become widely accepted as a graduate text throughout the English-speaking world. The text is arguably one of the most influential books in entomology in the last 50 years, and it was the best selling of the five textbooks he authored.

The scientific contributions for which Reg is most renowned were studies on insect-plant interactions, especially sensory and behavioural aspects of food selection, mainly in locusts and grasshoppers. Reg was one of the first to make quantitative observations of insects in the field, and to combine lab and field studies.

Even after over 100 publications establishing his international reputation for work on food selection, his later years saw publications on plastron respiration in an arachnid, muscle degeneration, and the electrophysiology of olfaction in a whip spider. It is arguable that if he had adopted the approach of most of his contemporaries and confined his attentions to a single theme, sometimes using a single technique, then he would have made a more telling mark and gained greater acclaim. That, however, was never an issue for Reg; the science was the important thing, not the glory.

Honors, such as giving the Distinguished Scientist Lecture at the University of Georgia, receipt of the Silver Medal from the International Society of Chemical Ecology, being appointed Honorary Fellow of the Royal Entomology Society, and being elected a Fellow of the Entomological Society of America, pleased him but were never an end in themselves. His broad scientific knowledge led him to be an active member of eight scientific societies.

It is very fitting that Angela Douglas be the awardee for the Founders’ Award in honor of Reginald Chapman, as she is currently working with Stephen Simpson to produce a new edited version of Chapman’s The Insects: Structure and Function.