Starting in Spring 2017, undergraduate UF students will have the option to enroll in a 1000-level research entomology class.

Christine Miller, an assistant professor of entomology, said the National Science Foundation awarded her an $822,000 grant to fund the class.

“Undergrads will collect data and actually be involved in real research, not cookbook laboratory exercises,” she said.  

For example, undergraduates, alongside graduate students and professors, will investigate the evolution of animal weapons, like those on bighorn sheep and deer, and how males use them while mating, Miller said.

She and her students will study insect weapons. 

Students will spend about eight hours a week researching in the lab and field and an hour and a half discussing their findings twice a week, she said.

Miller said she plans to use insects in the studies because they’re easy to breed and study in large numbers. They also allow researchers to create different sample sizes and controls, she said.

Students will learn to think of science in relation to the real world by getting hands-on with leaf-footed bugs such as the Narnia femorata, Acanthocephala declivis and Mictis profana.

Of the class’ six sections, two will have 50 students, two will have 25 students and the last two will have about seven students, Miller said.

Miller hopes to foster thoughtful discussions in each section.

“I don’t like to get up there and tell people what to think,” Miller said. “I rather challenge them to think and hear what they have to say.”

Blair Siegfried, a professor and chair of insecticide toxicology and resistance management, believes the undergraduate program will be very beneficial for students.

Heather McAuslane, a professor of plant-insect interactions and chemical ecology, said the NSF grant is proof of Miller’s excellent research and the organization’s confidence in her teaching abilities.

Miller said she started working as a researcher at UF eight years ago and received her Ph.D. from the University of Montana.

“It’s amazing to be awarded money to do something you really love,” she said.