Assistant Director/ Grad TA

2019 Assistant Director: Bretta Hixson

A late-comer to the field of entomology, Bretta was drawn to the study of insects (specifically mosquitoes) by way of her interest in international public health.  She holds an MPH from Boston University, and her resume includes stints as a program coordinator for a non-profit organization in Haiti, a college instructor of molecular biology in genetics, and a research technician at the National Institutes of Health. She is currently doing graduate work in the lab of Nicolas Buchon, where she studies epithelial repair in the midguts of dengue and Zika-transmitting Aedes aegypti mosquitoes.


Former Assistant Directors:

2018 Assistant Director: Samantha Willden

Samantha is originally from the deserts of southern Utah, where she spent her youth capturing wandering tarantulas and traversing vermilion sandstone cliffs. She now enjoys bug hunting in the lush forests surrounding Ithaca, and eating lots of hot soup during the northeastern winters. Her research as a PhD student at Cornell is centered on developing more sustainable practices in pest management, with a focus on biological control. She is currently investing how to best employ biocontrol tactics to manage spider mite pests on strawberry. Samantha hopes to become a professor of entomology with an appointment in research and extension, outreach, or science communication.


2017 – Kaitlin Deutsch is a PhD student in the McArt Lab, studying the diversity of wild pollinators and the prevalence of their pathogens in different landscape contexts. She first fell in love with insects (mostly bees) during a high school internship with the USDA and has been a bug enthusiast ever since. Kaitlin has developed and led programs about pollinator conservation and other current environmental issues in many grade school classrooms, and is passionate about communicating science to the next generation!





NatOutreach2016 – Julie Miller is a Ph.D. student in the department of Neurobiology and Behavior. She studies slave-making ants, and thinks insect societies are monumentally bizarre and wonderful. She discovered her love for the alien world of insects when she acquired her first hand lens in college. She has led various workshops for the public on social insect biology, the evolution of cooperation and pollination in Ithaca schools and at Cornell.







2015 – Frank Castelli was a graduate student during his time as assistant director and studied olfactory behavior in naked mole rats and hamsters and the neuroscience of parental behavior and aggression in hamsters.  Frank has been doing science outreach with Dr. Rayor for over 10-years, first as an undergraduate and when he returned to Cornell for his Ph.D. In 2018, Frank returned to Cornell as a discipline-based education researcher.




Kristen and Snake


2014 – Kristen Brochu is a Ph.D. student in the Danforth Lab and she has never met a bug she didn’t like. Her research interests include insect diversity, evolution, and sensory biology. At Cornell, she studies how bees’ diets can affect their health and reproduction. Kristen has spent a lot of quality time with her collecting net in Canada, the United States, Barbados, Panama, Costa Rica, Colombia, and The Bahamas, and when not travelling, she can usually be found tending to her pet insect zoo.






2010-2013 – Margarita Lopez-Uribe, got her Ph.D. in Entomology at Cornell University. She is now a postdoc at North Carolina State.  Margarita studies the evolutionary history of solitary wild bees for her research. She has done extensive field work in wet tropical forests in Latin America studying orchid bees and is now working with native bees.




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