Targeting Insect-Host Plant Research
It's exciting to see a promising career unfold.
We first met UC Davis graduate student Alex Van Dam in 2010 when he received a $12,000 award from the University of California Institute for Mexico and the United States (UC MEXUS), an academic research institute dedicated to encouraging, securing, and contributing to binational and Latino research and collaborative academic programs and exchanges.
Then later in 2010 he received a Robert and Peggy van den Bosch Memorial Scholarship for his research on a scale insect. His project: "Investigating Host-Associated Lineage Splitting Within Dactylopius Using Molecular Phylogenetics."
Now Van Dam has just been selected for a National Science Foundation (NSF) Postdoctoral Fellowship to work on insect/host plant research.
The postdoctoral fellowship award is supported by both the Directorate for Biological Sciences and the Office of International Science and Engineering at NSF. During his two-year fellowship, he will work on a project, “New Insights into Insect Host-Plant Generalization: Population Transcriptome Sequencing of Porphyrophora spp.,” under the sponsorship of Uffe H. Mortensen at the Department of Systems Biology, Technical University of Denmark.
Van Dam will identify genes responsible for host-plant range in scale insects, and how they are maintained across populations. “This will be accomplished by testing hypotheses delineating physiological genes responsible for insect host-plant generalization,” he said. “Host-plant generalization is the ability to feed on many different species of plants. I will test if increased dispersal of host-plant detoxification genes in generalists leads to maintenance of functional gene paralogs, that is, gene duplications, across large effective populations.
A native of Los Angeles, Van Dam received his bachelor's degree and master's degree in entomology at UC Riverside and is currently a doctoral candidate and a member of the Entomology Graduate Group. He studies with major professor Bernie May in the Department of Animal Science. Professors Jay Rosenheim and Steve Nadler of the Department of Entomology are members of his dissertation committee.
Meanwhile, Van Dam is gearing up for his exit seminar at the Animal Science Spring Seminar Series. He'll present his seminar on Monday, April 29 from 12:10 to 1 p.m. in Weir Room 2154, Meyer Hall.
Another great success story!
Alex Van Dam, photographed next to a giant cactus.