May R. Berenbaum

CAS Professor of Entomology

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Photo by Kathryn Faith

In her research, Professor Berenbaum explores the chemical interactions between phytophagous insects and their host plants and the function of these interactions in the organization and structure of natural communities. Her work is distinctive in that it addresses insect/plant coevolution at multiple hierarchical levels. On the physiological level, she investigates mechanisms of toxicity of plant chemicals as well as molecular and biochemical adaptations of insects to these toxins; on the ecological level, she examines patterns of insect hostplant use as a function of the distribution and interaction of plant chemicals. Professor Berenbaum is interested in the practical as well as basic aspects of research and has actively promoted the application of ecological principles to pest management and agriculture. Moreover, she has a passion for fostering scientific literacy and has written four books and many magazine articles for the general public.

In recognition of her work, she has received a Presidential Young Investigator’s Award from the National Science Foundation, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the George Mercer Award from the Ecological Society of America, and the Founder’s Memorial Award from the Entomological Society of America. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and American Philosophical Society; fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science and American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She received the 1996 Entomological Society of America North Central Branch Distinguished Teaching Award and the 1999 Edward O. Wilson Award for Science Writing from the American Society of Naturalists. In 2000 she received the Silverstein-Simeone Award, International Society of Chemical Ecology; and UIUC Chancellor’s Award for Distinguished Public Service. In 2002 she was elected a fellow of the Entomological Society of America. In 2004 she received the Robert MacArthur Award, Ecological Society of America. In 2018 she was appointed editor-in-chief of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In October 2014, Professor Berenbaum was awarded the National Medal of Science.  Read more….

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