UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Two entomologists in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences will receive prestigious awards from the Entomological Society of America during its 2021 annual meeting, which will take place in person and online Oct. 31 to Nov. 3 in Denver, Colorado.
Kelli Hoover, professor of entomology, was elected as a fellow of the society, an honor that recognizes individuals for their outstanding contributions to entomology in research, teaching and extension and whose career accomplishments serve to inspire all entomologists.
Flor Acevedo, assistant professor of entomology, will receive the society’s Early Career Professional Research Award, which recognizes a student transition or early professional who has made outstanding research contributions to the field of entomology.
“Kelli Hoover is receiving the highest award our professional society offers,” said Gary Felton, head of the Department of Entomology. “It is no surprise to me — I know of few scientists in our discipline who have spanned the spectrum of transformative to translational research in such a seamless manner.”
Felton called Acevedo “an emerging star” in entomology. “In her short career, she has successfully integrated chemistry, physiology, molecular biology and material science to uncover novel aspects of insect-plant relationships.”
Hoover is internationally recognized for her research on invasive species biology and ecology, especially for the discovery of mechanisms underlying interactions between host plants, insects, and insect pathogens or symbionts. She is a faculty affiliate of Penn State’s Center for Chemical Ecology, Center for Pollinator Research and Insect Biodiversity Center. She also is on the faculty of the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences’ Intercollege Graduate Program in Molecular, Cellular and Integrative Biosciences.
Hoover received a bachelor’s degree in biology of natural resources from the University of California, Berkeley. After serving as a biological technician for the U.S. Forest Service in Juneau, Alaska, she earned a second bachelor’s degree, this time in physical therapy, from the University of Washington and worked for five years as a sports medicine physical therapist.
Returning to school to follow her passion for insects, Hoover received a master’s degree in biology at San Jose State University and a doctorate in entomology from the University of California, Davis. She spent a year as a President’s Postdoctoral Fellow at UC Berkeley before joining the entomology faculty at Penn State in 1998.
Hoover’s research explores how plant defenses impact the physiology of pathogenesis of baculoviruses in caterpillars and the host insects’ immune system. She also studies the complex interactions between insects, their gut symbionts and host plants in beetle and lepidopteran (butterfly and moth) systems, including effects on plant defense expression and insect fitness. Her current research also examines the physiological impacts of spotted lanternfly on hardwood tree health and growth.
A recipient of two College of Agricultural Sciences teaching awards and its Black Award for Excellence in Research, Hoover has trained more than 30 graduate students and postdoctoral scholars, has published more than 120 peer-reviewed papers and book chapters, and holds two patents. She has taught 10 entomology courses, and she co-developed the popular general education course, “The Insect Connection: Insects, Globalization, and Sustainability,” which is taught online and in the classroom every semester, reaching thousands of undergraduates.
Acevedo, who is based at the college’s Lake Erie Regional Grape Research and Extension Center, studies the basic mechanisms mediating plant-insect interactions, with the goal of enhancing host-plant resistance. Her current research uses insect pests of grapevines as a model system to explore various scientific questions.
During her 15 years of research experience, Acevedo has conducted basic and applied research, making significant contributions to the understanding of insect-plant interactions, chemical ecology, integrated pest management, insect biological control and the general biology of insects.
Among her projects are experiments aimed at identifying herbivore offense mechanisms in native and invasive pests of grape; characterizing plant resistance traits to insect herbivores; evaluating the use of biostimulants in plant protection; identifying and rearing natural enemies of native herbivore pests; and examining the use of technological tools to improve pest monitoring and tracking. She also is involved in extension and teaching.
Acevedo received her bachelor’s degree in agronomy from the University of Caldas, Colombia, and her doctorate in entomology from Penn State.
Chuck Gill, Penn State University