Graduate Students

Satinderpal Kaur – PhD Student

Aaron Mleziva

“The goal of my research is to build a critical understanding of the additive, antagonistic, and/or synergistic responses of Maize (corn) experiencing varying environmental stress factors in the presence of climatic changes. I focus on the combinatorial stress factors of flooding, elevated carbon dioxide, and herbivory by the Fall armyworm–Spodoptera frugiperda (Lepidoptera : Noctuidae), given their growing importance in the context of global climate change.”

Erinn Dady

Erinn  joined the Ngumbi Lab in the summer of 2019 as a participant in PRECS, a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates, and was asked to stay on during my undergraduate career. After many exciting experiments, she knew she had found my place in research. She will begin her masters of Entomology with the Ngumbi Lab in Fall 2022.

Erinn is very passionate about food. Before returning to school, she worked for many years as a chef and a baker at several locally owned Champaign-Urbana restaurants. She is so excited to be approaching food from a new angle, helping farmers to understand the mechanisms of plant defenses against insect herbivory and environmental stressors resulting from climate change. I am excited to help growers of specialty crops like tomatoes face these challenges, and to promote systems inspired by nature that encourage a reduction in the use of pesticides. Erinn is committed to inclusive outreach and motivating others along my journey. When everyone has a seat at the table, the party is much cheerier!

She is excited to address insect-related food insecurity through the lens of chemical ecology, focusing on the effects of combinatorial stress on plant-insect and plant-microbe interactions in crop plants. 

Miles Arceneaux

Miles is a second-year Masters Student in the Ngumbi lab. My current research focuses on the large umbrella topic of climate change and zooms in to take a closer look at how climate change has increased the frequency of flooding events around the globe, and how this has an effect on crops. Specifically, I look at tomato plants under the combinatorial stressors of flooding and herbivory to see how these stressors cause a direct effect on the physiology of the tomato plant and what the indirect effect on the herbivore growth and performance is. Outside of the lab I enjoy fashion, gaming and cooking different types of foods!”

Undergraduate Students

Michael Somerville

Emma Cartelli


Anagha Tiwari


Akshata Tiwari

Rami Jameel

Former Undergraduate Students

Olivia Barett

Olivia’s research was in pursuit of new management techniques for western corn rootworm (WCR) beetles, an economically devastating corn plant pest that has developed resistance to current management practices. In addition to corn plant volatiles, WCR beetles respond strongly to floral volatiles emitted by certain Cucurbita maxima (squash) varieties, though at present it is unclear whether this attraction is due to the quantity or the quality (i.e., specific compounds present in the volatile blend) of the volatiles. Additionally, non-volatile compounds called cucurbitacins, which are the compounds that make bitter gourds/cucumbers/melons “bitter”, are known to stimulate compulsive feeding in WCR and related beetles. While some Cucurbita maxima varieties are known to accumulate cucurbitacins, it is unclear which varieties have these compounds, nor is it known whether the presence of these compounds is acting synergistically with the volatile compounds to influence beetle behavior. To answer these questions, they analyzed floral volatile and cucurbitacin compounds.

Ndidi Ojiako