Jay Rosenheim: Exemplary Teacher, Mentor and Researcher

"Jay Rosenheim joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty in 1990. He received his bachelor of science degree from UC Davis in 1983 with a double major in entomology and genetics, and his doctorate in entomology from UC Berkeley in 1987. He completed postdoctoral work at the University of Hawaii, 1987-1989, and was a Fulbright Scholar in Israel from 1989 to 1990."

I posted that on May 21, 2009 when Jay--now UC Davis Distinguished Professor Jay Rosenheim--won the first of many teaching awards spearheaded by his students.

He'll soon be UC Davis distinguished professor emeritus. He's retiring at the end of June after 34 years with the Department of Entomology and Nematology (ENT).

The department won't be the same without him. 

Rosenheim specializes in insect ecology, integrated pest management, and biological control, and the use of farmer-generated data to enhance pest and crop management ('Ecoinformatics'). He is internationally known for his research on the ecology of insect parasitoids and predators, insect reproductive behavior, and the application of big data, or ecoinformatics, methods in agricultural entomology.

And he was among the seven retiring or newly retired ENT faculty members honored on June 11 at a department-sponsored event at UC Davis Alumni Center.

Professor Louie Yang said it well at the event. 

"I've known him for 24 of those years and having seen just a little bit of how much he has done for students, colleagues, and the university in each of those years, it is deeply humbling to reflect upon his cumulative career-long contribution to science and mentorship."

"I've come to see that there are many ways to be a professor," Yang continued. "Jay's way has long been characterized by creative scholarly achievements, thoughtful and intentional contributions to agriculture, an intuitive feel for his organisms and a natural intuition for the quantitative side of ecology. I've also had a chance to witness and benefit from Jay's commitment to mentorship up close. Jay has provided mentorship to students and faculty alike, and I've benefited from both. His mentorship is characterized by good judgment and empathy; he is quick to forgive mistakes and genuine in celebrating your successes. On our campus, he's provided leadership of a quiet doing kind, often working behind the scenes to make important things happen and to provide a calming and moderating influence in challenging times."

"I've now come to see that there are lots of ways to retire. Many of our colleagues retire gradually, some almost imperceptibly. And thank goodness that we have more time to spend with them --it is genuinely wonderful to be able to draw upon the wisdom of emeritus faculty on campus. But Jay is following his own path in retirement, one that has been characterized by the same thoughtful, deliberate and certain approach that characterized his time as a professor."

Yang concluded with "I will sorely miss having Jay as a colleague. But I want to end with a heartfelt thanks. Thanks for all you've done for us over the many years, and for passing the baton. We wish you all the best on the road ahead."

A native of Yorktown, N.Y, young Jay developed an interest in biology while exploring the vernal pools behind his Hudson River Valley home.  As an undergraduate at UC Davis, he initially majored in physics. "On a lark" he enrolled in Professor Harry Kaya's Entomology 100 course in 1981.  The professor inspired him, the class enthralled him, and insects captivated him. 

Rosenheim's career has not only led to his being elected a Fellow of the Entomological Society of America (ESA) and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, but recipient of teaching awards from the Associated Students of UC Davis and the UC Davis Academic Senate;  the Distinguished Student Mentoring Award from ESA's Pacific Branch and the campuswide Graduate Program Advising and Mentoring Award.

Rosenheim co-founded and co-directs the campuswide Research Scholars Program in Insect Biology (RSPIB) with  Professors Joanna Chiu (now chair of the department) and Yang.  The program aims to provide "undergraduates with a closely-mentored research experience in biology," according to the website. "Because insects can be used as model systems to explore virtually any area of biology (population biology; behavior and ecology; biodiversity and evolutionary ecology; agroecology; genetics and molecular biology; biochemistry and physiology; cell biology), faculty in the program can provide research opportunities across the full sweep of biology.  The program's goal is to provide academically strong and highly motivated undergraduates with a multi-year research experience that cultivates skills that will prepare them for a career in biological research."

Rosenheim is the kind of professor who ignites, inspires and supports you. He recently reflected on his role: "The job of a professor is quite diverse, and quite rewarding in different ways. Teaching in a classroom provides instant gratification, as you see the light of understanding and excitement shining in students' eyes as they explore and grasp new concepts. Research in the laboratory provides instead delayed gratification, where long periods of hard work--sometimes years--may pass before questions are answered and one feels the satisfaction of pushing forward the margins of scientific understanding."

"But, perhaps the most lasting sense of accomplishment comes from mentoring graduate students," Rosenheim related. "Building relationships with graduate students, watching them grow in their skills and confidence and, finally, seeing them establish themselves in their careers, provides the kind of reward that is similar in some ways to the happiness that parents derive from their children. And the relationships never end--they are bonds that last a lifetime. I think the key to effective mentorship is to place the student's welfare at the top of one's priority list. So, drafts of papers should be returned promptly with constructive suggestions, and not allowed to languish in a long queue of manuscripts waiting for reviews--more senior colleagues can wait, if someone needs to wait."

We owe a debt of gratitude to UC Davis Distinguished Professor Jay Rosenheim, exemplary teacher, mentor and researcher, and wish him well in his retirement.