Inspiring Latina of the Week: Entomology Professor & Bee Researcher Dr. Juliana Rangel-Posada

Tell us about a day in the life of a Juliana Rangel-Posada?

On a typical day I get to work at around 8:30 a.m., catch up on email for the first hour, read a couple of scientific papers, continue writing the latest article I might be working on at the time, and perhaps help analyze some of my students’ data.  I usually have lunch in my office while perusing the internet, and then head over to the honey bee lab where we have our apiary.  Our honey bee research facility is located about 10 miles from the main campus and is home to a 5,000-square foot building that with several different laboratories for research projects.  Outside of the building we have approximately 70 honey bee colonies ranging from 2,000 to 40,000 workers in population, so I go with my beekeeper to inspect colonies and collect data at least once a week. 

After working with the bees (my favorite part of my job!) and getting stung a few times, I drive back to campus, finish up writing and answering email, and go home at around 6 or 7 p.m.  I work out most evenings, have dinner, and go to bed tired but happy! My job doesn’t have a set schedule… it is not uncommon that I will be at one of the two labs working on weekends or at night.  That’s the life of a scientist!

You are an Associate Professor at Texas A&M's in the Entomology Department. Can you explain to our readers what Entomology is, and is this something you have always been interested in?

Entomology is the study of insects and their biology. It encompasses all areas related to insects, from Integrated Pest Management of agriculturally important pests, to studies on the basic biology of all insects, including those both harmful and beneficial to humans and to agriculture.  In our department we have ecologists, systematists, toxicologists, molecular biologists, geneticists, agronomists, behaviorists, and more! 

As far as honey bees go, they are the most important pollinator of the food we consume, so the study of honey bee biology and health is one of the most important branches of entomology. 

Growing up in Colombia I became very interested in the study of tropical ecology, and I knew that I wanted to pursue a career that took me to Latin America to study the biology of tropical organisms.  When I was an undergraduate student at the University of California, San Diego, I conducted independent research with a professor that studied communication in tropical stingless honey bees. I worked in his laboratory for a couple of years and had the opportunity to travel to Brazil to study a very interesting species of stingless honey bee. That was back in 2001, and since then, I knew that I wanted to study honey bees and their biology for the rest of my career. So my interest in entomology arouse out of serendipity when I was an undergraduate student, but my interest in tropical biology has always been an important part of my upbringing.  Once you get “stung” by the bee love, you just can’t seem to get enough knowledge about these important and fascinating insects!