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UMD Supports Undergraduate Research Activities


Wil Licht  

In every discipline, UMD supports undergraduate students who work with a faculty member on research. In fact, UMD pays the student for their efforts.

Wil Licht — Swenson College of Science and Engineering

Wil Licht, a senior in the Department of Biology, worked in Tim Craig’s lab to test the preference of Oecanthinae tree crickets for ovipositing, or laying eggs.

Licht, a biology major and natural history minor, presented his research at the National Conference of Undergraduate Research at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, in spring 2012. He also gave a talk on it at the Entomological Society of America’s meetings in Knoxville, Tenn., in fall 2012. He is currently writing a paper for a peer-reviewed publication describing the results of his studies. He will be the senior author.

Licht studied plant-insect interactions in Craig’s lab, and he became interested in the crickets while observing the gall maker Eurosta solidaginis. These flies are responsible for the golf ball-like spheres known as galls on goldenrod stems. Licht dissected the galls of the goldenrod gall flies and found the eggs of crickets that were not noticed before. “I reared the crickets and tried to figure out the process of why they would lay their eggs there,” he said. “What I did was an experiment determining whether they actually prefer that tissue or not.”

His research is important to biology because small behavioral differences in an animal, whether it’s a pronghorn sheep or a butterfly, can result in significant changes in their ecology.  “If we don’t understand these differences, we can end up causing problems for ourselves and for a species in that ecosystem,” he said.

Licht said that nobody has noticed this behavior before and there is a wealth of further research that can be done. “I think my research opened up opportunities for future researchers to try to figure out more details as to how and why this process is occurring,” he said.
Licht has worked on an independent study and two UROPs. He said that UROP gives a lot more independence in your research, and it gives a little bit of money to get your own materials. “It’s great for the professors, it’s great for the students,” he said. He plans to attend graduate school and continue his passion of research.

Written by Madiha Mirza. January 2013

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