As a student at J.P. Stevens High School in Edison, NJ, Marisa Shinal was interested in the biological sciences. She enrolled as a biology major at Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences, but midway through her studies, she found herself at a crossroads and recognized the need to change majors. Ultimately, she found her passion at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences (SEBS). “In my junior year of college, I switched from a biology major in SAS to an entomology major in SEBS,” said Shinal. “I had taken a class in the Entomology Department and immediately knew it was what I wanted to focus on for the rest of my bachelor’s degree. Dr. Chloe Hawkings in the Department of Entomology encouraged me to switch majors when I was feeling unhappy with biology through SAS.”
Shinal immersed herself in research, academic achievement and extracurricular pursuits at SEBS. She became a member of the Alpha Zeta fraternity and was in the G.H. Cook Honors Program. Her G.H. Cook thesis focused on the diversity and physiology of native bees in New Jersey and how understanding their biology can lead to effective conservation strategies.
Hawkings commented, “Marisa has presented her research numerous times and most notable was at the Entomological Society of America’s annual meeting in Denver Colorado in 2021.” Shinal relished that opportunity. She noted, “I absolutely loved attending the Entomological Society of America National Meeting in Denver, CO last November and presented my research in the Undergraduate Student Competition against students all over the country. It was my first time at a conference in person, and my first time in Colorado!”
Shinal was involved in the entomology club and held board positions over the last year. She is an advocate for DEI initiatives within the department and the SEBS community. “I have been the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion chair and outreach chair for the Undergraduate Entomology Club,” she said. “I’ve also been on the Entomology Games team for two years and competed at the 2021 Eastern Branch Meeting and 2021 National Meeting of the Entomological Society of America. I’ve been a member of the honors professional fraternity Alpha Zeta since 2021 and currently serve as head of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee.”
The Department of Entomology opened more doors of engagement for Shinal. “At SEBS, I had the opportunity to redesign our department’s 30+ year old logo, as well as design merchandise. I’ve served on awards committees, worked in three different labs, and have been involved in the planning of a number of department events, including our Monarch Migration Celebration and Welcoming Event for new students,” she said.
Finding her calling within the Department of Entomology was inspired by the support she found there, going back to her first class in entomology, and meeting assistant professor Chloe Hawkings, who is also undergraduate program director for the department. Shinal commented, “She has always been my biggest supporter, and has given me countless opportunities for professional development, from being my advisor for my G.H. Cook research, encouraging me to get more involved in diversity initiatives and scientific outreach, and fostering my scientific curiosity. I have taken five of her classes, TA’d two of them, and enjoyed every single one of them.”
While Shinal is receiving her undergraduate degree as a member of the Class of 2022, she will not be straying far, as she will remain at Rutgers to pursue her graduate studies. “After graduation, I will continue working with Dr. Hawkings and my additional advisor, Dr. Cesar Rodriguez-Saona as a Ph.D. student in Entomology. My focus will be on native bee physiology and nutrition,” she said.
Congratulations Marisa and the Class of 2022!