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Q&A With Jennifer Gordon, Ph.D.

  • Field Scientist for Douglas Products
  • Ph.D. in Entomology from the University of Kentucky, with concentration on insecticide toxicology
  • Master’s degree in Entomology, Louisiana State University, with concentration on insecticide toxicology
  • Bachelor’s degree in Entomology, Purdue University

How long have you been with Douglas Products?

I started August 1, 2019, and I will be based in San Francisco, California.

What is your role?

I’ll be working as a field scientist to support our sales team and customers with technical support and stewardship training. I’ll also be involved with coordinating research with universities and supporting our regulatory efforts, but my main work will be in the field supporting customers.

Interest in entomology?

I have always been fascinated with bugs. When I was 3 or 4 years old, I told my dad I was going to be an entomologist when I grew up. I think it was my first use of a multiple syllable word. My grandmother had a garden, and I liked to catch bugs in it. In 4-H I did bug collections. Unfortunately, my interest in insects took a hit in the eight grade when I picked up a cricket in the classroom and threw it outside. The kids in class freaked out that I would do that, so I kind of put my love of insects on hold for a little while.

What changed?

In high school, I was the co-Editor-in-Chief of my school newspaper, and I went to Purdue University to major in journalism. I had to take a science class as part of that degree, and I enrolled in a general entomology course. Within six weeks, I had changed my major to entomology.

Well, during my time at Purdue, I took a class in medical entomology and really understood how insects impact public health. Because of this renewed passion and new realization, I earned a bachelor’s degree in entomology from Purdue, and then a master’s degree in toxicology with a focus on mosquitoes from Louisiana State University (LSU). There I learned about insecticide resistance and how it compromises managing pests of public health. Eventually, I met Dr. Ken Haynes at the University of Kentucky, and he offered me a position in his lab studying insecticide resistance in bed bugs. While at the University of Kentucky, I earned a Ph.D. in Ken’s lab studying bed bugs, and worked with Dr. Mike Potter and pest management professionals in the field.

After earning your Ph.D.?

I most recently worked for The Clorox Company, Pleasanton, California, as a senior scientist in the Clinical and Scientific Affairs group. Before that, I was the lead urban entomologist for S.C. Johnson in Racine, Wisconsin, and managed many of their external scientific relationships.

Background in fumigation?

My introduction to seeing Vikane® gas fumigant in action was on a building infested with bedbugs. This was while doing field studies with Dr. Mike Potter at the University of Kentucky. I had never seen anything wipe out bed bugs like that. That showed me how important fumigation is as a management tool because it fully penetrates all cracks, crevices and voids, and there is no insect resistance.

Favorite part of the job?

I love working in the field, so I am very excited about getting out with field sales and our customers. I like to be on job sites, lifting mattresses for bed bugs or finding signs of termites. I like to identify the problem, determine the root cause and then use the best management strategy to solve the problem. My next favorite thing is public speaking. I enjoy educating people about insects and being able to engage them in learning. To put myself through college, I worked in retail and learned that I loved talking with people and knowing that the right information can overcome objections.

Challenging part of the job?

Learning all I can about the sulfuryl fluoride molecule. I know bed bugs and other pests pretty well. Also getting to know more people in the industry.

Industry involvement?

While earning my Ph.D., I received a National Pest Management Association internship. That involved interacting with professionals, understanding the continuing education requirements, but mostly was a chance to network with pest management professionals. I also helped every year with the University of Kentucky Pest Control Short Course. At that event, I gave educational presentations, monitored booth activity and interacted heavily with pest management professionals.

My immediate plans are to join key state pest control associations and connect with people in them. I also am a member of Entomological Society of America as well as the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology. In the past, I belonged to the American Chemical Society and the American Mosquito Association.

Changes you’ve seen in the industry?

Most of my experience has been academic, but in 2005, I received a pest management scholarship at Purdue and that was my formal introduction to the pest management industry. One big change has been the emergence of bed bugs as a pest. Industry and businesses are now serious about grappling with this pest. Another emerging change is the increasing involvement of women in the industry, both in academia and on the business side.

Something that might surprise people about bed bugs?

My research at the University of Kentucky showed that bed bugs have adaptations that make them capable of developing resistance to an insecticide in a single generation. Bed bugs are evolutionary machines. We had a great solution in the 1950s, but we are not likely to see again another insecticide like DDT that will be that effective against bedbugs. That is one reason structural fumigation is essential.

How do you like to relax?

I love jewelry, especially antique pieces. That got me involved in metalworking and now I cast, cut and solder my own art pieces. Add to that flea markets, watching documentaries and Pokémon GO.