10 Jun, 2019

Donga in her office
An Entomologist is a scientist who studies insects. Entomologists have many important jobs, such as the study of classification, life cycle, distribution physiology, behavior and ecology and population dynamics of insects. In an interview, Dr. Trust Donga, an Entomologist at LUANAR explains to our reporter on some of the roles entomologists play in a society.

1. You are an expert in entomology. Who are entomologists and what do they do?
Entomologists are people who study insects and how insects interact with humans, the environment, plants, animals and other organisms. Studies on the life of insects provide the basis for developing food and pharmaceutical products, pest control methods, environmental health monitoring, conservation of beneficial insects such as pollinators and edible insects, and crime investigation.

2. Take us through your educational and professional journey.
I went to several primary schools starting with Biwi Primary School and wrote my primary school leaving certificate at Chilinde Primary School in Lilongwe. I was selected to Chipasula Day Secondary School where I did my secondary education. From Chipasula Secondary, I qualified to study for a Bachelor of Science Degree at Chancellor College in Zomba. After successfully completing my undergraduate degree, I read for a Master’s Degree in Tropical Entomology at the University of Zimbabwe. Immediately after finishing my master’s degree, I joined the College of Medicine in Blantyre as a Staff Associate and later transferred to Bunda College of Agriculture as lecturer in entomology. I worked for four years before embarking on my doctoral studies at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences in Norway which I completed last summer.

3. For those aspiring to become entomologists, what qualities should they possess?
One needs to have natural curiosity to find solutions. Patience and perseverance are key attributes of an entomologists. A good memory is essential as there are millions of insects! Entomologists also need to be confident, self-motivated and have the ability to follow standard procedures and to be creative.

4. But are there jobs for entomologists in Malawi?
Yes! Actually, there are very few trained entomologists in the country. Career opportunities are available at government and non-governmental agricultural research station and other institutions dealing with food security. One can work with the Ministry of Health and health research as a vector control specialist and the Police Service as Forensic Entomologists in crime investigation. There are also opportunities in academia and environmental conservation groups.

5. Which institutions in Malawi and elsewhere train entomologists?
University of Malawi, Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Zambia, University of Zimbabwe and several other universities in South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania

6. What are the challenges you face as an entomologist?
People think that am weird since I work with insects! So, I do a bit of explaining and people soon realize the importance of studying insects. The other social problem I face is people thinking that I know each and every insect and that I have a solution to every pest problem they encounter. However, the greatest challenge I face as an entomologist is not being able to carry out research as I wish due to lack of financial support.

7. What advice do you have for those aspiring to become entomologists?
Be determined and patient. Working with insects is fascinating!