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Brett LaBella | Entomology and Nematology | 23 Questions

As a way to learn more about the 23 majors in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at the University of Florida, we’ve been asking 23 questions. Brett LaBella, an undergraduate student in entomology and nematology, answered our 23 questions while showing us the outreach lab in the Entomology and Nematology department. Watch the video to learn more about LaBella’s student involvement and favorite UF courses.


Megan: Hey Brett!

Brett: Howdy!

Megan: Thanks for having us. We have 23 questions for you to go along with our 23 majors. Are you ready to get started?

Brett: Of course! Come on in.

Megan: So can you tell us why we’re here?

Brett:  Yeah, so this is the outreach lab. Essentially it’s where our outreach coordinator works. She handles the bugs and takes them to different events and we also share this with the Entomology Club. I’ve been the president of the Entomology Club for the past three years, so I’m pretty familiar with this space. We keep some of our insects in here — we keep our griddle where we cook bugs on in here and just some other cool things that we use for the club.

Megan: Why did you choose to major in entomology and nematology?

Brett: Bugs are a strange thing to study. Essentially when I was a kid I loved bugs — I read bug books with my mom and then when you get into middle school and high school you don’t learn about bugs as much so it kind of fell off. But when I got to college Dr. Baldwin, our undergrad advisor, talked to Preview, and she was the most enthusiastic person about insects in the entire world and she got me to take her intro to bugs class called Bugs and People and then after everything I became an entomology major.

Megan: So, I see we have some bugs over here can you tell us their names?

Brett: Yeah of course! You’re more than welcome to throw some other questions at me as I talk about these guys. This is a tailless whip scorpion. Her name is “Tail”or Swift and from Harry Potter …

Megan: Aragog?

Brett: Yeah.

Megan: While you’re showing us that, can you tell us what your favorite part about being an entomology and nematology student is?

Brett: So, I’d say my favorite part about being an entomology and nematology student is — has to be the faculty. They’re some of the best in the entire world. We are the number one entomology department in the entire world, so it’s pretty awesome. We have world-renowned faculty, our

undergrad advisor Dr. Baldwin, and we just had a professor speak on a Netflix nature documentary — Dr. Lisa Taylor with jumping spiders. We just have awesome faculty here.

Right here we have some Madagascar hissing cockroaches and, as their name suggests, they are from Madagascar and they also do hiss. That’s Jim right there. Yep, that’s sally. So, Madagascar hissing cockroaches they’re all bark no bite. They can’t really hurt you. They have these tiny little holes called sphericals which is how insects breathe. So, when they get upset or annoyed they just blow air out really fast.

Megan: Can you tell us what else you’re involved in at UF?

Brett: UF has a lot of different organizations clubs and things you can get involved in. A couple of the main points that I’m involved in are Alpha Zeta, which is a CALS academic fraternity. It has guys and girls in it and it’s a pretty great opportunity to dip your toes in a bunch of different things like service, volunteering and fundraising while also meeting a bunch of great friends. I was also in the CALS Leadership Institute, which is a 3-semester program that makes you a better leader and increases your ability to lead others. I’m also a CALS Ambassador, so I’m an ambassador for the college, which is awesome. I just started that this year so I’m excited to see where that takes me.

Megan: Why do you think students should be involved on campus?

Brett: Involvement is very important. I think, as a UF student, it’s important that they go and find what they’re interested in because UF offers a wide variety of organizations and clubs. It’s also a great way to make friends.

Right here we have our Chilean rose hair tarantula her name is Rosie. She has been our outreach tarantula for about three years now. She’s very, very nice, doesn’t bite anyone.

Megan: While you’re showing Rosie off, if you could be any bug what would you be and why?

Brett: So probably a rather strange bug that would be but very common would be a ladybug. They’re cool looking but they’re also predatory of some pests, so they’re actually good to have around your house.

Megan: What’s an interesting bug that most people don’t know about?

Brett: I was going to say the tailless whip scorpion over here is pretty cool, but another bug that is pretty interesting would be the mantis fly, which is essentially a praying mantis but it looks like a fly. It has a very long neck and it’s got the claws and stuff so it’s pretty cool.

Megan: What’s one place in Gainesville that you think people should visit?

Brett: Other than the entomology department, I would say if they haven’t seen UF’s Natural Area Teaching Laboratory (NATL) yet that’s an awesome place to go. The entomology department has over 60 acres of organic farm land, kind of like a mini forest that the department owns. Students are free to go there and collect. They have science experiments going on over there and so it’s a pretty awesome beautiful place.

Megan: What’s your favorite course you’ve taken at UF?

Brett: I’d say my favorite course I’ve taken is a tie between Principles of Entomology, which is the basic level of insect class, and Molecular Genetics because that stuff is pretty awesome.

Megan: What’s your dream job?

Brett: My dream job is hopefully after undergrad I’ll go to medical school then pursue something maybe in family medicine or emergency medicine. I’m not quite sure yet, but something along those lines.

Megan: What is something that’s on your bucket list?

Brett: I love to travel. After my senior year of high school I traveled across the United States. I think I have 36 states so on top of just going and traveling to a bunch of other states I’d love to just travel across the country or across the world. Hopefully by the time I’m retired and everything I’ll have time to hit at least 50 different countries and stuff.

Megan: That’s a good segue way into our next question, which is what’s your favorite place you’ve traveled and why?

Brett: My favorite place I’ve traveled is Oregon. Absolutely beautiful over there. They have a combination of everything — they have the beach and the coastline. We went whale watching over there. Then they have the interior and we went to crater lake national park, which is absolutely amazing. And the people over there are just pretty awesome too.

Megan: What is your favorite UF sport to watch?

Brett: Obviously football — that’s a pretty easy one. I just went back for the first time in two years, and it was electric. It was pretty awesome.

Megan: What is a hidden secret about UF that only entomology and nematology majors know?

Brett: You know an entomology major because they’re going have the jellyfish net in their backpack. I would say they know all the bug spots on campus some spots that you would not think that are heavy with bugs, entomology students know where those bugs are.

Megan: What’s the first thing you do when you get home each day?

Brett: Put on that second cup of coffee, watch a Netflix episode, then start looking into some of my schoolwork that I have for the day, and then probably just end the night off just hanging out with my friends.

Megan: What are you looking most forward to this year?

Brett: This is my senior year, my last year here, so I’m really looking forward to just connecting with new people and hanging out with the people that I’ve already met before. Yeah and just really enjoying the moment while I’m here.

Megan: What are three things you couldn’t live without?

Brett: Three things — I would say my leopard gecko his name is Jon Snow, the white fan noise to help me go to sleep, and third one, oh, publishing engines.

Megan: Those are three good things. What’s the most interesting thing you’ve eaten and does it include an insect?

Brett: So I’ll give two parts to the answer. The most interesting insect cuisine I’ve had —every semester in ENY 1001 Bugs and People, which I help TA for, we essentially griddle some mealworms. Andso that’s pretty cool. We just put the mealworms on there with a little cajun seasoning and they taste a lot better than people think. The weirdest thing I’ve ever eaten I think was Korean BBQ. I had pig intestine, which was an interesting piece of I guess meat, I don’t know what you would call it.

Megan: That is pretty interesting. In your opinion what’s the best UF tradition?

Brett: I don’t know if they still do it anymore, but my favorite UF tradition was after the football games the marching band would come out onto the street and they march up the street and we all follow them. Other than that probably football games during the fourth quarter we sing Tom Petty and that’s obviously always a fan favorite.

Megan: Of course. And last question why is it great to be a Florida Gator?

Brett: There’s so many things to like about being a Florida Gator. Essentially being able to be surrounded by other students who have common interests. I just talked to a student the other day she came all the way from San Francisco to the entomology department to major in entomology and she finally feels like she’s at home because she has a bunch of other individuals that enjoy the things that she likes. So, my favorite part about being a Florida Gator is being surrounded by individuals that have similar interests.

Megan: Well, Brett, thank you for having us!

Brett: Of course, thanks for stopping by!

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