Faculty Spotlight: Matthew Smart

Matthew Smart
Matthew Smart

About Matthew:

I grew up in a small, rural town in southern Illinois.  I got my undergrad degrees in biology and anthropology from the University of Colorado-Boulder. After that I took an internship in south Florida at the USDA-ARS Invasive Plant Research Lab where I was first exposed to entomology as a career and was completely sold on it at that point. At that time I also met my future wife who was an intern in another lab group. It was a very magical time for us. After that I moved to Taiwan to teach English as a foreign language and was able to travel around southeast Asia. When that adventure ended I decided it was time to look back into bugs and graduate school. I was first hired as a technician to manage honey bees (something I had no experience with) in the Washington State University Bee Lab. Very shortly thereafter I had the opportunity to start a master’s program there examining the distribution of microsporidian parasites in Pacific Northwest honey bees. That project led to another opportunity to start a Ph.D. program at the University of Minnesota Bee Lab where I was tasked with evaluating the influence of large-scale land use on the health and survival of commercial honey bee colonies in North Dakota.

 

What is your position at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln?

I am a research assistant professor and ecosystem ecologist in the Department of Entomology. I have a research/teaching appointment. I will be teaching insect ecology in fall 2019 and honey bee biology/beekeeping starting in spring 2021. My research focuses on how honey bees and other pollinators interact with the larger landscape and habitats situated among agroecosystems. I ask questions about how land use, land use change, and habitat integration in agricultural landscapes influence the health and productivity of pollinators.

 

What drew you to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln? 

I’ve been affiliated (as an adjunct assistant professor) with UNL since 2015 when my wife was hired as an assistant professor here in entomology. At that time I was a wildlife biologist with the US Geological Survey Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center in Jamestown, ND and was fortunately able to work remotely from Lincoln in that position from 2015 – 2018. The Department of Entomology here at UNL has been extremely welcoming and supportive of me since I arrived back in 2015.

 

What aspect of working in an educational setting do you enjoy the most?

I enjoy the collegiality and intellectually-stimulating environment that exists within the university and department community.  Every day there is something new to see or think about; new problems and solutions to consider. There’s never a dull moment and there’s always a long list of things needing to be done, but the position also affords me the ability to strike a good work-life balance which I think is critically important for maintaining productivity and health over the long-term.

 

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Creating and raising my children (though the raising part remains a work in progress).