Not so way back, Dr. Rebecca Varney was a bug-obsessed 4-year-old residing in El Sobrante, Calif. She began a bug assortment and requested her mother whether or not different folks had larger collections. Her mother prompt asking somebody at the College of California at Berkley, so Dr. Varney wrote to the college, asking about bugs.
“My title is Rebecca and I’ve a bug assortment. I examine yours and it’s larger than mine is. Can I see it? Additionally, I’ve a query. Do strolling sticks have knees? Sincerely, Rebecca,” Dr. Varney recalled writing, in keeping with The Washington Publish.
Though the envelope was solely addressed to “College of California-Berkeley,” it made its solution to the entomology division. A professor replied and invited Dr. Varney and her mother to go to the Essig Museum of Entomology. He let her maintain a hissing cockroach and a dwell scorpion, and defined how strolling sticks have knees, Dr. Varney recalled. He instructed her that school had lessons the place she may study bugs, and that she may get a Ph.D. to spend her life researching bugs.
Excited about organic collections currently I’m reminded of the time that one way or the other at age 4, I bought a private tour of the @UCBerkeley entomology assortment (Essig?) from a form scientist (anyone know who?!). Requested my dad and mom how on earth THAT occurred, and it seems…🤯
— Rebecca Varney (@RebeccaMVarney) January 17, 2022
Nearly 30 years later, Dr. Varney posted her story on Twitter searching for the “bug man” who took “her younger scientist self critically” in keeping with The Washington Publish.
Twitter helped her discover Dr. Vernard Lewis, the primary Black entomology professor at UC-Berkley, and one in every of a number of college members who gave excursions of the Essig Museum. Now retired, Dr. Lewis, who acquired his doctorate in entomology from Berkeley in 1989, has not misplaced his love for educating and for all issues bugs. He’s additionally a Pest Administration Skilled Corridor of Famer (Class of 2016).
Dr. Lewis, 71, studied at UC-Berkley for undergraduate and graduate college after which turned a professor and now a retired advisor on the college. As a termite specialist, he’s a founding member of the United Nations’ World Termite Professional Group, which traveled world wide serving to folks develop meals with out being affected by termites.
However regardless of his busy schedule, Dr. Lewis stated he made positive to make time for youngsters akin to Dr. Varney.
“Do I keep in mind assembly her particularly? No. I talked to 1000’s of children, and I visited colleges, and made positive to provide them time,” Dr. Lewis instructed The Washington Publish. “Why? As a result of my grandfather was the one who instilled in me the love and keenness of nature. He had that infinite endurance, he by no means instructed me ‘no,’ and I used to be a wild child, bringing all of the bugs again house — black widow spiders. I used to be nuts.
When Dr. Varney posted her story on Twitter, many individuals bought in contact with UC-Berkeley. It took some time to determine the professor as a result of the assembly occurred within the days earlier than e-mail. Everybody was attempting to “rack their brains” to determine who may have been working on the Essig Museum throughout that point, he instructed The Washington Publish. Dr. Lewis wasn’t positive it was him till he learn Dr. Varney’s remark about how she bought to select up hissing cockroaches and scorpions, and thought, “Oh, that was me, I all the time had these round.”
After visiting the museum and assembly with the professor, each time somebody would ask Dr. Varney what she wished to be when she grew up, she would inform them she was going to get a Ph.D. to be a scientist and examine bugs.
In 2021, Dr. Varney graduated kind the College of Alabama in organic sciences and now working with aquatic invertebrates akin to crustaceans as a postdoctoral researcher on the College of California at Santa Barbara.
“What I keep in mind most from that go to was that the professor actually talked to Rebecca, he took her very critically,” Mary Jo Grothman-Pelton, Varney’s mother, instructed The Washington Publish. “That made such an impression, and inspired that love of nature and science.”