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Whitehill ’06 encouraged to pursue plant and insect research by Otterbein mentors

Whitehill ’06 encouraged to pursue plant and insect research by Otterbein mentors

By Meagan Van Stone ’19

Justin Whitehill graduated from Otterbein University in 2006 with a double major in life science with concentrations in ecology and plant science and music performance, piano. He loved the campus environment as he got to study two very diverse areas that he loves, though he ultimately decided to pursue graduate studies in life science.

Whitehill is now at the University of British Columbia, Canada, where he researches the relationship of trees and insects as a post-doctoral fellow at the university’s Bohlmann Lab. He is working to create tools that can be used by the government of Canada to help combat infestations like the emerald ash borer and white pine weevil by studying how plants and trees create natural defense mechanism against pests.

At Otterbein, Whitehill was able to find direction. He says that the faculty in the Department of Biology and Earth Science, especially Professor Jeff Lehman, encouraged him when he noticed Whitehill’s interest in plants, insects and fungal interactions.

“Professor Lehman is the kind of faculty member that continues a mentorship and friendship even after his students graduate,” Whitehill says. “He continues to check in with me. This is the kind of unique experience that Otterbein offers and I really appreciate it.”

Whitehill says that Otterbein University made a huge impact on who he is today. At Otterbein, he was able to do several things that he loved. He believes that he wouldn’t have been able to accomplish all that he did without the support from faculty and staff.

“Otterbein life science prepared me for what I am doing now,” Whitehill said. “I appreciate the Music Department and what was there, as well. All my professors helped guide my career — and that goes beyond the requirements of the role of being a professor. They invested in me as an individual and gave me confidence and a sense of determination to carry out my career dreams.”