Biodiversity Institute Fellows Profiles

Victor Gonzalez

PhD, 2008
Advisors: Michael S. Engel and Deborah Smith
Dissertation title: Phylogeny and classification of the bee tribe Megachilini (Hymenoptera: Apoidea, Megachilidae), with emphasis on the genus Megachile
Home country: Colombia
Current position: Director, human anatomy laboratory

What inspired you to study entomology at KU? 
I grew up in a rural area, and because of my experiences at my uncle's farm, I was initially interested in the interaction of insects and plants. When I was a freshman at Bogota Unversidad Nacional, I wanted to know more about the bees I was collecting. I learned there was a paper by Charles Michener (Professor Emeritus, entomology) about the bees I was interested in. I had to translate it word by word. I was so interested that I wrote a letter in Spanish to Dr. Michener, and to my surprise, he wrote back. I decided that if I wanted to study bees, I wanted to study bees in the best collection in the world, at KU.

You are the director of the human anatomy laboratory at KU. How did your education broaden to include human anatomy and other fields?
In my second year of graduate school at KU, I had trouble with travel and my visa. By the time I could get to KU, all the graduate student assistant positions for Biology 150 were filled. The department had a position teaching human anatomy available, and it turned out, I loved it. I've since studied anthropology, evolutionary psychology and human biogeography. In the past few years, I have been working with anthropologist in Mexico studying the traditional knowledge and classification of bees by the Mixtec, a group of people living on the Pacific coast of the state of Guerrero. 

How do you approach teaching?
I’m trying to change the traditional way of teaching a large lecture class ( 350 students) by including more active learning as well as technology. For example, we use online dissection tools and do several in-class activities during the semester including trivia games; one day I brought into the classroom more than 300 bones so that students could study them instead of just showing the different structures on Power Point. I am also trying to assess the students’ perceptions on these changes as well as their performance on the tests.

What advice do you offer students?
I would encourage students to explore different fields as well as to take advantage of the opportunities to get involve in grants and develop skills. Also, to attend to professional meetings and meet people. You never know what skills you will use later or who you may collaborate with.