Kateryn Rochon

Dr. Kateryn Rochon

Be stubborn and work on what keeps you curious.

Assistant Professor, Entomology
University of Manitoba

Dr. Kateryn Rochon is an assistant professor of Veterinary and Wildlife Entomology at the University of Manitoba. Her research program is focused on insects and ticks as vectors of livestock and wildlife pathogens. Prior to joining the Department of Entomology, Kateryn was a postdoctoral fellow at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Lethbridge, where she worked on Rocky Mountain wood ticks. Past research includes work on flies and their ability to transmit bacteria and viruses in cattle, swine, and poultry operations. Currently, her research has an emphasis on distribution and ecology of American dog ticks and blacklegged ticks.

As an academic, what is your favourite part of your job?

My favourite part of my job is that I get to share my knowledge and interests with people through teaching and outreach activities. I feel I can reach more people through my position in a academic setting than I could if I worked in a different environment. I also enjoy the relative freedom I have to focus my research on what I consider important and/or interesting.

What are you researching and what excites you about it?

Right now I am mostly working on the geographic distribution and seasonal activity of ticks, mainly species that can transmit animal pathogens. In general, my research involves studying insects (and other arthropods, like ticks) that affect animal health and well being. Not only does that involve pathogen transmission, but also anything that bites and causes irritation. I'm excited about this area of research because it combines my interest in insects and larger animals (both livestock and wildlife), and my interest in microbiology. My work can help reduce the incidence of disease, and reduce discomfort in animals. It makes me feel like I can make a difference and contribute something useful.

What types of professions can students graduating in your field enter?

Entomology tends to be an asset more than a profession - at the undergraduate level, anyway. Students with strong entomology backgrounds can become well-rounded agronomists, can work in science communication, work in natural history museums or nature interpretation centers, insect pest control, etc. There are insects everywhere, so you can do a lot: forestry, urban entomology, crop protection, human and animal health, turf grass and ornamental plants; there's no limit! With graduate studies, students can also work in research for government, industry, or academia.

Is your workplace male-dominated? If so, how do you negotiate being a woman in a male-dominated workplace and/or field?

As for many areas of biological sciences, there's about 50:50 or slightly more female students in academic programs, but the profession is male-dominated. There are far more male scientist/professors than there are females. I've never really felt I was in a male-dominated field until I was employed as a professor, but I've mostly had male friends all my life, so everything was "normal". I've been trying to make sure I take ownership of my ideas, and speak up when I need to.

How do you foster and encourage diversity in your workplace?

My door is always open, and I encourage people to ask questions. I hire people who are interested in the work, regardless of their "fit", to give everyone a chance. I think the fact I am female has attracted more female students to my lab as well.

What kinds of systemic support could institutions provide to help encourage girls and women to pursue careers in science and engineering?

Make sure female scientists are present, seen, and heard in schools! And ensure that when "experts" come to class, there are at least as many women as there are men. When setting up panels, or special events, makes sure female are represented AT LEAST in the same proportion as they are represented in the field (ex: guest speakers, seminar series, etc.)

What advice would you give to girls or young women who are interested in careers in science or engineering?

Just do it. If you're interested, you'll find like-minded people and find your way. Be stubborn and work on what keeps you curious. There are jerks everywhere, not just in science, so since you'll have to deal with them anyway, might as well have fun doing it!

As a professional in science or engineering, who are your role models and mentors?

The mentors I had as a student still play a big role in my life, my two major professors for my graduate studies. Being in an academic setting, I am also surrounded by smart, motivated people, so there are quite a few role models to pick from. I've never considered gender as a criteria for mentors or role models - maybe because my gender was never brought up as making any difference in my professional development.