Special Recognition Award to Dr. Ann Fallon

Ann FallonDepartment of Entomology
May 2019

Dr. Ann Marie Fallon was born in Westerly, Rhode Island. Her mother’s family came from Quebec to the US to work in the textile factories, and her father’s family was Irish. Her mother, a nurse, and father, a boatyard worker, married after he returned from the war. Ann grew up with them and her two sisters and one brother in an old farmhouse in Pawcatuck, Connecticut. Since kindergarten-age, Ann was interested in insects. She would collect beetles from the asparagus in their garden and carry them around in a small cardboard box, and catch butterflies with her friend Clarence using a net her mother made from a coat hanger and an old curtain. The most inspiring moment for young Ann was watching a monarch caterpillar creating its chrysalis. Her parents supported her interest and eventually bought her a real collecting net, which came with a book about how to rear insects. Ann began raising Cecropia moths and even sold them to a store in New York City, where she would spend her babysitting money on tropical butterflies for her collection. To this day, Ann can always find cocoons on her hikes in the woods and continues to rear moths.

Ann attended Catholic schools, had scholarships all through high school and was the Valedictorian of her graduating class. Unsure of what she should do after high school, she entered the convent where she attended college, studied theology, and taught third grade. She left the convent after a few years, still seeking the right career, worked in a factory, and then found her path at the University of Connecticut where she studied biology. At the recommendation of one of her teachers, she started to work in a lab studying chromosome puffing in chironomid midges, and it was then she realized that she could earn a living by working in a lab - from then on she knew what she wanted to do with her life. Ann graduated in 1972 with her BA in Biology. From there she went to Yale University and received her MS in Biology in 1973 advised by Gerry Wyatt. Ann continued her PhD research in Dr. Wyatt’s lab after he moved to Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and in 1976 graduated with a PhD in Biology. Ann conducted postdoctoral research at the University of Wisconsin Madison, Texas A & M, and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, supported by funding she obtained from the American Cancer Society, National Science Foundation, and National Institutes of Health.

Ann was an Associate Professor of Microbiology at the University of Medicine and Dentistry School of Osteopathic Medicine in New Jersey before she was hired by the Department of Entomology at the University of Minnesota in 1987. Ann’s research, mentorship, and teaching have had far-reaching impacts. For many of her students and staff, Ann was their first female role model in science. Her perseverance, courage, accomplishments, and leadership have paved the way for more women to become successful scientists themselves. In the male-dominated world of entomological science, this is inspiring to women, but it requires a fighting spirit, and Ann surely has that!

While at the University of Minnesota, she has graduated 22 students, mentored many postdocs and undergraduate students, and has hosted visiting students and professors from around the globe. Many members of her lab have gone on to have successful research careers in academia and industry. Her mentees, men and women, speak highly of her and her ability to help them navigate the maze of science with a logical approach. Despite all her responsibilities, Ann enviably has managed to remain active in her lab at the bench. She works one-on-one with her mentees to ensure they completely understand the experimental design and mechanisms underlying the approach. Ann has been an active member of the Department, the College, and the University for over 3 decades. She has volunteered her services on over 50 committees and has served as a committee member to 30 graduate students. Also notable, is that Ann has served as a frequent reviewer panelist for numerous Federal-funding agencies, including the NIH, NSF and USDA. She has been an editorial board member of over 6 established scientific journals, and has held various elected positions, nationally, within the Entomological Society of America.

Ann has funded her research program with approximately 11 million dollars of grant money as a PI or co-PI, much of it through highly competitive grants from the National Institutes of Health. These large grants have brought substantial amounts of indirect cost dollars to the Department, supporting its functioning and financial stability in ways that other types of grants do not.

With 129 peer-reviewed publications, 53 abstracts or non-refereed publications, and 14 book chapters, Ann’s research has had a strong impact in many fields of science. Ann’s research has focused on what many call the most dangerous animals in the world, mosquitoes. Indeed, “those little bloodsuckers,” as she refers to them with unmistakable respect, kill millions of people every year. Instead of merely aiming to exterminate them as efficiently as possible, she has approached the study of disease‐transmitting insects from the perspective of a student of biology, molecular biology and virology. This strategy has uniquely prepared her for an area of investigation that bridges entomological and medical sciences. Few others have walked this bridge like Ann, and her colleagues credit her success with her creative and rigorous initiative. Her quest for the molecular mechanisms that drive the inner workings of insects ignited a life‐long passion to define what regulates the rhythm of the mosquito cell-division cycle, gets the female ready for egg production, and enables her to deal with toxins and pathogens. A true pioneer of mosquito molecular science, even as an undergraduate student, Ann discovered that mosquito ovaries produce a hormone that stimulates the fat body to make yolk protein required for egg development, a revolutionary concept at the time. Ever since, Ann has led mosquito research in new directions, creating tools along the way to advance the field. But her “true love” has been the study of mosquito reproduction, including ribosomal proteins and their role in egg production, and more recently Wolbachia, a microbe that lives in mosquito reproductive tissues.

Ann has revolutionized the science of mosquito molecular biology with her use of mosquito cell lines to study genetic transformation, insecticide resistance and the innate immune responses to disease agents. These specialized lines, some of which she developed herself, are used in laboratories around the world. Furthermore, Ann has consistently related her cell culture work to the whole organism, underscoring the usefulness of this approach. In fact, her innovative work on the transformation of mosquito cell lines has provided the basis for genetic manipulation of mosquitoes. Insect transgenesis is actively pursued by scientists seeking to replace efficient disease vectors with those unable to transmit diseases. Ann’s recent students have uncovered important genes in the bacterium Wolbachia that reduce mosquito egg development and have applications to transgenic mosquitoes used to control dengue and Zika viruses.

Ann has taught 8 different courses covering a range of topics from Insect Biology to Advanced Insect Genetics and Medical Entomology, a topic commanding particular interest these days. Her knowledge of Entomology is both broad and deep, and her ability to teach basic and complicated concepts is exceptional.

Because of her dedication to research, service, teaching, and mentoring she has received numerous awards and honors, including being named a Distinguished McKnight University Professor and a Distinguished Women Scholar in Science and Engineering by the University of Minnesota. For her teaching and mentorship, Frenatae awarded Ann the Faculty Award for Mentorship in Entomology in 2014 and today, the Department of Entomology would like to honor Ann by presenting her with a special recognition award for the strength and success of her research, commitment to the department, and dedication to positively impacting students and staff through teaching and mentoring. We are grateful to Ann for her amazing career success and her contributions to Entomology and the University of Minnesota.