International Congress of Entomology 2016 Debate All-Around Winners

Orlando, Florida

 Pictured (L-R): Sophia Webster, Jennifer Baltzegar, Nicole Gutzmann, Johanna Elsensohn

Pictured (L-R): Sophia Webster, Jennifer Baltzegar, Nicole Gutzmann, Johanna Elsensohn

In September 2016, my colleagues and I  - representing NC State University - competed in the Student Debates at the International Congress of Entomology held in Orlando, Florida. The topic we addressed was "What is the single best strategy for decreasing dengue virus incidence worldwide?". Our side chose genetic engineering with lethal genes, while the opposing team chose engineering with Wolbachia species. Dengue fever is a serious, intractable disease that affects millions of people yearly worldwide. This was a really interesting topic to me, and one I looked forward to learn more about.

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It was a lively debate, and the Purdue team members (above, right) were formidable opponents. I took the lead on crafting and presenting our main argument while Jen, Sophia, and Nicole did an amazing job preparing our responses and taking the lead during the back and forth. Ultimately, we won both this debate, and were chosen as the overall winners of the Student Debates, meaning we earned the highest score of the six competing teams - the second year in a row!

You can find a copy of our debate presentation here as a pdf and a video link to watch it on YouTube below (our debate starts around 1:07:30 in).

Entomological Society of America 2015 Debate All-Around Winners 

Minneapolis, Minnesota

 Pictured (L-R): Sophia Webster, Johanna Elsensohn, Jennifer Baltzegar, Dr. Philip Mulder (2015 ESA President)

Pictured (L-R): Sophia Webster, Johanna Elsensohn, Jennifer Baltzegar, Dr. Philip Mulder (2015 ESA President)

With no debate experience among the three of us, Sophia, Jen and I decided to enter the Student Debates at the annual meeting of the Entomological Society of America in 2015. We were assigned the Can side of the question, With the development of tools like RNAi, in the future we may be capable of eradicating species. If we can eradicate a species, should we? Given our background training in interdisciplinary subjects, it was great to craft an argument that encompassed multiple sides of an issue, getting into not only the science but the morals and ethics behind deciding whether humans should be making a decision to eradicate any species and what those implications might be. We were up against Louisiana State University, who fought hard for the Pro side, which felt like a harder side to argue for. They did great, but NC State won, and we were shocked to be chosen as the over all debate winners! It was a great experience and one I won't quickly forget. 

See the debate video below and access a copy of our presentation here.