New husband-wife team to study insect issues

Monika Gulia-Ness, Ph.D. and Andrew Nuss, Ph.D., University of Nevada, Reno

Monika Gulia-Nuss and Andrew Nuss are a pair of insect biologists new to the University of Nevada, Reno. Monika is a vector biologist with an emphasis on invertebrate reproductive physiology and Andrew is an entomologist focused on hormone signaling in insects of agricultural, medical, and veterinary importance.

Monika's research looks at arthropods, which include insects, but she is especially interested in mosquitoes. Monika initially fell in love with mosquito research during her undergraduate years in India. Her passion for understanding the mosquito's role as a disease carrying agent compelled her to continue her studies, earning her both a master's and doctoral degree from Maharshi Dayanand University, Rohtak, India. As Monika's knowledge base grew, additional arthropods known to participate in transferring disease also expanded. "I was intrigued by the biology of ticks, since there was not much known about them at the time," Gulia-Nuss states.

As work begins here at UNR, Monika's research program on tick reproduction and their general biology is ramping, with the ultimate goal of developing new tools to help control tick populations and the spread of disease.

"I'm working on a project that will produce transgenic ticks, or at least develop tools to generate transgenic ticks," Gulia-Nuss said. "If we can use transgenics to understand tick reproduction, we may be able to better control diseases like Lyme."

With the new line of tick research taking shape, Monika will also continue her research on mosquitoes.

"The interactions between mosquito and the parasite that live within them are still of great interest to me," Gulia-Nuss said. "The parasite that I'm currently focusing on is a nematode that causes elephantiasis."

close-up of a female Anopheles gambiae mosquito (the genus resposible for malaria) by Andrew Nuss

Andrew considers himself to be more of a traditional entomologist. Having received his bachelor's and master's degrees in entomology from the Purdue University, and a doctoral degree in entomology from University of Georgia, he too is also interested in mosquitoes.  Recent efforts based out of Andrew's lab attempting to discovered a new class of insecticide in controlling mosquitoes.

Building a program that studies insect hormones and their individual functions, Andrew hopes to develop a system to identify new pesticides that target the insect's hormone receptors.

"The current pesticides on the market are becoming ineffective because they target very specific areas of the insect's nervous system," Nuss said. "We really need different targets in the insects to overcome those forms of resistance, so that's what I'm trying to find."

Both Monika and Andrew are excited to be teaching here at the University. Monika plans on teaching a molecular biology course as well as an integrated pest management course. Andrew intends on teaching an integrated pest management.

Outside of their research, Monika and Andrew enjoy spending time with their family. Monika loves traveling, exploring new places and trying out new recipes. Andrew enjoys hiking and outdoor activities and is also passionate about macro-photography. A good example of Andrew's work is this issues' close-up of a female Anopheles gambiae mosquito (the genus responsible for malaria).

The pair look forward to their time here in Reno and at UNR and have already enjoyed their experience here thus far.

"I've always wanted to live out West, so to have finally made the move, it's really great," Nuss said. "It's a great place to be and when we both came for our respective interviews, we formed really good connections with the faculty, and they were just really friendly."

"It's really a great place," Gulia-Nuss said. "The colleagues here and everyone that we work with are wonderful."

Story by Kate Dunlap