Dr. Reeves found his passion for the sciences very early on. His grandfather had an illustrious career as the dean of the school of public health at U.C. Berkeley and held a position as the director of the tropical medicine laboratory for many years. His close relationship with his grandfather exposed him to several different aspects of science at a very young age. By age 9 he wanted to follow in his grandfather's footsteps and pursue entomology, and by the time he was a teenager, he already knew the operations of both field and lab research settings. He even tranquilized monkeys as a part time job in high school.
Maintaining his goal to become an entomologist, Dr. Reeves completed his undergraduate degree at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Applied Biology. Afterwards, he interviewed for graduate work in entomology at Clemson University, South Carolina. Under Dr. Peter Adler, Dr. Reeves had lots of freedom to formulate his proposal as part of his masters. He chose to study population ecology specifically how insect assisted decomposition works in bat caves.
After completing his 2 year master’s program, Dr. Reeves began interviewing for his PhD. He initially wanted to attend the University of Nevada in Reno to continue studying entomology, but some unforeseen circumstances led to him staying in South Carolina to work on his PhD. He continued his work under the same advisor at Clemson and studied insect behavior with a focus on parasites and how they change the behavior of flies. He would stay at Clemson for one semester after his PhD as a visiting professor for the Center for Entomology, Soils, and Plant Sciences.
Dr. Reeves went on to complete his post-doctoral fellowship with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia where he worked with ticks and bacteria that infect humans and domestic animals for two and half years. During his postdoc, he was offered a faculty position at the department but turned it down to focus on finishing his fellowship and finding work that appealed more to his interests which allowed him to stay flexible with his career.
Dr. Reeves’ interest in biological research and his history of working in laboratories is what ultimately led him to obtaining his position at the USDA. After working for the CDC, he became the chief of the disease surveillance laboratory in Japan for the US Army for three years, and then he worked for the US Air Force as a Senior Public Health Entomologist in Ohio for seven years.
Dr. Reeves encourages those who wish to pursue a career in agriculture to get experience and learn about the work required beforehand. He suggests finding internships and networking with people in the industry, this can help with deciding if the career choice is a suitable path to follow and the experience will help make a better candidate when applying for jobs.
For those who want to obtain a master's degree or PhD first, Dr. Reeves suggests interviewing potential PIs and grad students and visiting the labs and institutions to help with both building relationships and deciding where to go.
Interview by Michelle Ortiz, Dawson Byrd III, and Lashon Steward