Since 1980, May Berenbaum has been a member of the faculty of the Department of Entomology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, serving as head of the department since 1992 and as Swanlund Chair of Entomology since 1996. She has testified before Congress on issues relating to honey bee health and pollinator decline.
Dr. Berenbaum is known for her studies of chemically mediated coevolution between plant-feeding insects and their hostplants, including detoxification of natural and synthetic chemicals, and is interested in the practical application of ecological and evolutionary principles in developing sustainable management practices for natural and managed ecosystems.
A member of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Berenbaum chaired the National Research Council Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources and the 2007 NRC Committee on the Status of Pollinators in North America. She is currently the editor-in-chief of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
In addition to research, Dr. Berenbaum is devoted to teaching and fostering scientific literacy and has written several books about insects for the general public. In 2009, she received the AAAS Public Engagement with Science Award and in 2011, the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement. In 2014, she was awarded the National Medal of Science, cited for “pioneering studies on chemical coevolution and the genetic basis of insect-plant interactions, and for enthusiastic commitment to public engagement that inspires others about the wonders of science.”