• YEAR: Senior
  • MAJOR: Entomology
  • HOMETOWN: Mount Prospect, Illinois

Elaina Grott

From actors to technical workers to stage crew members, Elaina Grott believes everyone has a special role in this play we call life. She describes herself as a behind-the-scenes character, one who is ready to make a difference through hard work and compassion for others. Though her studies are focused on animals, her heart is focused on the people in the communities where she lives.

Love for bugs

Elaina says she was one of those kids who would pick up beetles when everyone else was afraid of them. Her parents even used to joke that she would become an entomologist.

"I forgot about that interest until I was trying to choose a major," she says. "I came to STAR at Purdue and the student that was showing me around campus was an entomology major. He said he got to dig through the dirt outside and find bugs for his job. I was sold."

Ticks and bees

Elaina has been involved in several research projects during her time at Purdue. She worked in the vector biology lab, where she studied the expression of certain genes in the black-legged tick, which is the one that carries Lyme disease. She also worked on a project where her team studied the effects of various concentrations of insecticides on honeybee health.

"In my opinion, honeybees are some of the coolest insects out there," Elaina says. "They communicate with each other through chemical signals, and it was amazing to see that communication firsthand. It's incredible how quickly they alert each other when something is going on, especially when they're unhappy about it!"

Housing help

Elaina says she is especially passionate about the issue of affordable housing. She is the president of the Purdue chapter of Habitat for Humanity. Elaina also rode 4,250 miles across the country this summer with an organization called Bike & Build to raise money and awareness for affordable housing.

"Sometimes, we wanted to give up, but we all held it together," she says. "When we hit that beach in California, salt water never tasted so sweet. My team was made up of 28 of the most amazing people I have ever met, and it was an experience that I will never forget."

Volunteer at heart

"I love volunteering. I wish it could be a career," Elaina says. "You help other people and gain a valuable skill set yourself. Volunteering has introduced me into many disciplines I would have never learned had I just stuck to my studies, and I am very grateful for that."