Dean James Porter, College of Life Sciences, announces the appointment of Dr. Michael Whiting as the new director of the Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum. The appointment is effective August 1, 2021.
“Mike has a long history with the Bean Museum, dating all the way to age eleven when he helped with their insect zoo,” Dean Porter says. “He is committed to the mission of BYU and plans to make this a point of emphasis during his administration. I look forward to working with him and seeing how things unfold under his leadership.”
Dean Porter also expresses his appreciation for the former museum director Duke Rogers’ five years of excellent leadership.
Whiting earned his bachelor’s degree in zoology from BYU and his PhD in entomology from Cornell University. He conducted post-doctorate research for several years at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, and when he returned to BYU 25 years ago, Whiting became the director and founder of the DNA Sequencing Center. He currently teaches biology courses and researches the evolution of stick insects with students.
“When I was a young child, I became interested in insects,” Whiting says. In his teenage years, Whiting volunteered at the Bean Museum for two summers. He collected his own live specimens to create an insect zoo exhibit at the museum. “I started as a high school volunteer, and now I get to run the place!”
As the museum director, Whiting’s responsibilities include overseeing exhibits, coordinating educational outreaches, and organizing the millions of specimens to be preserved and databased for research. He plans to focus the museum’s outreach in the areas of biodiversity, conservation, and evolution.
Whiting plans to connect biodiversity to the importance of human diversity. “I feel very strongly about helping the university in its pursuit for equity and diversity,” he says. “We would like people to become more kind, more inclusive, and more understanding.”
Another priority for the Bean Museum is to talk about COVID-19 and its evolution into new strains. Whiting believes that a large percentage of the population has a poor understanding of science, which he hopes to correct through educational efforts at the museum. Overall, Whiting hopes museum visitors will gain more knowledge of the world around them. “I hope they leave with a better understanding of the nature of science,” he says.