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Biologist Jamie Haight poses with an insect specimen

Jamie Haight '01

Major: Liberal Arts & Sciences: Math & Science (with a focus on life science)
Current Position: Biologist with the NYS Health Department
Current City: Jamestown, NY

Ticks and Snake Pits

An encounter with a tick or a swarm of mosquitoes is usually enough to ruin most people's day. Jamie Haight’s day isn’t complete until he’s found at least one.

Jamie, a biologist for the New York State Health Department, does disease surveillance and mosquito and tick investigation in Western New York. What’s particularly impressive is that he was hired for the job during his last semester at Jamestown Community College. Twelve years and several extra training courses and certifications later, including some from the Cornell Medical Veterinary Lab, he can’t see himself doing anything else.

Coming into college, Jamie knew that he wanted to study biology, and become a professional biologist. Something about the work appealed to the self-described eccentric. But if his path once he got to JCC was relatively straightforward, his journey to the college was anything but.

“I had quite a few different jobs growing up, from working fast food to grocery stores to pet stores, from roofing to laying carpet, a 100 mile per night paper route. I even traveled with the carnival freak show and snake pit for a while once I graduated from high school! It's been a long, strange journey!”

A long, strange journey, but one that’s been well worth it. 

The Grosser the Better

In addition to his disease surveillance work, Jamie also does a significant amount of public education for groups ranging from pre-schoolers to elder hostels.

“People think what I am fascinated by is gross,” said Jamie. “But we're surrounded by these things all the time, and people seldom pay them much mind. When they by chance do notice them, they usually end up calling me!”

This aversion to his field of study doesn’t upset Jamie, though. Instead, he sees it as an opportunity and regularly uses it as a tactic when teaching and giving presentations.

“I like using the weirdest, creepiest, and grossest examples in nature,” said Jamie. “Completely creeping and grossing people out makes them remember what they learned. I have had some gaggers, shudders, borderline fainters and yes, even one puker over the years. Not intended, of course,” he added, reassuringly. In the end, though, “the students remember what I teach them. And they love it by the end of my presentation.”

This shock and awe style of instruction came courtesy of former JCC professor Andy Kibler. It’s just one of many ways that JCC and its professors helped shape him into the person he is today. Jamie mentioned professors Becky Nystrom and Jan Bowman as particular inspirations for him.

“These are the people I think about and try to emulate when I am teaching people about what I do.”

In the end, Jamie loves his job and would encourage anybody with a strong stomach and an equally strong interest in the outdoors to consider biology. Put simply, he said, there's no other job quite like it. He does want to clear up at least one misconception, though: "Entomophagy (the consumption of tasty insects, practiced in many parts of the world, prepared in various recipes and forms) is strictly voluntary!"

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