MAGDALENA SORGER
Muse Science Magazine for Kids|July/August 2020
EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGIST
Emily Cambias

If you’re looking for someone to get you excited about ants, Magdalena Sorger is happy to help. She’s an ant scientist at North Carolina State University. Originally from Austria, Sorger has collected ants all over the world. She studies how ants evolve based on where they live. She often works with trap-jaw ants. These insects with large, snapping jaws can launch themselves through the air!

WHAT GOT YOU INTERESTED IN ANTS?

Originally, I was on a very different track. I was getting my business degree in Vienna. In Austria, if you study business, you don’t really do anything outside of business. I chose to go to the US for a semester. When I arrived, I really liked that American schools give you the opportunity to take classes outside of your field. I took a psychology class and a biology class. The biology class was about animal behavior, and I learned that insects were really interesting. It’s kind of a whole world that you don’t see if you don’t look closely. After I finished the class, I went to different national parks, and for the first time in my life I paid attention to these small creatures.

There was this moment when I looked at an ant and thought “this is it.” Suddenly, strangely, I decided that I wanted to know everything there is to know about ants! I got back to Austria and started reading books, and then I ended up going to the natural history museum in Vienna. Somebody there who specifically works with ants took me on as a sort of apprentice. He took me out in the field, and I started to learn about ants, and things continued from there. Two years later I started my PhD in the US working exclusively on ants.

WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST EXPEDITION LIKE?

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