Alumni Spotlight: Heena Puri

Recent graduate Heena Puri, who received her doctorate in entomology, poses in her regalia
Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Alumni Spotlight: Heena Puri

This is a continuation of our "IANR is Global" series, which highlights the many ways internationalization is woven through the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources: through research collaboration, government and private industry partnerships, extension work, student educational experiences and the IANR community from around the world.

This edition is specifically focused on the many individuals with diverse experience from around the world who are graduating this year. Heena Puri, of India, received her doctorate in entomology during this last May’s ceremonies. We appreciate the community we are fortunate to have from all over the world, as shown by their many and varied contributions to the work of the university and our continued mission to create a globally engaged institution. To this end, we want to help our campus community get to know each other (and the world) more, starting with these individuals. 


How did your first get interested in your field? What was your previous education?

The stories about agriculture, its changing scenario, and also the hardships farmers face in mitigating attack of various insect pests and diseases aroused my curiosity in biological entities and greatly sparked an interest in agriculture. I did my Bachelor’s in Agriculture and Masters in Entomology from Punjab Agricultural University, India where I had the opportunity to delve deeper into the world of entomology. As the years rolled by, my intense interest in learning about insects grew more and more with realism. 

What were some challenges you faced while a student here? Opportunities? Things that surprised you? 

The greatest challenge I faced is acclimatizing with the extreme harsh weather during winters particularly snowfall and windy days. Initially, the weather was a significant adjustment for me, but over time, I gradually became accustomed to it. Surprisingly, as I adapted, I even started to find the winter weather more pleasant. Another challenge was being a non-native speaker of the English language. Communicating effectively in a different language presented difficulties initially. However, regular conversations and practices made me more comfortable over the time.

UNL provided ample opportunities for the growth and success of the students like providing cutting edge tools for conducting the research, organizing several professional development workshops, social events, trainings, platforms for presentations and discussing the research. The diverse campus community at UNL was a pleasant surprise to me. Students from different part of world have made the campus more diverse and inclusive. I made many friends from different countries and interacting with them has broaden my perspective. 

Who was your advisor? Anything you’d like to share about them? Or say to them? 

My major advisor was Dr. Joe Louis. He is not only an accomplished researcher but also a great mentor. He understands the needs of his students very well and selflessly helps them. Throughout my Ph. D. journey, he consistently provided his support and guidance necessary for the projects. Whether it's through constructive feedback on my work, insightful discussions, or encouragement during my challenging times, he always demonstrated his genuine care for my academic growth. Along with his support for research, he always supported my involvement in departmental activities, attending conferences or meetings for my overall professional development. Overall, he is a great person to work with and I feel fortunate to have him as my Ph. D. mentor.

How has your time at Nebraska impacted you in what you will go on to do?

The rigorous coursework, scientific discussions and department-wide seminars have helped me to build a strong scientific foundation. Getting hands-on experience in doing research in multidisciplinary and collaborative manner while understanding the science has allowed me to enhance my skill set and knowledge necessary for my career as an entomologist. Nebraska has equipped me with knowledge, great connections, mentors and friends to have an impactful journey ahead. My idea of being knowledgeable is that we are always learning and gaining knowledge has no end. So, I will keep learning new things and accept the new challenges.

Are you or someone you know studying at Nebraska with an international element to your work, studies, or experiences you'd like to see highlighted? Contact Brianne at