Get to know Eric Benbow

Eric BenbowChildhood disease in Africa, decomposing pig carcasses, decaying human remains — for most, these are the things nightmares are made of. For Dr. Eric Benbow, an assistant professor of biology at UD, the processes involved in death are actually his life.

Currently, Dr. Benbow is studying a disease that largely affects children in Africa. He has visited that continent to conduct field research using insects to track and analyze the transport and spread of disease. As it turns out, the insects weren't the only thing about the region that made a lasting impression on him.

"The contrast between a severely poor region of the world versus the richest nation in the world," he says was the most stark. "You go there and you see that the human spirit is incredibly powerful ... people can be happy without an iPad."

Dr. Benbow didn’t always dream, however, of studying diseases in third world nations. Much of his childhood was spent running around in streams, searching for crayfish and insects, an activity that he continues to participate in with his two daughters. His teenage years chased the fantasy of entering the field of physiological psychology, then an emerging science, and then it was the thought of becoming a medical doctor. But he eventually came to realize that with the title of medical doctor came the curse of confinement.

"With medicine you have to stay indoors most of the time," he said.

So, after engaging himself in research opportunities at UD, where he earned his Bachelor's degree and PhD in biology, and doing post-doc work at Michigan State University, Benbow is back in Dayton. He is glad to be back in his hometown, teaching graduate and undergraduate students the biological processes that occur if a deer is killed in the forest and left there, or what a pig dragged home from the butcher shop does if thrown out into nature rather than the BBQ. Dr. Benbow was Inspired to teach by a five-week field study course that took him from the Bahamas to the Smoky Mountains and back again.

"I watched this professor who was teaching us," he remembered, "and of course it's his job and he has to do a lot of work and he has a lot of oversight, but I was learning stuff that was just blowing my mind." So, he came back after that experience and decided, "I'm going to try to do what this guy is doing."

In the classroom, Dr. Benbow has taught a variety of classes ranging from Disease Ecology and Invertebrate Sampling to Island Environmental Biology and Culture, Biodiversity and Resources Management. While sometimes he does find himself confined to the classroom, Dr. Benbow said the most gratifying part of being a teacher is "When you see that click of acknowledgement. That [the students] really, truly learned something, that you've expanded their minds a little bit; much like I felt when I took that field course in the Smoky Mountains and the Bahamas."