Thaís Rodrigues

Post-Doctoral Scholar
Phone (859) 257-1134

Department of Entomology
S-225 Ag. Science North
Lexington KY 40546-0091


Dr. Lynne Rieske-Kinney and Dr. Reddy Palli


  • MBA in Project Management - University of São Paulo - USP, Brazil (in progress) 
  • Ph.D., Plant Biotechnology - Federal University of Lavras, Brazil (2011-2014)
  • M.S, Plant Biotechnology - Federal University of Lavras, Brazil (2009-2011)
  • B.S., Biology - Federal University of Lavras, Brazil (2005-2009) 

Research Profile


For the past several decades, biotechnology has been used successfully to manage insect pests in agricultural and forest systems. More recently a new generation of biotechnology, RNA interference (RNAi), has emerged as a useful tool in insect pest management. RNAi is a natural biological process that uses double stranded RNA (dsRNA) to silence specific genes. We are using RNAi to fight the invasive tree pest, the emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis). The emerald ash borer (EAB) feeds and develops just beneath the bark of ash trees, killing trees rapidly.

In our preliminary research, we have found that feeding EAB larvae particular dsRNA fragments of essential EAB genes (using RNAi) causes larval mortality. We are currently screening additional genes to find those that cause the highest EAB mortality when used in RNAi. In the future we will look for ways to use this technology in a field setting. For example, we are exploring the potential of developing a non-toxic pesticide specific for EAB as well as genetically modified ash trees resistant to EAB. These RNAi approaches would result in pest-specific control not only saving ash trees but also minimizing potential hazards to the environment, non-target organisms, and humans.

Biographical Sketch

Dr. Rodrigues is currently a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Entomology at University of Kentucky as well as an active member of Forest Health Research and Education Center (FHREC). Her primary research interests are in RNA interference technology - RNAi, gene expression analyses, and pest management. She is also pursuing a MBA degree in project manangement at University of São Paulo.

She has a broad background in molecular biology. During her bachelor’s and master’s degree her research dealt with transgenic plants, Bacillus thuringiensis toxins and toxicity bioassays against corn pests. In her Ph.D program, she worked with RNAi and gene expression studies in corn rootworm. Since then, she has been working with several RNAi approaches to control different insect pests.

For the last 10 years, she has worked with agronomical pests and insect biotechnology in several places in Brazil and USA such as Federal University of Lavras, University of Nebraska, Agronomic Institute of Campinas (IAC), Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA), and Center of Nuclear Energy in Agriculture (CENA/USP).