Women in pest management: Dr. Dini Miller

By |  January 2, 2018
PMP interviews seven professionals about their journey so far, and what’s next in 2018.

What do a pest management firm owner, an industry federation president, two industry association executives, an industry product manufacturer, a pest researcher, and the 2017 National Pest Management Association Woman of Excellence winner have in common? They’re all profiled in our December issue. They’re all successful women in their respective fields, and they’ve all graciously shared insights about how they got here. In addition, they also offer advice to other women in professional pest management.

Every woman profiled for our series this year noted that the industry has changed — for the better — since they began 30, 20 or even 10 years ago. As Mary Vongas, pictured on our cover, notes, “Change means a possibility of innovation, advancement and growth. If you are flexible, plan your path, and work toward managing change, you can get your organization moving in a growth direction.”
 

Industry champion: Dr. Dini Miller is renowned for her ability to explain pest management to the masses.

Even after nearly 20 years of playing a very active role in pest management, Dr. Dini Miller has lost none of her enthusiasm for the industry.

“I feel like I lucked out,” says Dr. Miller, an urban pest management specialist for the Commonwealth of Virginia at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech), Blacksburg, Va.
 

Bed bug ambassador

Dr. Miller has built a reputation for bringing good, practical information to the pest management field. Her current focus is talking to industries that are not directly involved in the pest management industry, but could be if bed bugs are discovered in their facilities. This group includes apartment managers, real estate associations, medical professionals, and social services agencies where taking care of elderly and disabled folks are a concern.

“In Virginia, I’m responsible for any group of citizens that is having a problem with indoor insect pests,” she explains, noting that different facilities have different questions, but popular among all groups is what exactly qualifies as a bed bug infestation. Dr. Miller has an answer at the ready: “One male bed bug does not make for an infestation, and you don’t have to do a $1,500 treatment for that ‘onesey.’”

Dr. Miller is flanked by Pi Chi Omega and Virginia Pest Management Association adminstrators/sisters-in-law Kristen, left, and Andrea Coron.

The path to urban pests

Dr. Miller didn’t exactly jump right on the urban insect management bandwagon. She earned her bachelor’s degree in geography/ecosystems from UCLA in California in 1991. She had decided to study beetles and their impact on the ecosystem until a fateful phone call from the University of Florida’s Dr. Phil Koehler, a PMP Hall of Famer (Class of 2015), changed her path. Dr. Koehler wanted her to come look at the sewage treatment plant in Gainesville, Fla., and study the abundance of American roaches there.

“I’d never studied insects before, and this was the weirdest thing anyone has ever said to me to entice me to do something,” Dr. Miller says. “He told me, ‘If you switch from beetles to roaches, I will fund you all through your Ph.D.’ I drove from California to Gainesville to study roaches, and from that day to this, that was the single best decision I have ever made.”

Dr. Koehler was true to his word. Dr. Miller earned her master’s degree in 1994 and her doctorate in 1998, both from UF. When Dr. Bill Robinson decided to retire from his Virginia Tech post in 1998, Dr. Miller was named his successor. She’s been teaching, winning awards (most recently, the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development’s inaugural “Healthy Homes Hero” award in July) and conducting research for the betterment of pest management ever since.

You can reach Jerry Mix, a 2005 PMP Hall of Famer, at pmpeditor@northcoastmedia.net.

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