Alum Gets Stung By Bees, Wins Ig Nobel Prize

The State College Area School District has graduated many successful alumni—doctors, lawyers, professional athletes, and even a Nobel prize winner. Justin Schmidt ’65 shared the 2015 Ig Nobel Prize in Physiology and Entomology at a ceremony September 19, 2015 at Harvard University. The prize was awarded for “painstakingly creating the Schmidt Sting Pain Index, which rates the relative pain people feel when stung by various insects” (based on Justin’s personal research and testing). The Ig Nobels are awarded for science published in peer reviewed journals that “first makes you laugh, then makes you think”.

Justin credits much of his success to the people in State College and the local school district who made his life a joy and helped to mold his future.

“Everybody from my neighbors in the community to classmates and teachers in school was there to support me and my sometimes crazy-appearing ideas and activities,” he said. “Although I didn’t realize it, the environment [at State High] was perfect for preparing me for life and for my future career as a biologist.”

Justin describes the teachers he had in school as being by-and-large interesting as were most of the subjects (with Latin grammar being an exception, he jokes).

“I remember physics experiments, the stench of Dr. Bolton’s lab when we generated rotten egg smell, the excitement of being a part of the Model UN, and rooting for our wrestling team,” he said. “Marion Bressler taught me to write, Dave Clemson taught me to love math, Jackson Horner taught me to run, and I forget who sponsored our chess club. These all built upon my elementary schools in Lemont (remember marble games during recess?) and Boalsburg Elementary and junior high where we were bussed into the partially finished high school (complete with construction noises).”

Justin is set to release his book, “The Sting of the Wild” in March 2016. is accepting pre-orders. You can also read his latest article “Suffering for Science: Why I Have Insects Sting Me to Create a Pain Index” by clicking here.

He currently lives in Tucson, Ariz. where he is the biologist at Southwestern Biological Institute and work on the biology and evolution of desert animals and stinging insects from around the world. In his spare time he enjoys hiking, bicycling, cooking Chinese and Brazilian food, and relaxing with a good book.

My life is good in large part from the excellent start I got from the State College schools,” he said. “Please support the Education Foundation so that our children can enjoy as good a start in life as I did.”

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