Barry R. Pittendrigh

Barry R. Pittendrigh
  • MSU Foundation Professor
  • Entomology


Barry R. Pittendrigh is an entomologist whose work focuses on pest problems in cowpea, a legume crop that is an important source of protein for populations in developing countries. His work has resulted in developing methods of controlling pests in cowpea, biologically.

When presenting this solution to West African farmers, Pittendrigh encountered another problem. His efforts to provide information to farmers were stalled by the fact that many of the farmers spoke different languages. That problem led Pittendrigh and his colleagues to create Scientific Animations Without Borders (SAWBO), a program that produces animated 2D and 3D educational videos that  people can watch on their cell phones. Video content is often scientific knowledge and the language narration can be changed for the user. Cell phone ownership is widespread in Africa and other parts of the developing world.

Prior to coming to MSU, Pittendrigh was the C.W. Kearns, C.L. Metcalf and W.P. Flint Endowed Chair in Insect Toxicology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. There, his work on body louse led to sequencing the body louse genome. Since body louse need a symbiotic relationship with bacteria to survive, they spread disease in humans. By mapping the body louse genome, researchers can now look for ways to combat disease-spreading body louse.