I’ve been working in academic science since 1987 when I started washing dishes in a laboratory at Northern Illinois University. Today I’m honored to serve as the Department Chair at the University of Florida, acting as the administrative and budgetary coordinator for fifty-some of the world’s most productive faculty, studying everything from space biology, to biochemistry, to organic crop production.
My laboratory has several research foci. We examine how light can be used to control how plants grow. The techniques known as plant whispering allow us to use different parts of the spectrum to shape plant size, color, flavor and nutrition. We also are interested in assisting traditional strawberry breeding efforts at UF by generating molecular markers that speed genetic improvement for flavors, aromas, and other production traits. We also are testing an exciting new strategy to develop novel growth regulators for plants, as well as potentially next-generation antibiotics to fight resistant bacteria. These projects provide fertile ground for training students, postdocs and visiting scientists.
My background in communications has been helpful in translating science to the public. From third-grade classrooms, to retirement homes, to farmers and physicians, I’m glad to provide scientific discussions of topics in food and farming. I’m a regular guest on podcasts and in other media, and am grateful for these opportunities to answer questions for a curious, and sometimes concerned, public.