University of Florida

UF CALS seniors, juniors earn honors at annual banquet

Topic(s): CALS, IFAS

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) celebrated the accolades and accomplishments of its top students at the annual awards banquet held April 18.

Graduating seniors, CALS Ambassadors, CALS scholarship recipients, CALS Leadership Institute participants, CALS Honors Scholars, Club of the Year and outstanding juniors were recognized for their academic success, leadership and service.

“Recruiting and retaining the very best students is a top priority for our college,” said CALS Dean Elaine Turner. “Our annual Scholarship and Leadership Awards Banquet celebrates the achievements of those outstanding students. We are honored these students pursue their education through CALS, and are proud of the service and leadership they provide at UF and in the community.”

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Sisterly Competition: The Path to Graduation

Topic(s): CALS, Graduation, IFAS

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. –  With more than 52,000 students at the University of Florida, the competition for leadership positions in student organizations, research opportunities and internships can be stiff. For Alessandra and Adriana Della Porta, competition hits close to home – or rather resides at home.

The twin sisters from Ponte Vedra Beach both study microbiology and cell science with goals of becoming medical doctors. Together they graduate from the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) with their peers on April 29 at 7 p.m. in the Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.

Even with similar career aspirations, the sisters have crafted individual experiences at UF with regard to research, involvement and career plans.

“At the end of the day, we’re in competition, so that’s been really difficult,” Adriana said. “But we can shine because we’ve put our efforts in different places in (CALS) and at UF to maintain our independence. Because of this, we can truly be happy for one another and support one another. We’ve made our own names for ourselves – we aren’t ‘Adriana’s sister’ or ‘Alessandra’s sister.’”

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UF/CALS student facilitates national 4-H conference roundtable with FBI

Topic(s): 4-H, CALS, Families and Consumers, IFAS

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A University of Florida student recently led a roundtable discussion in Washington, D.C., with Federal Bureau of Investigation representatives on cyber bullying. Students even got advice from former 4-H participant FBI Director James Comey.

During the 2017 National 4-H Conference in Washington, D.C. from March 25 to 30, UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) student Jose Alvarez led the social equity roundtable of 4-H delegates. Alvarez was partnered as a facilitator with FBI representatives to guide the delegates in creating a social media campaign and slogan to address cyber bullying.

Comey told the 4-H delegates about his 4-H experiences as a child and spent some time with them answering career-related questions and how to leverage their 4-H skills in their future occupations.

The 4-H delegates presented their final project, titled “Celebr8 Us,” to FBI representatives on March 28 to be considered as a potential solution to be implemented by the bureau. The social media project incorporated eight pillar topics from the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The students aimed to create a welcoming environment on social media with their project presentation. Messages focused on testimonials and positive solutions, such as “giving compliments generously.”

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UF/IFAS entomology department, others take top spots in global ranking

Topic(s): Announcements, CALS, Departments, Entomology and Nematology, Honors and Appointments, IFAS, Invasive Species, Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Center for World University Rankings has named the University of Florida entomology department first in the world among more than 26,000 degree-granting institutions of higher education. Other programs in the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences also ranked in the top 10.

The Center for World University Rankings is the only global university performance table to judge world-class universities across all of their core missions – teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook. The center measures the quality of education and training of students as well as the prestige of the faculty members, and the quality of their research without relying on surveys and university data submissions.

“The quality and recognition of our program are the result of a dedicated group of faculty, staff and students,” said UF/IFAS entomology department chair Blair Siegfried. “They are committed to education, to solving important questions of both applied and fundamental significance, and to providing timely and important information to the citizens of Florida.”

The center ranked several UF/IFAS programs in the top 10:

  • Entomology (World Rank: 1, Score: 100.00)
  • Mycology (World Rank: 8, Score: 83.42)
  • Agriculture, Dairy and Animal Science (World Rank: 9, Score: 92.56)
  • Biodiversity Conservation (World Rank: 9, Score: 89.55)
  • Horticulture (World Rank: 9, Score: 90.63).



By: Beverly James, 352-273-3566, beverlymjames@ufl.edu


UF/IFAS Fulbright scholar to study unknown biodiversity in Poland

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, CALS, Conservation, Departments, Environment, IFAS

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — For six months after she applied for a Fulbright Research Scholarship, Karolina Weclawska’s life was on hold. The University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences senior said people would ask about her plans for after graduation this spring, and all she could say was, “Well, that’s up to the Fulbright Commission.”

You can’t make alternate plans for the opportunity of a lifetime.

After months of waiting nervously while the commission deliberated over thousands of applications, the commission responded. “I almost brought down the foundation of my house jumping around and screaming,” said Weclawska, who is in the School of Forest Resources and Conservation.

Her project targets an underappreciated area of biodiversity — forest mosses. Mosses provide habitats for microscopic organisms, in turn creating miniature ecosystems. As Weclawska described it, a patch of moss is basically a tiny forest.

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UF student named one of three international 2017 Rolex Scholars

Topic(s): Announcements, CALS, IFAS

Leah Potts

GAINESVILLE, Fla. –  A University of Florida student has been chosen as one of only three 2017 Rolex Scholars in the world.

An avid scuba diver of seven years, biological engineering senior Leah Potts found her career calling by merging her love for the water with engineering. Potts will receive her scholarship at a formal ceremony in New York in late April.

The scholarship committee selected three finalists from a rigorous application process to interview in Chicago for the 2017 North American scholar title of the Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society, ultimately choosing Potts. She joins a European Rolex Scholar and an Australasian scholar.

“Leah’s program is interdisciplinary, and the UF/IFAS agricultural and biological engineering department provides the opportunity for Leah to combine engineering with her interest in natural resources and water use in agricultural systems,” said department chair Dorota Haman. “The opportunity the Rolex Scholarship provides is fantastic. There is so much going on in water around the world and Leah can select several institutions and conferences to visit and “learn about water” during this coming year. Our department is very proud of her.”

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UF CALS student wins regional award for mosquito research and leadership in the entomology field

Topic(s): Agriculture, CALS, IFAS, Pests

Casey Parker

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences graduate student received the prestigious Kirby L. Hays Memorial Award. The award, from the Entomological Society of America’s southeastern branch, was presented at the branch’s 91st annual meeting in Memphis, Tenn., on March 12 to 15.

Casey Parker recently began her Ph.D. program at the Florida Medical Entomology Lab and is dual enrolled in the master of public health program. She hopes to become a leader in the field of medical and veterinary entomology.

The award honors her work as an outstanding master’s student in entomology and nematology, taking into account her teaching experience, outreach, research and past awards.

“This is a huge honor for me,” Parker said. “Before I was presented the award, the chair of the student awards committee said one of the many reasons I was chosen for this award was because of my leadership ability in teaching, research and Extension like Dr. Hays, after whom the award is named.”

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UF/CALS student earns university-wide dissertation fellowship

Topic(s): Agriculture, CALS, IFAS, Pests

GAINESVILLE, Fla. –  A University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) Ph.D. student received the university-wide Emerging STEM Scholar Award at the 2017 Women’s History Month Awards on March 1. The honor is part of the Association for Academic Women Graduate Student Awards.

Entomology and nematology student Vanessa Dias came to UF from Bahia, Brazil after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) awarded her a fellowship to conduct research at the U.S. Department of Agriculture lab on UF’s campus. While in the U.S., Vanessa was awarded a four-year scholarship from the Brazilian government through the Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel Foundation to pursue her Ph.D. at UF. Dias’ research involves improvements to the sterile insect technique that reduces the need for pesticide use on crops and makes the technique available at an affordable cost.

The award Dias earned is named after Madelyn Lockhart, who served as the Dean of the UF Graduate School and Dean of International Studies and Programs between 1985 and 1993. Dias said she is grateful for the award. Recipients are provided up to $2,000 annually to assist in the dissertation phase of the doctoral degree.

“Through CALS I have learned a sense of responsibility,” Dias said. “The university gives me the opportunity to complete research on a large scale – research that can change the world indeed. In CALS, we are well prepared to do any research we want to pursue. We can affect other cultures in a positive way.”

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UF/CALS graduate students host annual coleus plant sale

Topic(s): Agriculture, CALS, IFAS

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. –  The Environmental Horticulture Graduate Student Association (EHGSA) will host its 18th annual plant sale from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on March 25 and 26. The sale will be held at the University of Florida horticulture greenhouses, 2475 Memorial Road, Gainesville. This is the fourth year the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) student organization will feature coleus plants.

The graduate students recently began featuring coleus to showcase the plant breeding that happens at UF and the plants club members have grown themselves. All coleus sold at the event have been patented by UF. The sale will also include donated plants from local horticulturalists.

“The coleus we are selling are mostly available commercially, but not all in one place considering the amount of varieties we have,” said Tia Tyler, EHGSA president. “We already have people calling to make sure they don’t miss the sale. It’s nice to see we are picking up a following.”

New coleus varieties to be sold at the event include Velveteen (a dark burgundy leaf with a pink center) and Salsa Verde (a lime color). The Gator Glory variety with orange leaves and yellow highlights is not available commercially and was recently retired as UF’s official plant.

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UF/IFAS professors, CALS students shave heads to raise awareness of childhood cancer

Topic(s): CALS, IFAS

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – UF/IFAS plant science professors and University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) students will shave their heads and raise money to increase awareness of childhood cancer. The plant science team will participate in the UF Freshmen Leadership Council’s St. Baldrick’s service project on March 16 from 4 to 9 p.m. on Norman Field.

The effort is one of many events around the country that benefit St. Baldrick’s Foundation. The nonprofit organization works closely with leading pediatric oncologists to find childhood cancer cures, as well as ways to prevent lifelong damage resulting from surgeries, radiation and chemotherapies. UF Health is a recipient of grants from the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.

“This is something for students to diversify the service projects they can participate in on campus,” said plant science student Jimmy Herd-Bond, a participant in the plant science St. Baldrick’s team. “This is a way to show we care by not only giving money, but by taking action.”

This will be the second “shearing” plant pathology lecturer Brantlee Spakes Richter has gone through for a St. Baldrick’s event. She last participated eight years ago in Raleigh, North Carolina in honor of a sister-in-law she never met. Richter’s sister-in-law died from a misdiagnosed cancerous tumor she had as a teenager that spread throughout her body. Richter says her sister-in-law’s presence is still felt every day in their family.

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