An interview with Tomás Chiconela

Tomás Chiconela
by Nicole Casuso | DPM Newsletter Fall 2015

Q. Please describe your academic background.
A. I received my B.Sc. degree in Agronomy at the Faculty of Agronomy and Forestry Engineering of Eduardo Mondlane University, in Maputo, Mozambique. Then, I moved to South Africa, where I obtained my M.Sc. degree in Agriculture (Weed Science) at the University of Orange Free State. Afterwards, I was awarded a Ford Foundation scholarship to pursue DPM program at UF. Immediately after my DPM graduation in 2006, I enrolled in the Agronomy (Weed Science) PhD Program at the same University and completed that degree in 2008.

Q. What is your current occupation and how has your DPM degree aided you in the duties and obligations associated with your position?
A. Currently, I am Dean of the Faculty of Agronomy and Forestry Engineering of Eduardo Mondlane University. I was appointed to this position after heading the Department of Plant Production and Protection (twice), and the Department of Plant Protection, after the first department got split in two (Department of Plant Production, and Department of Plant Protection). Despite my administrative responsibility, my DPM degree has allowed me to teach several courses both at graduate and postgraduate levels. Similarly, it also allows me to supervise students working in different thematic areas.

Q. What prompted you to pursue your current career?
A. Immediately after completion of my B.Sc., I was hired as an assistant lecturer in Weed Science, and later appointed to be in charge of the Plant Protection Section. Thereafter, I was appointed as head of department of Plant Production and Protection. While acting in both position I had to deal with all kind of pests without that expertise that was required from me. One day a colleague of mine got a newsletter from Cornell University. In it, a new course in plant health, at the University of Florida, was being depicted. By then, I was in a process of applying for a scholarship from Ford Foundation to pursue my PhD degree in Agronomy, at the UF, under Dr. Bill Haller. I didn´t think twice. I decided to put my PhD in hold and go for DPM first. While in the program, I asked my Committee´s Chair (Dr. Bill Haller) to let me help in his laboratory to keep me busy. After a while, I realized that it was possible to combine both degrees, and I decided to do it.

Q. Why did you choose the DPM program?
A. I wanted to get that myriad of knowledge in plant health that the program provides that any other course in plant protection was able to offer.

Q. On a personal and professional level, how has your DPM degree influenced you?
A. DPM opened up many doors for me. I have been able to interact with colleagues working in several subjects without any problem. I also have been able to teach several courses and supervise students conducting their research in several plant healthy problems.

Q. Are there any challenges that your DPM degree has helped you overcome?
A. The DPM program helped me a lot in sense that I can confidently interact with farmers, researchers, policy makers, industry and students about plant health problems.