Dr. Norman Leppla

Dr. Norman Leppla
Featured in: DPM Newsletter Spring 2014

When asked to reflect upon his personal involvement with the DPM Program, Dr. Leppla graciously agreed to provide our readers with insight about his professional background and role as an advisor for numerous students. He also shed light on a truly inspirational philosophy that illustrates his positive outlook on education and personal achievement.

“Steadily but almost imperceptibly, pest management has been transitioning to a new, exciting era that I can envision due to my 45 plus years in the field. Going fast are the days when someone could simply apply a series of broad-spectrum pesticides with minimal training and expect pest problems to miraculously disappear. Pest management has become too complex for that approach, requiring considerable education and technical training to be effective and sustainable.

This new era in pest management also was recognized by Dr. George Agrios, so consequently he founded the University of Florida’s Plant Medicine Program to satisfy the critical need for professional plant health practitioners, “plant doctors.” My professional experience enabled me to quickly get involved by serving as an advisor and mentor for many of the Doctor of Plant Medicine (DPM) students. This experience included B.S. and M.S. degrees in zoology from Arizona State University, respectively in 1968 and 1970, and a Ph.D. degree in entomology with a minor in biological sciences from the University of Arizona in 1972. I served as a research entomologist with the USDA, Agricultural Research Service at Gainesville, Florida and Weslaco, Texas, Chief of Methods Development and Associate Director of the National Leppla  Biological Control Institute, USDA, APHIS, in Riverdale, Maryland; and Director of the UF,   IFAS Research and Education Centers at Leesburg, Apopka and Sanford. I was honored to   serve as president of the Florida Entomological Society and be recognized as Entomologist of   the Year; be appointed chair of the Florida A&M University, Center for Biological Control   Advisory Council and adjunct faculty member; and be elected Entomological Society of   America, Southeastern Branch president and recipient of the Award for Excellence in   integrated pest management (IPM). I am a Fellow of the Entomological Society of America. In 2001, I was given an opportunity to establish IPM Florida to provide statewide, interdisciplinary and inter-unit coordination and assistance in IPM to protect agriculture, communities and the environment. As Florida’s first comprehensive statewide IPM program, IPM Florida encourages collaboration in advancing IPM primarily through research and Cooperative Extension activities. However, as director I soon realized the importance of an educational component and the Plant Medicine Program was a perfect fit. A considerable amount of DPM education and training is in IPM, particularly under the outstanding leadership of Dr. Amanda Hodges, current director of the Plant Medicine Program.”

Dr. Leppla has been an important figure in the lives of many DPM students. He has served as the supervisory committee chair or co-chair of: Javier Garces, Dan Sonke, Esther Dunn, Denise Thomas, Joyce Merritt, Rafael Vega, Kirk Martin, Ken Johnson, Tatiana Sanchez, and Christopher Kerr. He has also served as a committee member for other DPM students: Rajya Pandey, John Porter, Brian Jackson, Leroy Whilby, Brian Jackson, Heidi Bowman, and Alicyn Ryan. To each student, Dr. Leppla imparts this philosophy:


Dr. Tatiana Sanchez

Featured in: DPM Newsletter Spring 2017

Q: Describe your academic background?
A: I completed my Bachelor’s in Biology at the Military University in Colombia. After graduation, I worked for about a year as a research assistant and then as a science teacher until I decided to apply to grad school. I completed my Doctorate in Plant Medicine and my Postdoc in Plant Pathology, both at UF.
Q: What is your current occupation and how has your DPM degree aided you in the tasks and responsibilities associated with your position?
A: I currently work with UF/IFAS Extension as the Commercial Horticulture Extension Agent for Alachua County. I help small and large growers identifying and resolving a number of issues that affect crop production in vegetables, ornamentals, fruits, nuts, and sod farms. The DPM degree helps me on a daily basis as I use all the disciplines we learned during the doctorate to help growers troubleshoot nutritional prob-lems, pest and disease management among others. The pesticide research conducted during my degree provided me with an understanding of the application, the handling, and the risks of pesticides. This knowledge allowed me to quickly assume the responsibility for the pesticide and licensing training for the public, commercial, and limited pesticide licenses in the county.
Q: What prompted you to pursue your present career and where are you located?
A: I have been very lucky in terms of the professional opportunities that have been available for me from my bachelor’s to my current job. I very much enjoy communicating research to farmers and helping to resolve any type of plant health issue they may encounter. While I was doing my postdoc in Plant Pathology, I had the opportunity to work closely with commercial farmers in Alachua County and it lead into a job with the extension office. I had the opportunity to experience what a job in industry or academia would be like and learning about extension clarified what the best fit for me would be.
Q: Why did you choose to enroll in the DPM program?
A: A multi-disciplinary degree like the DPM program opens up the spectrum of job possibilities which increases your chances of working in a field you really like. Work shouldn’t be work, it should be passion.

Dr. Stacy Strickland

By Nicole Casuso | DPM Fall 2016 Newsletter

Q: Describe your academic background?
A: B.S. in biology and chemistry from Valdosta State University (GA). I grew up on a farm in Georgia. It was in my childhood that I learned animal husbandry. My work today includes, cow-calf management as well as crop production.

Q: What is your current occupation and how has your DPM degree aided you in the tasks and responsibilities associated with your position?
A: I’m currently the County Extension Director of Osceola County. I have been an Extension Agent since graduation also serving as the Extension Director of Hernando and Sumter Counties simultaneously. I would encourage DPM students to look at Extension as a potential career. I enjoy bringing the newest agricultural
techniques and technologies to our producers in Florida. The training in the DPM program has proven extremely valuable to those producers. On a daily basis, I use the knowledge gained through the DPM program in plant pathology, entomology, and weed science. I currently supervise 35 individuals. You may think I didn’t learn leadership in the DPM program, but there were always electives. As an elective, I had Extension Administration taught by Dr. Nick Place. Nick would later become the Dean of IFAS Extension.

Q: What prompted you to pursue your present career and where are you located?
A: My uncle was a County Agent in Georgia. As a young 4-Her, I always admired the County Agent. This was an individual that was expected to be an agricultural know-it-all. They were highly regarded in the community as a source of information and a conduit to the Land-Grant University. After I graduated from UF, I was fortuitously selected as the Agriculture Agent in Hernando County. I would remain in Brooksville for 12 years. After five years, I was appointed as the County Extension Director. Later I became the Multi-County Extension Director for Hernando and Sumter Counties. I really enjoyed working with the producers of these Counties, and worked with won-derful County staffs and elected representatives to bring science to their policy decisions. I am extremely happy to be se-lected to be the Osceola County Extension Director. I look forward to establishing those same relationships with the County Government and strategic partners that I’ve been accustomed to in Brooksville and Bushnell.

Q: Why did you choose to enroll in the DPM program?
A: The initial reason was definitely because of Dr. George Agrios. At least all of us in the first class knew the reputation that Dr. Agrios had within scientific community. After I started the program, I realized that George was the tip of the intellectual iceberg. I would be remised not to mention my committee chairman, Dr. Tom Kucharek, and how much I continue to learn from him today. That generation of teachers that I had were unrivalled in their knowledge and experience.

Q: From a personal standpoint, how has your DPM degree influenced you?
A: Being an Extension Agent is not a job, it is a lifestyle. When a farmer or rancher needs your help at night or on the weekends, that is part of the lifestyle. The life that I have today was completely influenced by that meeting with George Agrios in 2000.

Q: Do you have any advice or words of wisdom for current DPM students?
A: Learn about everything agricultural related that you can. Do not assume that you will be working with agronomic crops…take that tropical fruits course. If you choose a career in Extension, go to the in-service trainings (IST) to become a better Agent. Many ISTs are available to bring you up to speed very quickly if you take advantage of those.

Dr. Clay Pederson

by Nicole Casuso | DPM Summer 2016 Newsletter

Q: Please describe your academic background.
A: Being a Gator through and through, I received my undergraduate and DPM degree at The Great University of Florida. My undergrad studies were in Plant Science with an em-phasis in Plant Pathology and a specialization in Biotechnology.

Q: What is your current occupation and how has your DPM degree aided you in the tasks and responsibilities associated with your position?
A: Currently I am the Farm Manager for the Black Gold Farms’ Florida location. The farm is in Live Oak, FL and is the largest chipping potato farm in the state. However, I just accepted a new job as Manag-ing Director of Agromillora Florida, and will start this new endeavor on August 1st. Agromillora has a new citrus tissue culture lab and greenhouse that just became operational this year. The facility is located in Wildwood, FL. The all-encompassing interdisciplinary training by the DPM program provided me a tremendous leg up in the pro-duction Ag industry. Growing a successful crop requires knowledge in all aspects of plant care from soils, fertility, water and disease management and beyond. This type of education is exactly what the DPM program provides.

Q: What prompted you to pursue your present career and where are you located?
A: I have always enjoyed growing a crop. The satisfaction of seeing something grow from a seed to a harvested product is a benefit you don’t get in many careers. Through the years, however, I learned that I enjoyed helping peo-ple and a business grow just as much as growing a plant. This is what led me to my current position as well as my new job. I am still able to see plants grow and develop, but am able to have a greater impact on the big picture. I am currently moving to Ocala, FL.

Q: What made you choose to enroll in the DPM program?
A: At the time it was the only interdisciplinary plant health practitioner program. The DPM program offered a course of training unlike anything else available.

Q: From a personal standpoint, how has your DPM degree influenced you?
A: The education and training provided by the DPM program has provided me with a unique skill set that has opened many doors for me. Besides the education, the networking opportunities through internships, seminars, guest lectures and travel is actually how I received my first job offers after graduation. I would strongly encourage all current DPM students to take advantage of this great net-working opportunity.

Q: Are there any challenges that your DPM degree has helped you overcome?
A: There is a main theme that I learned from the program that has helped me in many situations. The DPM pro-gram taught me to look at problems from a wide angle view. Focusing on the whole picture/problem instead of one particular aspect of the problem mirrors the interdisciplinary education taught by the program.

Q: What interested you to become part of the External Advisory Committee?
A: The chance to help the program that helped me get to where I am today is what interested me in participating. I truly believe in the DPM program and feel that it is an answer to many of the challenges the agricultural industry faces today. Being part of the DPM program does not stop when you graduate and for it to remain successful it is all of our duties to continue to promote our extraordinary degree.

Dr. Rafael (Andy) Vega

by Nicole Casuso | DPM Spring 2016 Newsletter

Q. Briefly describe your academic background.
A. I received my B.S. degree in Computer Engineering from Northeastern University. Since I had received my degree in a very different field of science, I completed pre-requisite coursework at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, prior to enrolling in the DPM Program.

Q. What is your current occupation and how has your DPM degree aided you the tasks and responsibilities asso-ciated with your position?
A. I currently work as a Crop Consultant, Research Manager, and equal partner of New England Fruit Consultants (NEFCON). Our private company serves five states in the Northeast including Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York’s Hudson Valley, and Vermont. NEFCON provides consulting services for over 5000 acres of tree fruit. I provide consultations for roughly 2000 acres of fruit trees such as apples, peaches, etc. My DPM background in insect identification diagnosis is used on a daily basis. Inset toxicology and a thorough understanding of their metabolic pathways has been especially useful. Key plant pathology concepts and methods that I learned during the disease clinic internship is invaluable with my job. I do approximately 80% of the initial diagnosis. Additional comprehension of disease control and management is critical. Fundamental knowledge of herbicide interactions and their efficacy also plays an important role in the field. Most of the problems we see in orchards are abiotic, due to cultural practices, phytotoxicity, or deficiencies. Currently, I am in my 6th growing season and the diverse skill set I have from my DPM degree continues to give me a competitive advantage in the field. Overall, I enjoy the immediate impact and substantial influence my advice can have at the commercial level.

Q. What prompted you to pursue your present career and where are you located?
A. Since I am originally from New England, the thought of returning there for a career seemed natural. Independent crop consulting is a very unique field with and the Northeast could use the skillset that DPMs are graduating with. My present career offered me independence to make my own schedule and flexible hours to coincide with changing weather patterns. There was a great deal of flexibility, especially during the off season when I have time to attend lots of trainings, meetings, and remain actively engaged with the community and the growers. The consultant position seemed to balance many of my interests in learning, teaching, and conducting self-motivated research

Q. Why did you choose to enroll in the DPM program?
A. I wanted a multi-disciplinary background that was not restricted to any particular field that I had seen in other programs. I was interested in diagnostic work and definitely wanted to do some research but not exclusively. I also liked the idea of teach-ing but again, not exclusively. Field work was also a must have, but I didn’t want to commit to being a full-time grower or farm manager. The DPM Program encompassed all of my main goals.

Q. How did you find out about the DPM Program?
A. I used to work as a horticulturalist at the Zoo New England. They had insect and disease problems that sparked my interest to look for programs that gave a strong background in IPM. I then found myself caught between working in entomology and pathology. That’s when I found the DPM Program.

Q. From a personal standpoint, how has your DPM degree influence you?
A. I feel like an ambassador for agriculture and the plant industry in general. Explaining the DPM title itself is actually a really wonderful ice-breaker because it’s a way to gauge people’s interest and knowledge level of the subject. I’ve had some really great conversations with people about the program. I have always been passionate about food, how it is made, how it’s grown, and industry. Currently I am involved with the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA/Mass). We educate people to help them understand the pesticide/organic controversy. We try to show them the importance of industry as well as consumer education. Explaining the acronym is actually a really wonderful ice-breaker.

Q. Are there any challenges that your DPM degree has helped you overcome?
A. Being prepared for natural disasters and emerging pests and pathogens (i.e. Brown Marmorated Stink Bug or disease outbreaks) is something the DPM Program definitely helped me with. There is also a type of psychology involved with being a consultant. People skills are crucial. Being able to communicate with researchers and translate that to applicable knowledge for growers and farm workers can often be a difficult challenge. My involvement both during the DPM Program and during my internships has really helped me with this.

Q. Any other words you would like to share with DPM students?
A. I strongly encourage each of you to be active and engaged. Networking cannot be stressed enough. It really is important. Don’t be afraid to establish and develop your own niche within the department and the plant industry community!

Dr. George Fox

Dr. George Fox

Featured in DPM Newsletter Fall 2015

Dr. Fox is now working with the USDA, specifically with APHIS International Services. He will be serving as a Foreign Service Officer, stationed internationally to represent US agricultural interests. Upon completion of an intensive training program, Dr. Fox expects to be headquartered at a U.S. Embassy in 2016. Expertise and practical knowledge of plant pests and diseases, earned by becoming a Doctor of Plant Medicine at UF, helped Dr. Fox secure high-level employment with APHIS.

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.

An interview with Sam Glucksman

Sam Gluckman
by Nicole Casuso | DPM Newsletter Summer 2015
Q. Please describe your academic background.
A. I received my B.S. in Botany at the University of Florida in 2007. I then enrolled in the DPM Program and completed my degree in August 2011.

Q. What is your current occupation and how has your DPM degree aided you in the tasks and
responsibilities associated with your position?
A. Crop Management Specialist-Account Manager with Glades Crop Care, Inc. My DPM degree has aided me in my current occupation by giving me the knowledge and skill set for identifying and controlling pests, diseases, and other issues that affect plant health. My internships with the Doctor of Plant Medicine Clinical Trials and the UF Plant Disease Clinic have contributed greatly to my success as a principle investigator for large scale grower demonstrations, and field diagnosis of pests and diseases.

Q. What prompted you to pursue your current career?
A. I wanted a position that would allow me to utilize all the skills and knowledge gained from the program including trial work and contract research.

Q. Why did you choose the DPM program?
A. I love working with plants in the field, greenhouse, and laboratory, but wanted more than a research experience. A practicing degree allowed me to utilize the information gained in research, and apply it to real world scenarios.

Q. On a personal level, how has your DPM degree influenced you?
A. Besides all the science, my degree has influenced my personal life in many ways. It has taught me the importance of discipline and hard work, networking and social development (maintaining good relationships). Most of all, admiration and respect for the agricultural industry and community.

An interview with Dr. Leroy Whilby

Dr. Leroy Whilby
by Nicole Casuso | DPM Newsletter Spring 2015

Q. Please describe your academic background.
A. My general agricultural studies began at the College of Agriculture in Portland, Jamaica where I received my A.Sc. I then worked for a few years as an inspector before pursuing a B.S. in Plant Science at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri. My graduate studies began in 2001 at Florida A & M University in Tallahassee, FL where I conducted research studies in agroforestry. At the conclusion of my M.S. in Plant Science at FAMU, I received the FAMU Graduate Feeder Program Fellowship, which assisted me in acquiring the DPM degree from the University of Florida.

Q. What is your current occupation and how has your DPM degree aided you in the tasks and responsibilities associated with your position?
A. I currently serve as the State Survey Coordinator for the Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey (CAPS) Program under FDACSDPI. My DPM degree gave me a broad spectrum of knowledge on pathogens, nematodes, entomology, and agronomy. The DPM program enhanced my ability to apply a diverse knowledge base within CAPS while also enabling me to make rapid and holistic assessments.

An interview with Dr. Tim Durham

Dr. Tim Durham
by Nicole Casuso | DPM Newsletter Fall 2014

Q. Please describe your academic background.
A. I received an AAS in Horticulture and Greenhouse Management from Suffolk County Community College. Thanks to an articulation agreement, I transferred to Cornell University, where I received a BS in Plant Science. Later, I was awarded a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship for postgraduate study at Lincoln University, New Zealand, where I received a Postgraduate Diploma (P.G. Dip.) in Applied Science. Immediately upon my return to the US, I enrolled in the DPM program at UF.

Q. What is your current occupation and how has your DPM degree aided you in the occupational tasks and responsibilities?
A. I’m currently an Assistant Professor of Agronomy and Agriculture Program Coordinator at Ferrum College, a small liberal arts institution in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The DPM degree has been an invaluable asset. In essence, it allows me to act as a disciplinary linguist – switching dialects on the fly. For example, over the course of a day I can: 1) discuss the use of braconids as biocontrols with colleagues, 2) interpret a soil test report in class, and 3) work with students on a calibration lab at the campus farm.