Dr. John Peterson

Featured in: DPM Newsletter Spring 2017

Dr. John Peterson received his B.S. in Horticulture and Plant Science from the University of Rhode Island and his Ph.D. in Horticulture and Plant Physiology from Rutgers University. Dr. Peterson is a Professor in the UF Environmental Horticulture Department and the Director of the Plant Science Major at UF.

Before coming to UF he served as a Horticulture Professor, Department Head for the Horticulture and Crop Science Department, and Director of the Wine and Viticulture Program at California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo. He has also served in many other positions including: Horticulture Professor at The Ohio State University; President of the AmeriFlora ’92 International Flower and Garden Exposition in Columbus, Ohio; President of the Massachusetts Horticulture Society in Boston, MA; President of Turtle Bay Exploration Park in Redding; CA; and Director of the San Francisco Botanical Garden and Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco, CA. In these roles he has conducted research related to the production of floriculture crops and tropical foliage in indoor environments, plant nutrition and water quality, and research related to attracting students to majors and careers in plant science. Dr. Peterson first had the opportunity to come to UF on sabbatical leave and then decided to stay as a faculty member. He has been in his current role as Professor and Director of the Plant Science Major for 1.5 years.

In Dr. Peterson’s role as the Director of the Plant Science Major he works collaboratively with five departments in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to help coordinate an interdisciplinary educational program with these departments. The collaborating departments include the Agronomy, Entomology and Nematology, Environmental Horticulture, Plant Pathology, and Soil Science Departments. Since becoming the Director, Dr. Peterson has worked with the faculty, staff and students in these departments to revise and expand the offerings of specializations in the Plant Science Major. The new Plant Health and Protection Specialization will soon serve as a good pathway into the DPM program at UF. Other specializations that will soon be offered will also serve as pathways into advanced degree programs relating to agronomic crop production, plant breeding and genetics, native plant restoration and conservation, controlled environment plant production, plant pathology and entomology, ornamental plant production and many other areas relating to plant science. One of the goals for the major is to provide educational training and a four-year degree that leads to wideranging career opportunities in the plant professions as well as a pathway into graduate studies covering numerous aspects of plant science. Since there is currently a shortage of plant science professionals, Dr. Peterson along with collaborators in the UF Plant Science Major are also focused on raising awareness of careers in the plant science profession to prospective students. Dr. Peterson believes that the training of highly competent and capable plant science professionals is critical to the needs and challenges of our future world, and that the University of Florida is one of the most important places in our nation for that training to occur.

In addition to serving as the Director for the Plant Science major Dr. Peterson also teaches a Sensory Gardening course (ORH 2752). This course is focused on the important role of plants in our environment and human lives, as well as the links between plants and the five human senses. This course is often a gateway for students interested in transferring into the Plant Science major and is also a valuable course for students already in the major.

When asked what he most enjoys about his job Dr. Peterson replied, “The thing I enjoy about my job is knowing that I am helping to train the next generation of plant science professionals who will make sure that we are effectively caring for the plants in our environment and we are going to be able to efficiently, responsibly and sustainably produce the food plants and plant products that we will need in our future world. I’m really enthused about knowing there will be individuals working in my profession who will succeed me and do more important and exciting things than I have been able to do in my career.”

Dr. Peterson is supportive of the DPM program and currently serves as a member of the DPM Program faculty advisory committee. He looks forward to working with DPM students and hopes to be able to contribute to the program by enhancing the student experience in the DPM program. When asked what he thought about the DPM program, Dr. Peterson shared the following: “I believe the DPM program is a unique and special program and is offered at a great university. It presents an opportunity to have a very special and unique role in the plant science profession that is offered at very few other institutions of higher learning. This program offers in depth training and instills a wide spectrum of plant science knowledge that makes graduates of the program the ultimate and very best plant doctors.”