Dr. Tesfamariam Mengistu

Featured in: DPM Fall 2017 Newsletter

Dr. Tesfamariam Mengistu is an Assistant Professor of Nematology in the UF Entomology and Nematology Department with a 45% extension, 30% teaching, and 25% research appointment. He also serves as the Director of the UF Nematode Diagnostic and Assay Laboratory on campus.

Dr. Mengistu received his B.S. in Plant Sciences from Alemaya University, Ethiopia, his M.S. in Nematology from the University of Ghent, Belgium, and his PhD in Soil Ecosystem Phytopathology and Nematology from the University of Bonn in Germany. Before coming to UF, Dr. Mengistu worked as a Plant Pathologist and Nematologist at the National Plant Protection Research Institute in Ethiopa and as a Post Doc at the University of Illinois working on research focused on nematodes that infect plants grown for bioenergy crops.

When asked what first got him interested in nematology Dr. Mengistu shared the following, “ My interest in nematology all started by coincidence. At the time I was working at an agricultural research center in Ethiopia and there was no nematologist at the center. A IITA scientist contacted me and asked if I would be interested in participating in a nematode survey in Ethiopia. I accepted and had the opportunity to learn about nematodes and become trained in nematology. I’ve been studying nematodes ever since.”

Dr. Mengistu’s research primarily focuses on the biological control of major nematodes that occur in the U.S, specifically root-knot and cyst nematodes. In his research program the lab utilizes metagenomic tools to understand the microbial communities associated with suppressive soils. Dr. Mengistu also serves as the Director of the UF Nematode Diagnostic and Assay Laboratory on campus. The assay lab runs more than 5000 nematodes samples per year and is busy year round. The assay lab provides sample submitters with the type and number of plant parasitic nematodes present in a sample, provides management recommendations, species level identifications using molecular sequencing, and participates in many outreach activities. As Director of the lab Dr. Mengistu oversees the daily activities of the lab, works on nematode identifications, and provides management advice to Florida growers. Dr. Mengistu encourages students to work in the nematode diagnostic lab as this is an excellent learning experience. To learn more about the UF Nematode Diagnostic and Assay Laboratory check out this website: http://nematology.ifas.ufl.edu/assaylab/index.html.

Dr. Mengistu teaches several courses including: Nematode Morphology and Anatomy (NEM 6101), Plant Nematology (NEM 5707 – online), Nematode Systematics and Molecular Phylogeny (NEM 6102), Nematode Diagnostics (NEM 6942), and Insect Parasitic Nematodes (NEM 6103).

Many DPM students take Dr. Mengistu’s courses while in the DPM program.
When asked what he most enjoys about his job, Dr. Mengistu replied, “I thoroughly enjoy the non stop research challenges I encounter and all of the interactions I have with many different types of students.”

Dr. Mengistu is supportive of the DPM program and currently administers the DPM Nematology comprehensive exam to all DPM students. He also served on the DPM committee and was the M.S. advisor for DPM student Lisbeth Espinoza. When asked to discuss the DPM program Dr. Mengistu stated, “I always tell my students that if I had the opportunity to go back to school I would get a DPM degree. The diversity and intensive nature of the program fully prepares students to excel in many different professions.”

Dr. Mengistu was asked to share some words of advice to our student readers. Dr. Mengistu shared the following:

“Knowing what you want to do and where you want to work and then preparing for this journey is a difficult and important decision in terms of professional and personal development. I encourage students to take the necessary time and reflection to make these important decisions.”