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University of Florida plant root biology expert recognized by American Society for Horticultural Science

FORT PIERCE, Fla.— For his prescience to digitize conference competitions and tireless efforts to mentor students who will lead plant root biology into new decades, Lorenzo Rossi was recognized by the American Society for Horticultural Science.

Angelica Lower, American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) awards coordinator, said Rossi received the Professional Early Career Award for excellence and outstanding contributions to teaching and education systems during the society’s annual meeting in Denver, Colorado, from Aug. 5 until Aug. 9.

Dr. Lorenzo Rossi with tree saplings in the Rossi Plant Root Biology Laboratory at IRREC

Lorenzo Rossi with tree saplings in a lab at Indian River Research and Education Center. Photo credit: Taylor Jones.

In a summary made of Rossi’s qualifications for the recognition, members of the ASHS awards committee wrote, “Dr. Rossi is energetic, creative, well-rounded, compassionate, and overall a comprehensive educator. We believe the acknowledgment and recognition would only propel him to greater heights in his instructional impacts and career.”

Rossi is an assistant professor of plant root biology at the University of Florida’s statewide Institute of Food and Agricultural Science (UF/IFAS) at the UF/IFAS Indian River Research and Education Center (IRREC). Rossi develops and instructs award-winning courses for high-performing undergraduate and graduate students.

In four years, Rossi led the ASHS work to digitize a student poster competition and the “Student Scholars Ignite” presentation contests to fully online programs. Rossi initiated the action involving nearly 150 students in 2019 and completed the transition in early 2020. About 200 presentations were made at the events by students pursuing master’s and Ph.D. degrees. Due to COVID-19 restrictions in 2020, the ASHS conference was held as a videoconference. As a result of Rossi’s innovation, the student competitions and awards segment of the meeting ran smoothly, according to Mark Ritenour.

Ritenour, a professor of horticulture and postharvest technology at UF/IFAS-IRREC, nominated Rossi for the award.

“Dr. Rossi demonstrates exceptional leadership to promote students who are in pursuit of careers in plant root biology,” said Ritenour.

In his nomination for Rossi, Ritenour notes Rossi’s commitment to ASHS’s mission: Members of ASHS pledge to promote and encourage international scientific research and education in all horticultural branches.

In his drive to reach all horticultural branches and students who will become new leaders in the fields, Rossi serves as an annual judge for the St. Lucie County Regional Science and Engineering Fair at the Indian River State College. In this role Rossi attends middle and high school student presentations and evaluates which projects will advance to state and international competition events. He is a mentor to the young students for their work in the next year and encourages them to move forward with scientific exploration. Rossi assisted a second organization with his advisement skills, the iGem Foundation. According to iGem’s official website, the organization is an independent non-profit that leads the advancement of synthetic biology, education, and competition. Rossi recently assisted an iGem member with scientific experimental design for plant root biology.

“Dr. Lorenzo Rossi has devoted his early career to educate and mentor students,” wrote Ritenour. “Rossi propels our students to reach higher levels and demonstrates the necessity of interdisciplinary collaboration.”

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