Skip to main content

UF Environmental Horticulture Students Sweep Awards at International Plant Propagator’s Society Regional Conference

University of Florida graduate students in the UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) left quite an impression at the International Plant Propagator’s Society (IPPS) southern regional conference last fall. Each year, three students are selected to give oral presentations about their original research. At this conference, all three students represented UF.

The 2018 conference held in Chattanooga, Tennessee, during October brought together researchers, educators and industry leaders from the region’s 12 states. The conference is an opportunity for those in the plant production and propagation industry to gather and exchange new ideas, information and research. In an effort to encourage continuing research, the IPPS conference offers graduate students the opportunity to enter their plant research into a prestigious contest.

Environmental horticulture student, Shae Keene, received first place for an oral presentation of her research on the aroma of Daylily species and hybrids. After following the path toward medical school, she found her passion for horticulture through internships and work experiences in the Kauai National Tropical Botanical Garden and at Bok Tower Gardens in central Florida before coming to UF to pursue her Ph.D.

“My research on floral fragrance combines my love of plants with my love of chemistry, genetics and biochemistry,” Keene said.

Environmental horticulture student Shae Keene.

For Gabriel Campbell, the opportunity to present his research was intimidating but ultimately rewarding. His interest in native plants led to his research on seed germination of coastal sand frostweed, for which he earned second place in the oral competition.

“You are presenting to the people who wrote the textbooks you’re reading in class…but it’s exciting because now people know me, they remember my presentation from the conference,” Campbell said.

Debalina Saha has attended the IPPS conference the past three years. She earned third place for the presentation of her research on environmentally friendly ways to improve long-term weed control in plant nurseries.

“Every time I presented my research to IPPS, I got excellent feedback from the audience,” Saha said. “The questions that were asked to me were really challenging and very practical, which has helped me to know the actual problems that growers are facing in their nurseries.”

Additionally, UF/IFAS environmental horticulture professor, Sandra Wilson, was surprised to be honored with the IPPS Fellows Award. This recognition acknowledged her contribution to the nursery industry and plant propagation in the southern region.

IPPS encourages students to participate in regional conferences by offering free student membership and reduced rates to attend events. Students selected to present are given additional financial assistance to attend, as well as a cash prize. Students have the opportunity to learn about horticulture careers, network and build lasting relationships with both faculty and industry IPPS members. The 2019 IPPS southern regional conference will be held Oct. 12-16 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. More information can be found on the IPPS website.


The College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) administers the degree programs of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS). The mission of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences is to deliver unsurpassed educational programs that prepare students to address the world’s critical challenges related to agriculture, food systems, human wellbeing, natural resources and sustainable communities. The college has received more total (national and regional combined) USDA teaching awards than any other institution. The University of Florida is ranked No. 8 in the list of top 10 best public universities by U.S. News & World Report. Visit the CALS website at, and follow CALS on social media platforms at @ufcals.