University of Florida Ph.D. Student 2020 Chateaubriand Fellow
A plant pathology doctoral student who investigates disease-related effectors from strawberry fungal pathogens is a 2020 Chateaubriand Fellow.
Egem Özbudak is a Ph.D. student at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce (IRREC).
Özbudak’s current research is under the direction of Liliana Cano, a plant pathologist and assistant professor at IRREC. The focus of Özbudak and Cano’s work is on plant pathogen effectors, or proteins, or small molecules that bind to a protein and regulate its biological activity. Effectors function to increase virulence or severity of an infection inside of a crop. Özbudak’s work is with a fungal disease commonly found in fresh strawberries called Colletotrichum acutatum, which causes fresh strawberries to brown and rot.
More than 7.7 million tons of strawberries are produced commercially, and that production has increased more than 140% in the last 20 years, said Özbudak.
“Egem Özbudak is passionate about his work to control pathogenic fungi on strawberries, a valuable and nutritious fruit crop,” said Ronald D. Cave, professor and director for IRREC. “With the Chateaubriand Fellowship, Özbudak will collaborate with international research scientists to solve fungal diseases to protect the world’s food supply.”
The Chateaubriand Fellowship is a grant awarded by the Embassy of France in the U.S. and supports distinguished Ph.D. students from American universities who wish to perform research as a visiting scholar in France. According to the award website, “Chateaubriand fellows are selected through a merit-based competition, through a collaborative process involving expert evaluators in both countries.”
In France, Özbudak will work alongside Sylvain Raffaele, a plant pathologist and group leader at the Laboratoire Interactions Plantes Micro-organismes, a laboratory managed by the French National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and the Environment and the French National Centre for Scientific Research in Toulouse, France. The two laboratories ranked eight on the Nature Index Ten institutions that dominated science in 2015, and are the equivalent of America’s U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“The Ph.D. project of Egem Özbudak offers a prime opportunity for our labs to join forces towards the analysis of effector genes in fungal pathogens causing severe diseases on fruit crops,” said Raffaele. “Reducing yield losses due to plant pathogens is a major route towards food security worldwide.”
Özbudak will participate in the Fellowship for four months later this year. He is one of 39 young scientists nationwide to be honored with the Chateaubriand Fellowship.
“The opportunity to participate in collaborative research in France as a Chateaubriand Fellow is an honor and a privilege. The benefit of the research will not only help to advance our work to fight fruit crop disease but can also strengthen the collaboration between UF and INRAE-CNRS” said Özbudak.