FORT PIERCE, Fla.—An emerging scientist who took the lead for an experiment to identify natural beneficial fungi occurring in citrus grove soils that protect high-value citrus crops has been recognized by UF/IFAS officials.
Laura Muschweck is the biological scientist who manages Lorenzo Rossi’s plant root biology laboratory at UF’s Indian River Research and Education Center (IRREC) in Fort Pierce. An Indian River State College graduate, Muschweck’s career as a scientist began with capable management of a U.S. Department of Agriculture laboratory and has now segued to scientific research funded with a multi-state grant.
Last week UF/IFAS officials announced successful candidates for their statewide Superior Accomplishment Awards program. Muschweck is among those selected for the honor in the scientific and technical category.
“It is unusual for a biological scientist in a university lab to exceed her job description as a matter of routine,” said Rossi. “But what is superior about Laura Muschweck’s performance this year is that she has planned to go beyond what is expected and will take the lead on an experiment.”
Rossi’s supervisor, Ronald D. Cave, director of IRREC, said Muschweck demonstrates uncommon initiative. After her task to rapidly organize a well-managed laboratory and work to support 15 lab employees and associates, Muschweck applied her knowledge to conceive laboratory protocols and added her ideas to the experimental design.
Cave said Muschweck’s skills reveal her ability and talent as a research scientist and support the needs of a busy laboratory in which the plant root biology team seeks solutions to the local citrus industry’s decline. The fall in production of the world’s unsurpassed fresh grapefruit is associated with an invasive insect that transmits a bacterium that causes citrus greening disease. The disease compromises fruit quality and shortens the life of citrus trees.
“Rossi and Pasco Avery, leader of the Entomopathogenic Fungi Research Laboratory at IRREC, identified the need to search for entomopathogenic fungi that may exist in citrus groves. If successful, the scientists may discover one or several microorganisms that will support Florida’s ailing citrus industry,” said Cave.
Cave said Muschweck always performs her duties at a high level and the willingness to accept a principle role in a research program elevates her to an exceptional level.
The university’s Superior Accomplishment Award program “recognizes staff members who contribute outstanding and meritorious service, efficiency or economy, or to the quality of life provided to students and employees.” Muschweck has won at the division, or UF/IFAS level, and will now compete for a university-wide award that may bring up to a $2,000 cash award.