Graduate Student Spotlight: Amanda Morgan

Last Updated on October 19, 2017 by Caroline Warwick

This week, we would like to spotlight Amanda Morgan, a master’s degree-seeking student studying horticulture sciences here at the Mid-Florida Research and Education Center. Read below to learn what inspired Amanda, or Mandy for short, to pursue a career in working with plants and become a self-professed ‘plant nerd.’

Here is Mandy working on her graduate research, analyzing concentrates of the Florida native plant, skullcap, in different solutions.


1. What is your major or main area of study? My major is horticultural sciences and my graduate work focused on cultivation of medicinal plants.

2. What is your main motivation to work with plants? Plants are amazing! They are the sources of our food, our oxygen, medicines, furniture, dyes…and beer! There are endless things to learn about plants and things from them.

3. What is your favorite plant? It is always changing, and I am a huge advocate for native plants. Right now, I’d have to say my favorite plant is Scutellaria arenicola, a species of skullcap native to Florida which I have been researching the past few years; it’s one of the plants my thesis is focused on. I’m actually preparing for my defense next week, I’m really stressed out about it, but gaining a master of science degree (hopefully!) will have been the biggest accomplishment of my life so far.

4. When did you realize you enjoyed working with plants and/or the natural sciences? I enrolled in an ethnobotany course in 2009 at Valencia State College taught by Steven Myers. I was completely in awe. I applied and was accepted for a study abroad program in the rainforest of Guyana, South America, where we studied ethnobotanical plants and learned about the culture of an Amerindian tribe whom hosted us for nearly two weeks. After that, I changed my academic focus from psychology to biology, and have been a plant nerd ever since!

5. What is your hometown? Born and raised in Orlando.

6. Have you always been a University of Florida student or did you transfer to UF? I transferred to UF Mid-Florida Research and Education Center from Valencia College after learning about their plant science undergraduate program. It was perfect for me as a non-traditional track student. I could live at home, keep my job, and have a great opportunity to study plants.

Mandy grew skullcap plants in a greenhouse under different conditions then looked at how these conditions impacted the plant’s medicinal qualities.

7. If you could have lunch with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be? Well, I’m going to have to say my Grandmother. She taught me so much and was a wonderful woman figure throughout my childhood. She also had a pretty rad garden!

8. What is your dream job? First thing that comes to mind: a director of a botanical garden. I could collect and educate people about awesome plants, help with landscape design, and even continue research.

9. What is your favorite activity to do in your free time? Go hiking, wildflower hunting, and just being outside, especially with friends!

10. What is the best advice someone has given you? Take risks, because in the end you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did.

Amanda defended her thesis on October 18, and will be graduating December 2017.

For more information about the teaching programs at MREC or AA transfers, check out the Teaching section of our website or the UF Department of Environmental Horticulture.


Posted: October 19, 2017

Category: UF/IFAS, UF/IFAS Teaching
Tags: Environmental Horticulture, Graduate Student, Plant Nerd, Plant Science, Student Spotlight

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