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UF/IFAS research awards ceremony honors 2020 accomplishments and adaptability

By Mary Anne Sanders

About 70 faculty, staff and graduate students from the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) were recognized at the 14th Annual Florida Agricultural Experiment Station Research Awards Ceremony on Friday.

UF/IFAS Dean for Research Robert Gilbert presided over the ceremony, which was held virtually via Zoom. The theme of the event revolved around the resilience and adaptability of UF/IFAS personnel during the 2020 pandemic.

The ceremony began by lauding productivity during the quarantine, with faculty applying for $338 million worth of grants from March to August, nearly doubling the same period of time in 2019. Faculty also published a record-breaking 2,150 peer-reviewed journal publications last year.

“Throughout the pandemic, UF/IFAS research activity has followed compliance with CDC guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Gilbert said. “Our researchers quickly and efficiently ramped their programs down while still maintaining critical resources; and then, as soon as we had a handle on how to conduct research carefully, they ramped their research programs back up quickly and safely.”

Four awards were debuted:

  • The Culture of Nomination Award was presented to agricultural and biological engineering chair and professor Kati Migliaccio for her excellent example of nominating others for prestigious awards and honors.
  • The Diversity Difference Maker Award was presented to assistant professor John Diaz at the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center and human resources manager Rebecca Decker from the Southwest Florida Research and Education Center for their enormous contributions to inclusion, diversity, equity and access within UF/IFAS.
  • The Plant Breeding Innovation Award was presented to associate professor Vance Whitaker at the Gulf Coast REC for his trailblazing efforts in strawberry breeding.
  • The VP Promise Award was presented by UF/IFAS VP Scott Angle to soil and water sciences research professor Ann Wilkie for mentoring nearly 75 students and 20 UF scholars throughout two decades in the UF/IFAS Summer Research Internship Program, providing real-world experiences beyond the classroom.

View the program for the event, a full list of awardees, and a recording of the ceremony.