Graduate Assistantship

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Graduate Assistantship Program At University of Florida

 

With Florida producing approximately 80% of the foliage grown in the United States and the University of Florida doing a very large portion of the nation’s research, it was a perfect match for the development of a graduate assistantship program.  In 2010, NHF’s graduate assistantship program generated the level of funding needed for its first graduate-student project.  NHF Board of Directors serves as an advisory committee and provides direction and supervision to each graduate student and faculty member involved.  

Shea Keene,
Current Graduate Student

In 2010, NHF’s graduate assistantship program generated the level of funding needed for its first graduate-student project. NHF’s Board of Directors serves as an advisory committee and provides direction and supervision to each graduate student and faculty member involved.
2021 has been an incredibly busy year as I worked to make up for the time and research lost to the pandemic in 2020. Though it had more than its fair share of challenges, I am proud to look back on all the hard work and accomplishments.

After my qualifying exams wrapped up in mid-December 2020, I took a brief break to spend some time with family before hitting the ground running in the spring semester. After working almost entirely remotely for roughly 9 months, I was finally back in the lab doing hands-on work. I resumed collecting volatiles from my sweet violets, and started seed germination experiments. I was also serving as President of the Environmental Horticulture Graduate Student Association (EHGSA) for the second year in a row. I oversaw the production of 4,000+ coleus plants for EHGSA’s annual spring plant sale, which had been cancelled the previous year because of COVID. We completely overhauled the sale format to adhere to COVID safety guidelines, developing a pre-order option with contactless pickup and by-appointment-only greenhouse shopping, and set up websites for both options. The sale was a huge success—our 2021 sale profits were the highest in EHGSA’s history!

Over the summer, I worked on developing a method to analyze phenolic acids using liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS-MS). This method was used not only in my own research with Viola, but also in some of my colleagues’ research on basil and petunia. Additionally, I performed LC-MS-MS analysis on ubiquinone in Arabidopsis for collaborative research with Dr. Gilles Basset’s lab in the Horticultural Sciences Department, which resulted in two publications in 2021.
During the fall semester, I found myself even busier! I welcomed a new undergraduate research assistant into our lab, and she has been a tremendous help with my research. In addition to my own research, I worked on two collaborative volatile projects, one with the Agronomy Department and the other with the Food Sciences Department. Then in December as the semester neared its end, I reached a different type of milestone: I turned 30!

When I think about what 2022 will hold, I am filled with excitement. I will finish up the last of my experiments, write my dissertation, and then…I’ll be done! After six years, my graduate school journey will finally come to a close. Post-graduation, I plan on working in some aspect of the horticultural industry. I am particularly interested in Florida’s cannabis industry, but will keep my options open.
I am so incredibly grateful for the National Horticulture Foundation and its support of my assistantship through both my master’s and my Ph.D. I have gained incredibly valuable experience, skills, knowledge, and connections because of this assistantship. It has opened so many doors and given me so many opportunities. It has completely changed my life, and I am deeply grateful.

Shea Keene is a Ph.D. student in the Environmental Horticulture Department at the University of Florida. She received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of South Florida. Originally planning on entering medical school, Shea followed a pre-medical track throughout her undergraduate career. During her final semester, however, she realized she was not happy in the medical field. She decided to scrap her medical school applications and instead applied for several horticultural internships, as she found a love for plants and gardening in preceding years.

 

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By Christine Johns Penman
Chair: Charles Guy
Major: Horticultural Sciences

Conducted by Deidra L. Slough
Faculty Advisors are Dr. Tracy Irani and Dr. David G. Clark, University of Florida