February 28, 2018 – Themed “Beyond the Bench”, the TPS 2018 Symposium continued the tradition of merging novel scientific discoveries and applications with agricultural productivity, sustainability, and human health by including experiences and perspectives in the areas of science communication, bioregulation, and entrepreneurship. Keynote speakers for this year’s symposium were Dr. Kevin Folta, Dr. Elizabeth Hood, and Dr. Wayne Parrott.
Professor and Chair of University of Florida’s Horticultural Sciences Department, Dr. Kevin Folta’s seminar was titled “Science Communication – Lessons from Hostage Negotiation, Customer Service, and Aristotle.” Dr. Folta’s research focuses on the role of light in plant trait management, particularly in agriculture. His research team is recognized for its work in innovative genomics approaches in gene identification related to fruit quality. His career accolades include the prestigious CAST Borlaug Agricultural Communications Award (2016), an NSF CAREER Award (2008), the University of Florida Research Professor Award (2010), and the University of Florida Postdoctoral Mentoring Award (2012).
Dr. Elizabeth Hood emphasized entrepreneurship with her talk, “Recombinant enzymes, pharmaceuticals and vaccines from plant seeds for commercial applications.” A Lipscomb Distinguished Professor from Arkansas State University, Dr. Hood’s credentials include more than 35 years of plant biology research in enzyme production with 80 plus publications and patents. Her Ph.D. project developed the agrobacterial strain EHA101, which is now a global tool in gene transfer for crop improvement. Dr. Hood’s recognitions also include her role as CEO of Infinite Enzymes and Infinite Eversole Strategic Crop Services; she was recently honored as a distinguished alumnus of the Department of Plant Biology, Ecology, and Evolution at Oklahoma State University.
Dr. Wayne Parrot’s lecture, “A Life Well Regulated” provided attendees insight into the role regulatory systems play in research. Dr. Parrot’s research seeks to understand the development, use and safety of transgenic crop plants. His work in this area has been supported by USDA-NIFA, NSF, DOE, and the United Soybean Board. Dr. Parrot’s publication accomplishments include a guide for environmental risk assessment of GMO’s and 110 journal articles refereed publications and 14 book chapters. In addition to spending six years as a volunteer scientific advisor to the Biotechnology Committee of the International Life Sciences Institute developing best-practices for GMO food and feed safety evaluation, Dr. Parrott’s work has taken him throughout Latin America and other countries advising legislators and regulators on the development of functional regulatory systems to insure the safety of GM products.
Scientific organizers for the 2018 symposium were Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed Science professors Elizabeth Grabau and John McDowell. The Translational Plant Sciences Symposium is held annually to provide students and faculty the opportunity to gain thoughtful insight from leading industry experts and academic scholars and share current research with their colleagues via graduate student oral competitions and poster sessions in this day-long event.