Alumni Spotlight: Carlos Perez

January 13, 2016

Plant Pathology Alumnus Carlos Perez Alumni Spotlight

Carlos Perez
Ph.D. 2008, MS 2005

Advisors: Bob Blanchette, Ruth Dill-Macky, Linda Kinkel

Current Position: Adjunct Professor, Plant Pathology, Department of Plant Protection, College of Agronomy, Universidad de la Republica, Uruguay

Tell us about your current research or work involvements and their impacts.

I am focusing on plant disease management for major crops in Uruguay. I have two major areas of research: Eucalyptus diseases and field crop diseases. For Eucalyptus diseases, my work has focused on the identification and epidemiology of major pathogens.

Regarding field crops research, we have been investigating the role of Trichoderma on cropping systems in Uruguay and identifying microenvironments that are able to support high populations of this fungus. The main objective is to reduce residue-borne pathogen inoculum by increasing the Trichoderma population living on residues.

What's your passion? What do you love about your work and your field?

The challenge to know the unknown is the driving force of every researcher. In my case, I love to have a complete understanding of the epidemiology of plant diseases. I like knowing how pathogens reach the host, how the infection process happens, and then discovering what conditions promote disease progression. Using that information we can have a more informed idea of when epidemics are going to happen, or at least predict the level of risk.

Another thing I love about my work is helping students in their career, and contributing to training the next generation of plant pathologists in Uruguay.

One of the things I look forward to most in my work is having the chance to interact with people from very different parts of the world. We have joint projects with researchers from the United States (University of Minnesota), South Africa (University of Pretoria), Spain (Universidad de Valladolid), Australia (Murdoch University), Brazil (Universidade de Vicosa) and Argentina (CIEFAP and INTA).

What is plant pathology to you?

Plant pathology contributes enormously to daily life. Can you imagine another famine like the one suffered by Ireland in 1845? Can you imagine a life without wood? Or even, can you imagine a city without trees? That is why minimizing the impact of plant pathogens becomes so important. We can protect the plants we hold so dearly and contribute to society’s economic well-being through plant pathology.

What's great about the Department of Plant Pathology?

Outstanding people and great research programs, with many overseas projects and collaborations, the quality of life in the Twin Cities and the history behind this department.

How did your education with Plant Pathology help prepare you for what you are doing today?

My graduate program gave me the tools necessary for conducting successful research in Uruguay. It also gave me the teaching skills necessary to help prepare new students in the field of plant pathology.

What advice do you have for current students (and future alumni)?

For current students I would say do your best and your life is going to be much easier and more enjoyable. We have the privilege to receive a quality education, and that gives us a responsibility to give back to society.