Alumni Spotlight: Mohammed Boulif
1986, PhD Plant Pathology
Advisor: Prof. Roy D. Wilcoxson
Current employer/position: Professor and Head of the Department of Plant Protection, National School of Agriculture, Meknes, Morocco
What currently are some of the projects you are involved in for your position?
For the past four years I have invested much time with my students working on integrated disease management in wheat and apples in the northern part of Morocco. My focus is to bring the students to understand farmers’ practices to control plant diseases in order to be able to change them for the better using sound scientific knowledge and field research results.
What’s your passion? What do you love about your work and your field?
For the past three years I have discovered the usefulness of Farmers’ Field Schools in educating farmers, especially those with less resources.
What’s great about the Department of Plant Pathology?
I have appreciated the rigorous organization of Plant Pathology and the friendly relationships among the members of the Department: faculty, staff and students. When I first came to Plant Pathology as a youngster of 22 years of age in the fall of 1973, I was assigned to the same office as older PhD candidates Bob Crow and Ben Skovmand. For me it was a unique growing environment. I was impressed by the laboratory and greenhouse spaces which I saw for the first time in my life. The most enriching experience was the Plant Disease Clinic where I took turn with other graduate students to answer phone calls, and diagnose sick plants samples sent by mail or brought in by clients. Working in the Plant Disease Clinic was excellent for my self-confidence, since I was a young Moroccan helping American citizens who were seeking advice about their sick crops and diseased household plants.
How did your education at the U of M help prepare you for what you are doing today?
The different courses that I have taken in the Department of Plant Pathology on one hand and the Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics on the other hand, prepared me very well for my teaching career in Morocco. Acquiring the skill of reading and having top-level scientific knowledge in the language of Shakespeare was an additional blessing. Gaining those skills have helped me a lot in perfecting my courses and keeping up to date with new knowledge throughout the world. The pragmatic approach of doing research and the way the courses are taught at the University of Minnesota had great influence on my way of doing things since my graduation.
What advice do you have for current students (and future alumni)?
Whatever your specialty in plant pathology is, try to back up your vertical strength in plant pathology by adding other disciplines to your curriculum such as entomology, weed science, agronomy, horticulture and basic economics. Also, studying at the University of Minnesota is great, but moving around the world can be very enriching for growing students. I encourage young American students to seize opportunities to travel abroad for study or for volunteer work.