Researcher Spotlights

Themis Michailides

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Themis Michailides is a Plant Pathologist and Lecturer at Kearney Agricultural Research & Extension Center. He conducts research at Kearney REC.

What led you to become a plant pathologist?

Working in my father’s tobacco fields in Greece, I was always curious about those strange tobacco plants which I found later that had Tobacco Mosaic Virus!  I became a plant pathologist because when I was a student at the Agricultural University in Athens Greece, I worked as a part-time helper in a plant pathology laboratory there. This “part-time non-paid job” gave me the first boost to pursue this field of study and become a plant pathologist. I got a small scholarship from a philanthropic institution (Bodosaki Foundation) and was able to get my MS (1980) and Ph.D. (1984) in plant pathology from the University of California Davis.

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What brought your work to Kearney REC?

The position I have now as a plant pathologist was a position located at the Kearney Agric. Center and administered by the Department of Plant Pathology, UC Berkely. I started as a plant pathologist in 1989 until 1992. When the Depart. Of Plant Pathology UC Berkeley was reorganized (closed) I joined the UC Davis plant pathology, but still remained at the Kearney Agric. Center.

What do you hope to learn from your research at Kearney REC?

I learned a lot on this job over the years. But working at Kearney REC I learned how easy was to use the surrounding experimental fields to do experiments and how close to various industries we were. We are in the middle (the heart) of the major agricultural industries and problems that growers bring to our attention daily can be solved with cooperation and willingness to help find practical solutions.  

What is your favorite part about conducting your research at Kearney REC?

Because I am located in the center of agricultural industries, I can travel to the north or the south easily, observe, diagnose and solve the problems. Likewise, located in a central location such as Kearney, UC farm advisors, growers, and Pest Control Advisers easily can reach my laboratory for diagnosis of a sample or for a discussion on a situation in the farm or a pest problem in their fields.    

What is your favorite plant and why?

My favorite plant is pistachio. I worked on pistachio when I was a postdoctoral research associate at UC Davis and for years after I got this job as a plant pathologist. I made my career working on pistachio fungal diseases and mycotoxin produced by certain fungi attacking pistachio.

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