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Current Lab Members

Alfred Huo (Ph.D)
Principal Investigator
Dr. Huo joined UF in early 2017. Currently, he is an assistant professor at the Mid-Florida Research and Education Center at the University of Florida. His current research focuses on development of biotechnology tools, particularly in improvement of genetic transformation in diverse plant species, and use various approaches including CRISPR genome editing, transposon mutagenesis, genomic sequencing to ornamental and specialty crops including snapdragons, begonia, marigold, and petunia for genetic improvement. 

2019 Speaker Schoellhorn 150 dpi.jpg

Dr. Rick Schoellhorn
Plant Breeding Advisor

Dr. Rick Schoellhorn received his M.S. (1992) and Ph.D. (1996) from the University of Florida, Gainesville, and his B.S. from Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado in 1989. 

Dr. Rick Schoellhorn has worked in both industry and academia in his career, but always focused on new plants and new plant introductions. He has toured the United States, Indonesia, Holland, Germany, Spain, Madeira Island Portugal, Costa Rica, Japan, South Africa, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, and Mexico collecting plants and consulting with growers.

Rick has been the Director of New Products for Proven Winners, a college professor at the University of Florida, in retail nursery sales, and golf course maintenance in California. Nursery production and sales in Alaska, and as owner of an interiorscape installation and design company in Colorado. 
Rick is the co-author of “Your Florida Guide to Perennials” with Dr. Sydney Park-Brown.

Matthew Creech
Biological Scientist

Matthew is the chief of this lab.He is in charge of chemical inventory, supplies purchasing, management of greenhouse and growth chambers, lab safety training, etc. He has years of experience in grape tissue culture and regeneration. He is a plant lover and trying to grow different exotic plants in the lab and in his own private nursery. He likes fishing, but not dozens of Koi fishes in his own pond.

Chi Nguyen, Click here to see her personal page.
Ph.D. Student

Current Research Activities: My research focuses on understanding the roles of AHG1/3 and microRNAs in the regulation of seed germination and flowering time in lettuce, aiming to unveil the molecular mechanisms underlying these pivotal stages in plant life. The project contributes to advancing our knowledge of lettuce biology, with potential applications for enhancing lettuce crop production. 

Tao Jiang , Ph.D​.
Post Doc

Tao Joined the lab in Spring 2020. Tao is focused on examining lettuce genetics and molecular breeding. Jiang’s research specifically focuses on using an integrated approach to understand the temperature effect on lettuce seed germination and flowering, dissecting molecular mechanisms underlying temperature response of lettuce during flower and seed germination, and leaf senescence of multiple plant species. 



Wisnu Handoyo
Ph.D. Student   


Current Research Activities: My current research focuses on breeding Begonias. I'm developing a new cultivar that can withstand high temperatures and is less invasive due to its male sterility. To achieve this, I'm combining traditional breeding methods with modern techniques. It's a challenging but exciting project that could lead to a more resilient and controlled Begonia variety.

Hobbies/Interests: I'm a hiking enthusiast who loves exploring trails and soaking in the beauty of nature, and also I find joy in gardening and nurturing plants. From blooming flowers to homegrown veggies, my garden is my sanctuary, and I'm passionate about cultivating a variety of plants, especially Begonia.

Additional Information: "In the past, I have made no secret of my disdain for Chef Gusteau's famous motto: Anyone can cook. But I realize, only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere." (Anton Ego/ Ratatouille)

Yeyen Novitasari 
Ph.D. Student  

Hobbies/Interests: Yeyen is an Indonesian student starting a PhD in the Environmental Horticulture Department in the fall of 2023. During her leisure time, Yeyen likes cooking Indonesian dishes and enjoys traveling to new places, swimming, hiking, and being immersed in reading a book. Also, she likes matcha lattes a lot.  

​Current Research Activities: Yeyen is interested in studying ornamental breeding using biotechnological approaches. Her project will focus on Marigold breeding to create new traits that are tolerant to heat stress. She mainly works on the Agrobacterium transformation of Marigold varieties, studying the molecular basis of heat tolerance in Marigold genotypes and Marigold gene editing.  
Her favorite quote is “Indeed, with hardship (will be) ease” (94:5

Mohammed Kyum 
Ph.D. Student   Chair: Dr. Kevin Kenworthy

I am a Ph.D. student candidate co-advised by Dr. Kevin Kenworthy and Dr. Alfred Huo. I am presently engaged in the development of a CRISPR-based gene editing system tailored for Bahiagrass (Paspalum notatum), a low-maintenance turfgrass species. In addition, I am actively working on generating EMS mutants to confer herbicide tolerance within Bahiagrass. Furthermore, I am spearheading a project aimed at enhancing seed germination rates in Bahiagrass.

All my research efforts are exclusively dedicated to Bahiagrass, with a primary focus on elevating its aesthetic qualities to position it as a sustainable alternative for the Southeastern United States. By enhancing Bahiagrass's visual appeal, I aim to contribute to water conservation in the region.

Hobbies/interests: I enjoy socializing with friends and forging new connections. Additionally, I have a passion for traveling and discovering unfamiliar destinations.

Additional information: I am a big fan of American Football (NFL), and my favorite team is Kansas City Chiefs because of their quarterback, Patrick Mahomes.  

Fangchen Liu
Ph.D. Student   

Current research activities: My current research revolves around flower colors in petunias and marigolds. I will attempt to manipulate the expressions of certain genes in the anthocyanin biosynthesis pathway and carotenoid biosynthesis pathway, with the hope of getting some ideas about the generation of novel flower colors and some compounds that can benefit human health.

Hobbies/interests: Beyond my research, I have a range of interests that enrich my life. Hiking is one of my passions. I love hiking in the mountains, which brings me peace and connects me with nature. During my free time, I like to knit or crochet while watching movies. Currently, I'm working on a colorful blanket as my crochet project. I also enjoy reading many different types of novels.


Additional information: : I am definitely a cat person. I have a lovely Ragdoll cat at home in my country, and he always provides me with a lot of emotional support.


Keila (Emily) Rodriguez
Research Assistant 

Emily joined the lab as an intern in 2022. She is now a research assistant for Dr. Jiang. She is mainly helping with the transformations of various species (Lettuce, tomato, chili, and etc.) and regeneration via tissue culture. Her work varies on a day-to-day basis. You can find her in the lab performing molecular techniques or in the greenhouse collecting data. Outside of the lab, Emily enjoys working on 1000-piece puzzles, going to the gym, meal prepping, and road trips. All hobbies she finds therapeutic. 



Nicholas Rabanal-Gates
Research Interns 

Hobbies/Interests: I am a fisherman who prefers to spend all of my free time on the water. Any time not spent on the water is spent on my plants at home. I’ve had an interest in plants for many years and run a small nursery specializing in indoor plants and tropicals. 

Current Research Activities: Current projects include RNA isolation from lettuce and tomato, as well as a project on sustainable floral growth promoting agents in Snapdragon and Viola. 

Additional Information: Favorite plant is Dieffenbachia “Camouflage” because of its variegation patterns. 

Ph.D. Research Assistantship in Plant Breeding


The plant breeding lab at the Mid-Florida Research & Education Center at the University of Florida has a Ph.D. position available; this position comes with a full research assistantship (tuition waived and an annual stipend of $30,000). The student will focus on characterizing snapdragon mutants with strong stress tolerance using Bulk Segregant Genetic Analysis and whole genome sequencing. The development and release of new cultivars will also be part of this research project. The student will be expected to receive training in genetics, physiology, genomic sequencing, and genome editing.


Applicants with an M.S. degree in plant science (Horticulture, Agronomy, Forestry, Plant Biology, Plant Pathology, etc. ) and a strong publication record will be highly preferred.


Minimum Requirements:

  1. GPA 3.0 or above


  1. TOEFL 80 or IELTS 6.0, GRE is NOT required( No English test request from some countries, for more information: Grad International - University of Florida (


To be fully considered, you need to submit your application package (CV, official English Test scores, official transcripts, three reference letters, application form) (before January 15, 2023) following the link below.


Admissions - Plant Breeding Program - University of Florida - Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences - University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences - UF/IFAS (


Please directly email to for additional information.  

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