After nearly two decades helping farmers combat the diseases affecting Georgia’s most prominent fruit crops, Professor Harald Scherm has been appointed head of the University of Georgia’s Department of Plant Pathology following a national search.
Scherm, who has served for the last six years as assistant dean for research in UGA’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and as graduate studies coordinator in the plant pathology department, will take on his new role July 1. John Sherwood, who served as department head for plant pathology since 1997, retired this past March.
CAES administrators will launch a search for a full-time assistant dean for research this summer and fall. Scherm will continue acting as assistant dean for research until his replacement is hired.
“Dr. Scherm has done a remarkable job as assistant dean of research, helping the college reorganize our Athens-area off-campus farms and research centers, improving grant writing support to our faculty and working across campus to integrate the college into multi-discipline projects and programs," said CAES Dean and Director Sam Pardue. "He did all that while still maintaining a robust research program and teaching classes. We are excited to see the creativity, wealth of knowledge and range of relationships on campus and in the industry that he will bring in to help the department grow."
Scherm came to UGA in 1996 after graduating from the University of California, Davis, with his doctoral degree in plant pathology. He has worked mostly with blueberry and peach crops during his career. He will now lead a plant pathology department that consists of 22 research and UGA Cooperative Extension faculty members and nine adjunct faculty members.
The department primarily serves as a graduate program, but it also participates in the CAES Interdisciplinary Certificate Program in Integrated Pest Management and the CAES Certificate Program in Organic Agriculture for undergraduates. The department offers master’s and doctoral degrees in plant pathology and the professional Master of Plant Protection and Pest Management degree. It currently has one of the largest plant pathology graduate programs in the country.
Plant pathology is an integrative discipline encompassing the plant, microbial and environmental sciences. Researchers and Extension faculty in the Department of Plant Pathology have broad research interests, not just in terms of the crops that they study, but in the way they approach the problems facing them.
This diversity is something that Scherm would like to maintain and foster moving forward, he said. He will also work to expand research funding opportunities for faculty and graduate students, recruit more high-level researchers to the department and foster collaboration within the department and across CAES and UGA.
“Plant pathology is a discipline with a strong tradition, but it is also evolving in terms of the types of students we attract, the jobs our graduates take on, the funding sources that enable research and Extension and, of course, in the science itself,” Scherm said. “One of the most important tasks of departmental leadership is to anticipate change and to help the department embrace it.”
For more information about the UGA Department of Plant Pathology, visit plantpath.caes.uga.edu.