Bochra Bahri has joined the University of Georgia as an assistant professor of plant pathology. Based on the UGA Griffin campus, Bahri will conduct research on turfgrass and forage diseases that affect growers in Georgia, the nation and around the world.
A native of Tunisia, Bahri earned a degree in engineering from the National Agronomic Institute of Tunisia. She traveled to Paris for graduate school, completing a master’s degree in plant protection and environment from AgroParisTech and a doctorate at the University of Paris-Sud XI.
“For my PhD, I worked on wheat yellow rust disease and studied the pathogen structure in the Mediterranean area and tried to understand how the pathogen evolved according to the climate and its host,” she said.
While many American students would consider studying in Paris a dream opportunity, Bahri was accustomed to Paris because she visited often to see family there. Her dream opportunity came in April 2006 when UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences plant genetics Professor Katrien Devos hired her for a position in her laboratory in Athens, Georgia.
While working on a six-month post-doctoral position at the Aarhus University in Denmark, Bahri applied for a position in Devos’ laboratory on the UGA campus in Athens.
“I had also applied for a position as an assistant professor in my home country. I was used to working with plant pathogens, but plant genetics is Dr. Devos’ area. It was a big step to work in a new area, a new country and where everyone spoke a new language,” said Bahri whose native language is French.
After spending nine years studying in Paris, Bahri said Athens looked and felt like “paradise.”
“It’s cold and dark and grey all the time in Paris. I loved Athens,” she said. “It is sunny, dry and hot like Tunisia, and there’s not all the pollution and rain.”
After working with Devos for a year, Bahri returned to her home country to teach at the National Agronomic Institute of Tunisia. She continued her research projects with Devos by coming to the U.S. for periodic six-month visits until she applied for and accepted her current position with UGA.
Although she enjoys teaching, her heart lies in research.
“I prefer research, but I’m happy that my new position at UGA allows me to teach 10% of my time,” she said. “I have a postdoc student joining me in January and an advanced high school student will work in my lab in the spring through UGA-Griffin’s partnership with Pike County High School.”
For now, Bahri’s research is focused on fighting turfgrass diseases including dollar spot. She is working closely with other members of the UGA turfgrass team including plant pathologist Alfredo Martinez and turfgrass breeders Paul Raymer and David Jespersen.
She continues to study switchgrass as a forage with Devos and is also developing a collaboration with UGA wheat breeder Mohamed Mergoum, who is also based in Griffin, to study wheat as a forage crop. Bahri also continues to work with the National Agronomic Institute of Tunisia and the National Agronomic Institute of Paris-Grignon to continue her studies of wheat yellow rust and identify resistant genes in Tunisian Durum wheat germplasm.
To learn more about the UGA Turfgrass Team, go to www.Georgiaturf.com.