Kevin M. Folta is a Professor and the Chairman of the Horticultural Sciences Department at the University of Florida, overseeing and supporting teaching, research and extension efforts of more than 50 leading faculty in the nation’s #2 specialty crop state. His research program examines how light signals are sensed in plants and how different parts of the spectrum can change shelf life and high-value fruit and vegetable traits. His group also uses novel genomics approaches to identify genes related to flavor and disease resistance. An innovative new project is testing a method to create new small-molecule drugs for use in everything from plant growth regulation to MRSA. He has published over 85 peer-reviewed articles and edited two books, and led the 2011 publication of the strawberry genome sequence.
Kevin is a noted expert in in science communication. He is recognized for distilling complex topics for a curious public. His communications workshops focus on training scientists, farmers and physicians to effectively engage general audiences about agricultural innovations. He is a regular guest on popular podcasts, including Skeptics Guide to the Universe, Talk Nerdy with Cara Santa Maria, and the Joe Rogan Experience. Kevin also frequently writes for popular media, and runs his weekly podcast Talking Biotech. These communications conduits serve to spread an important message about sustainably feeding a planet in 2050—all technologies must be considered, and innovation only moves to application with communication.
In 2016 he was recognized with the prestigious CAST Borlaug Award in Agricultural Communications and was announced as the Ag Pro Person of the Year. He was recognized in 2007 as an HHMI Distinguished Mentor of Undergraduate Research, 2008 with the NSF CAREER Award, in 2009 with the Northern Illinois University “LA&S Top 50 Graduates”, the 2010 UFRF Research Professor Award, and in 2013 was one of two faculty recognized with the UF Postdoctoral Mentoring Award.