Veteran UF/IFAS faculty member wins global biology award
GAINESVILLE, Fla.¬†— A 27-year University of Florida faculty member who recently received a global award for his life‚Äôs work in biology credits his colleagues and his students for his success.
Michael Kane, environmental horticulture professor with UF‚Äôs Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, was honored in May with the 2014 Society for In Vitro Biology Lifetime Achievement Award. The SIVB fosters information exchange of scientific research on the biology of cells, tissues and organs from both plants and animals.
‚ÄúMy mantra has always been: It‚Äôs all about the people,‚ÄĚ said Kane, who specializes in micropropagation, the practice of rapidly multiplying stock plant material to produce offspring plants, using modern plant tissue culture methods. ‚ÄúIf it wasn‚Äôt for several caring professor mentors, I wouldn‚Äôt have gone on in graduate school.‚ÄĚ
The faculty member nugget could refer to many people, but in this case it pertains partly to Toshio Murashige, a now retired botany professor at the University of California-Riverside, who gave Kane keen advice while he was a young doctoral student at the University of Rhode Island.
Plenty of Kane‚Äôs students laud their mentor, years after studying under his tutelage. Ray Gillis, a former graduate student and now laboratory director at Oglesby Plants International, wrote a letter supporting Kane to win the SIVB award.
In some of his early work in the 1980s, Kane studied how tissue-cultured, native plant species could be useful for the ecosystem restoration of phosphate-mined lands, Gillis wrote. Later, he pioneered the development of micropropagation protocols of numerous wetland and dune species indigenous to the eastern United States.
‚ÄúTo his credit, just developing a lab protocol was not deemed sufficient,‚ÄĚ Gillis wrote. ‚ÄúHe and his graduate students have taken that material generated in the laboratory and conducted extensive field studies to prove that micropropagation research has real-world application.‚ÄĚ
Kane‚Äôs latest projects, in collaboration with his students, include growing native wetland and coastal dune plants in the lab. Those sea oats are used to preserve dunes on the Florida coast. Some of the plants are also used to preserve wetlands. ¬†He and his students also develop procedures to grow threatened and endangered native orchids.
Kane, who came to UF in 1985 as a postdoctoral researcher and eventually a faculty member, has won numerous accolades at UF and across the country. In 2009 alone, he won the IFAS Award of Excellence for Graduate Research: Best Master‚Äôs Thesis Major Adviser, University of Florida Blue Key Distinguished Faculty Award and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Excellence in College and University Teaching in the Food and Agricultural Sciences Award.
An SIVB member for 25 years, Kane accepts praise with a shrug.
‚ÄúI didn‚Äôt even know I was nominated,‚ÄĚ he said. Kane paraphrased the famous quote from the movie, ‚ÄúWayne‚Äôs World,‚ÄĚ saying, ‚Äú‚ÄėI‚Äôm not worthy.‚Äô Given the individual scientists who have received this honor in the past, I‚Äôm in rarefied air. My biggest pleasure is to see students and faculty become successful, to see the progress they‚Äôve made.”