UF researcher given prestigious professorship from Poland

Published: October 3 2006


Eva Czarnecka-Verner may have the most unusual academic bragging rights on the University of Florida campus.

She received her professorship from a head of state.

The UF microbiology researcher received Poland’s most prestigious professorship, called the Belvedere. It recognizes a lifetime dedicated to scientific research, education and society.

Czarnecka-Verner, who works for the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, went to Warsaw in June, where she was one of about 100 academic leaders to receive professorships at Polish universities from President Lech Kaczynski.

Poland is one of the few countries where elite professorial nominations come from the head of state.

The presidential palace ceremony included ornate decorations, elaborately designed food, historic 17th- to 19th-century paintings in rooms with gigantic columns and much pomp and circumstance, Czarnecka-Verner said.

“There was this humongous room, with a crystal chandelier…. A lush carpet … just incredible,” she said.

As female professors received their congratulations, they were given three long-stemmed roses and a kiss on the hand from Kaczynski.

Czarnecka-Verner, whose research has focused on heat stress in plants, remembers a “burning drive” to be a scientist at age 16.

Her life’s work could eventually help scientists engineer plants that are more resistant to heat or cold. And she and other UF scientists also have been working to create plants that could signal—by changing colors—the presence of explosives.

Czarnecka-Verner arrived in the United States from Poland in 1981, her suitcase filled with two pairs of jeans and stuffed with her doctoral thesis and scientific publications. Six months later, her home country was under martial law.

She’s proud of the achievement, but seems equally happy about the connection she’s established between UF and Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, where she’s agreed to teach an intensive molecular genetics course once a year and hopes to encourage students to follow her here to study.


Mickie Anderson