Meet graduate student Juan Cabrera

Juan Cabrera

Juan Cabrera is a master’s student from Honduras in the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture studying Horticulture. He works as part of the UConn Greenhouse Extension Team, sharing his passion for helping growers become more efficient and develop and implement sustainable practices while conducting applied research to discover innovative solutions. Here is what he said in an interview.

Where did you study as an undergraduate?

I completed my undergraduate studies at Zamorano University, an agricultural school in Honduras. The motto of the University, “Labor Omnia Vincit,” which means “work conquers all,” was exemplified in the learning-by-doing approach in its courses.

What was your major?

I majored in Agricultural Science and Production Systems. I also completed a thesis related to nutrient use efficacy of bell pepper growth in coir media.

Why did you decide to go to graduate school?

My advisor at Zamorano University once told me: “When you share food with others, it gets divided. When you share money with others, it gets divided. But when you share knowledge, it multiplies.” I wanted to gain more knowledge in order to have the necessary tools to help improve food production and, in turn, people’s lives.

When I had the chance to work at Zamorano teaching students agricultural techniques and helping make soil recommendations to growers, I realized how much of an impact knowledge can have on transforming people’s lives and in shaping their futures. The gratitude I received fueled my desire to acquire even more knowledge to share with students and growers. Graduate school was the way to go in order to gain additional expertise to share with others.

Who is your advisor?

Dr. Rosa Raudales.

What is your field of research?

I’m working on irrigation water quality in greenhouses. My research is focused on understanding the role of biofilm accumulation inside irrigation pipes on crop health and dispersal of waterborne plant pathogens. I also want to determine if pipe material and irrigation frequency can affect biofilm accumulation. The knowledge generated will help elaborate effective biofilm management practices for greenhouse growers.

Name one aspect of your work that you like.

When I visit growers and I get to listen to their stories and problems. I gain more confidence when I find out that I have, or can help find, an answer to their questions and problems. I enjoy discovering answers after analyzing my research data, knowing that I am also generating new knowledge, not just gaining it.

What do you feel is your greatest accomplishment so far?

Making my family and friends proud of my work. My dad never had the chance to get an education beyond sixth grade. He grew up during a time in which men were expected to work and provide for their families, not sit in a classroom. He worked hard all his life to make sure my family could get the education he could not. My achievements are his achievements. I enjoy doing my work, knowing that at the same time I can serve others and make my family proud.

What do you hope to do once you get your degree?

I hope to enroll in a doctorate program and get a minor in statistics and modelling. I would like to become a professor and consultant to continue to share my knowledge with students and growers.

Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?

I enjoy cooking. I like to share what I cook with others and have them compliment me! I would like to take culinary courses and own a restaurant and a farm.

By Jason M. Sheldon