The PDIC Welcomes a New Lab Member

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Photo of Cora McGehee left and an image of hydroponic lettuce in production

The NC State Plant Disease and Insect Clinic is happy to announce the arrival of our newest lab member, Dr. Cora McGehee! Cora will be handling all of the disease diagnostics for vegetables (for example tomatoes, peppers, cucurbits, cole crops, and sweetpotatoes, to name a few) and others plants. We asked her a few questions to help introduce her to NC State Extension:

Tell us a little bit about your background.

I was born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana from parents of Sicilian and Scottish decent. I attended Louisiana State University (LSU) earning a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Horticulture and a minor in History in 2015. As an undergraduate student, I worked various horticultural jobs such as landscaping, nursery retail, and preserving botanical gardens. In addition, I was granted the opportunity to gain laboratory experience. The first laboratory I worked in was LSU’s Plant Diagnostic Center as a summer intern, which was my first introduction to plant pathology and had a significant impact on forming my career goals. After the internship ended, I joined Prof. Michael Stout’s rice entomology lab, spending most of my time rearing fall armyworms and sugarcane borers. During my last year at LSU, I worked in Prof. Melanie Ivey’s lab assisting with fungicide efficacy trials against bacterial and oomycete diseases in vegetable crops. Prof. Ivey introduced me to Prof. Rosa Raudales at the University of Connecticut who had a research position open in the Plant Science department. The project sparked my interest since it had to do with evaluating biological fungicides against root rot caused by Pythium spp. in hydroponically grown leafy greens. I joined the Raudales Lab at the University of Connecticut in 2016 conducting research on non-chemical methods to control root rot in hydroponically grown vegetable crops.

 What got you interested in plant pathology?

I was enrolled in a turf physiology course during my second semester at LSU. We had a guest lecture from LSU’s plant diagnostician, Dr. Raghuwinder Singh, who spoke about his work at the Plant Diagnostic Center. It was during this lecture I learned for the first time that a plant doctor was a possible career choice. Dr. Singh’s presentation was filled with pictures of rotting apples, oozing tomato stalks, and fuzzy stems, which immediately piqued my interest. At the end of his lecture, he mentioned he had an internship opportunity in his laboratory for the summer. After a lengthy discussion with Dr. Singh following his lecture, I enrolled in the internship and spent the whole summer learning as much as I could about this unfamiliar yet fascinating field of Plant Pathology. I felt so grateful after that eye-opening summer internship — I found my calling.

Are there any things you are looking forward to doing in the clinic and at NC
State University?

I am looking forward to making a positive impact on the community by engaging with clients regarding their plant issues and providing educational outreach. At the same time, I am excited to build upon my skillset in plant diagnostics and learn as much as I can from specialized colleagues.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

In my spare time I enjoy going on walks, cooking, gardening, painting, aquascaping, and reading. I would one day love to have a small greenhouse.

Please welcome Cora and don’t hesitate to reach out to her or the clinic for your diagnostic service needs.