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Environmental Horticulture Graduate Program

Environmental Horticulture Graduate Program

Mengzi Zhang / PhD Student

Mengzi is a doctoral student in the Environmental Horticulture Department while working fulltime as a biological scientist at Mid-Florida Research and Education Center located in Apopka. She got her M.S. degree from Michigan State University (MSU) in Horticulture Science, with a specialty in production of high-value specialty crops in controlled environments with horticulture lighting (LEDs). There she investigated how environmental factors, especially light quality and duration, influence growth and development of annual bedding plants and potted flowering plants as well as the taste and appearance of leafy greens such as lettuce. She met her current advisor, Dr. Brian Pearson, at MSU when he was an invited speaker for the graduate student organization.

After completing her M.S. study at MSU, Mengzi came down to Florida in 2018 to work as a biological scientist for Dr. Brian Pearson. During this time, she developed great interests in medicinal plants and decided to pursue a doctoral degree. She will be working on kratom, a medicinal tree originated from southeast Asia, and her major focus will be on kratom plant physiology and alkaloids synthesis. She has also been involved in a couple of other side projects and has been working with other medicinal and beverage crops including hemp and hops. In her spare time, she enjoys watching movies and she is a big fan of succulent plants.

Adviser: Dr. Jianjun Chen

Mengzi Zhang CV

Mengzi Zhang

    • 2020-present: Doctor of Philosophy in Horticulture Science, University of Florida
    • 2016-2018: Master of Science in Horticulture Science, Michigan State University
    • 2012-2016: Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, Beijing Forestry University


    • American Floral Endowment (AFE) Young Professionals Council Committee Member 2016-present
    • UF/IFAS Industrial Hemp Pilot Project: 2019 MERC Hemp Workshop Volunteering Tour Guide, University of Florida, Aug. 2019
    • American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) Education Planning Committee Member 2018-2019
    • 50th Anniversary for Mid-Florida Research and Education Center Volunteering Tour Guide, University of Florida, Jul. 2018
    • Co-president of Michigan State University Horticulture Organization of Graduate Students (HOGS) 2017-2018
    • Michigan State University Horticulture Department Newsletter “Hort Report” Committee Member, 2016-2018
    • Grass Sale Chair of Michigan State University Horticulture of Graduate Students (HOGS) 2016-2017
    • Presenter & Volunteer at Science Festival at Michigan State University Apr. 2018
    • Presenter & Volunteer at “Fascination of Plant Day” at Michigan State University Jun. 2017

    My current research focuses on plant physiology and alkaloid synthesis of kratom (Mitragyna speciosa), an emerging medicinal crop originate from south east Asia, in collaboration with College of Pharmacy. I will be investigating the influence of genetic and environmental factors on kratom alkaloid synthesis in controlled environments.

    • Teaching Assistant for Greenhouse-101, 2019, University of Florida
    • Teaching Assistant for Greenhouse and Nursery Crop Culture (ORH4264), 2018, University of Florida
    • Teaching Assistant for Landscape Plant Establishment (ORH4848/HOS6932), 2018, University of Florida
    • Teaching Assistant for Exploring Wines and Vines (HRT430), 2018, Michigan State University