SJR STATE ALUMNI SPOTLIGHTS
Chase Mason (2007)
Assistant Biology Professor
Each week, St. Johns River State College will honor one of its own in an alumni salute, celebrating the career milestones, community contributions and personal reflections of those who began their collegiate journey as SJR State Vikings.
As a child, Chase Mason spent hundreds of hours exploring places such as the tide pools of the Matanzas Inlet and the remote parts of Ravine Gardens. His interest in life sciences continued to grow, leading him to his current position as an assistant biology professor at the University of Central Florida.
During high school, Chase was dually enrolled at St. Johns River State College, where he graduated summa cum laude. “Through dual enrollment, SJR State allowed me to replace high school courses with more challenging and engaging college-level courses,” he said. “Obtaining my A.A., completing all of the general education requirements for a four-year degree before transferring, allowed me to focus almost entirely on science courses and research while completing my Bachelor of Science degree.”
Reflecting on the science classes he took at SJR State, Chase said, “I especially adored the general chemistry courses I took with a retired Dupont chemist, Dr. John Parsons.” At SJR State, Chase was a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and a recipient of the C. L. Overturf, Jr. Endowed Scholarship.
Chase received his bachelor’s degree in zoology, with a minor in botany, from the University of Florida in 2009. He continued his studies at the University of Georgia, receiving his Ph.D. in plant biology in 2015. He then received the Katharine H. Putnam Fellowship in Plant Science at Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum, where he researched the evolution of growth-defense trade-offs across 16 genera of woody temperate trees and shrubs using the living collections housed there.
As an assistant professor in UCF’s Department of Biology, Chase researches the intersection of plant ecology, evolution, physiology and genetics. “I am especially interested in the physiological and genetic mechanisms underlying plant adaptation to diverse environmental pressures, including abiotic factors like climate and soil fertility, and biotic factors like herbivory and disease,” he explained. “All plants face physiological trade-offs between growth, defense and reproduction. In my lab, we seek to understand the coordinated evolution of the traits that govern these three core functions in systems ranging from crops to wild herbs and woody plants. Personally, I most enjoy uncovering new knowledge about how the natural world works and applying that knowledge to solve problems, as well as training the next generation of scientists.”
Chase is active with the nationwide PlantingScience outreach program, which pairs working scientists with K-12 teachers and students for online and telecast mentoring in the development of inquiry-based classroom experiments in the plant sciences.
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