Carlos F. Gonzalez was born in San Antonio, TX. He earned B.S. and M.S. degrees in microbiology at Texas A&M University (TAMU). He obtained a Ph.D. degree in plant pathology in 1978 at the University of Nebraska, where he studied plant-associated bacteria and bacteriophages under the guidance of A. K. Vidaver. After post-doctoral studies at the University of California-Davis and the University of Michigan, he joined MicroLife Genetics (Unilever) in 1980 as a research microbiologist to develop novel antimicrobial products for the food industry. In 1986, Gonzalez became a faculty member in the Department of Plant Pathology & Microbiology at TAMU, where he currently is a professor.
Gonzalez is a respected teacher and mentor to students at TAMU and is recognized for his leadership in advancing educational opportunities for minorities in the sciences and for student learning through engagement in his research program on plant-pathogenic bacteria. He is extremely effective in classroom teaching at TAMU, where he has developed and taught both undergraduate and graduate courses. In the early 1990s, Gonzalez played a significant role in developing the Bioenvironmental Sciences (BESC) curriculum, which has blossomed into a nationally recognized program with current enrollment of more than 200 undergraduates. He teaches an undergraduate course, Bioenvironmental Microbiology, that has an annual enrollment of about 70 students. This course is an essential component of the curriculum and is recognized for being informative and rigorous. This course is an outstanding example of his dedication to a fulfilling educational experience for undergraduates. His emphasis in the classroom is to foster enthusiasm for scientific discovery along with a knowledge base in the subject matter. Students are encouraged to think critically and to explore issues important to microbiology and the environment. Despite the rigor of this course, Gonzalez has consistently received high performance evaluations from students. Over the years, Gonzalez has also taught other courses, including Introductory Plant Pathology and Bacterial Diseases of Plants.
Gonzalez has a distinguished record of training undergraduate and graduate students for successful careers in plant pathology and other areas of the microbiological sciences. He has supervised and mentored more than 65 undergraduate students in organized research in his laboratory. At the graduate level, he has chaired or served on the committees of more than 25 graduate students. Students are known to be attracted to his laboratory because of his infectious enthusiasm for scientific discovery and his commitment to working closely with students. He is dedicated to undergraduate advising and mentoring at TAMU and serves as graduate project director and mentor for the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Program and is a mentor in the Hispanic Leadership Program and the Howard Hughes Program.
As a measure of Gonzalez’s commitment to diversity and minority recruitment in the sciences at TAMU, he led efforts to recruit students from Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs). His efforts resulted in the enrollment of several undergraduates from these schools into the Plant Pathology Ph.D. Program at TAMU. In parallel, he is lead PI and director of a NSF grant titled “The Plant-Microbe Interface: An NSF-REU Summer Undergraduate Research Program” that targets students from HSIs, historically black colleges and universities, and Tier-2 institutions. The program provides opportunities for undergraduate students to learn and practice the elements of hypothesis-driven scientific research while exposing them to opportunities in plant pathology research. The program has been highly successful in reinforcing interest in scientific research, developing capacity in scientific thinking, and generating a desire to pursue graduate studies in microbial sciences and plant pathology. Gonzalez mentors students throughout the process and challenges them to think critically about science. He hosts weekly meetings to discuss research findings in their projects, culminating with a poster presentation summarizing research accomplishments. In addition, Gonzalez ensures that each student has a smooth and meaningful experience on the TAMU campus and encourages opportunities for collegial and social interactions outside of the laboratory. One student commented that “he helps to prepare students not only professionally, but also provides the skills necessary to succeed in life.” This truly summarizes his approach and commitment to working with students of all backgrounds. Gonzalez has also been co-PI of a NSF-funded project called “Whole Phage Genomics: A Student-based Approach” since 2005.
Gonzalez has made significant contributions to plant and environmental microbiology. Student experiential learning is a centerpiece of his research activities. His laboratory is a leading center for studies of the plant and environmental strains of the Burkholderia cepacia complex. For example, he showed that strains of B. cenocepacia, a species most frequently recovered from cystic fibrosis patients, could be isolated from agricultural soils. Using onion as a plant model system, he identified the first type IV secretion system in B. cenocepacia, which contributes to its survival and replication in eukaryotic cells. Currently, he is developing novel bacteriophage treatments against bacterial phytopathogens. Consistent and substantial grant funding has supported a large contingent of students over the years.
Gonzalez has an exceptional record of university and professional service activities. He has served as program director, finance chair, secretary, and president of The Society for Minorities in Agriculture Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS). In March 2013, he received the MANRRS Legend Award at the 28th Annual Career Fair and Training Conference. He also provided valuable service to APS and other scientific societies and has a very long list of committee activities at TAMU. In 2011, he was honored with the TAMU Diversity Award for his leadership and commitments to minority student and faculty development. At TAMU and within APS, Carlos F. Gonzalez is valued for his dedication to high-quality teaching and his leadership in promoting educational opportunities for minorities in plant microbiology and plant pathology. He is a person of intelligence and graciousness who is committed to a service role as well as to scholarship. In summary, Gonzalez’s record in teaching, both within and outside the classroom, demonstrates scholastic excellence and achievement.