Sharifa is an assistant professor at Penn State University, specializing in soil-borne disease ecology and management. A fungal scientist by training, her research asks three main questions: Why do plants get sick? How do we rapidly diagnosis crop fungal diseases? And how can we improve soil health? Sharifa harnesses various tools in microbiome research to enhance soil fertility and develop biological control solutions to suppress soil disease. Some of the fungal pathogens she works with infect crops including grapes, strawberries, hop, chickpea, soybean, and potato.
Sharifa was born and raised in Northern California and comes from a long line of farmers and educators with roots from Tanzania and India. Growing up in a diverse home and ecologically diverse California landscape, she realized early on why it’s important to maintain healthy farms and natural ecosystems. She completed her bachelor’s degree at the University of California, Berkeley, a master’s at Yale University, and doctorate at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She went on to conduct plant pathology research at the United States Department of Agriculture in the “salad and fruit bowl” of the nation near Salinas, California. She has received various awards including the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, Ford Foundation Pre-Doctoral Diversity Fellowship for plant research. In her position at Penn State, she investigates sustainable solutions to manage soilborne pathogens. Sharifa also teaches an Integrated Pest Management course to undergraduates and she is excited to work together with Pasa to find sustainable plant disease and soil management solutions. When not at work, she makes homebrew and hunts for wild mushrooms with her family.