6 July 2023

Janice Uchida

Plant pathologist and researcher also mentored many grad students

Janice Uchida

by Brent Sipes and Koon-Hui Wang

Dr. Janice Yukiko Uchida passed away on March 1. Janice was born in Kealakekua Kona, Hawaiʻi, on January 17, 1949. She grew up on the family farm and nursery, where her compassion, organizational, and leadership skills developed, having lost her mother at age 5. Janice learned plant propagation and cultivation skills from her father on the family nursery, from caring for orchids to picking coffee and growing tomatoes, sweet corn, peanuts, and onions. She learned how to design and create bouquets at the nursery and would later operate a flower shop in Honolulu. She created flower arrangements from materials grown on CTAHR experiment stations, which were presented to state legislators on the opening day of the legislative sessions to showcase the floriculture industry and how the college aided the industry. Janice also created the arrangements that graced the tables of the annual college banquet. Janice enjoyed fishing and camping at the beach. She was keenly interested in sea life and collecting seashells. It was her close relationship with her father that swayed her to plant pathology.

Janice attended the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, receiving her BS in 1970, MS in 1972, and PhD in Plant Pathology in 1984 under the guidance of mycologist Dr. Minoru Aragaki. Dr. Uchida rose from Research Associate to Assistant Professor to Associate Professor (Plant Pathologist) before her retirement from the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources in 2019. Her duties at the university included teaching, research, and Extension.

Janice mentored high school students in summer research projects, inspiring them in STEM and providing an example to young females that there was a place for them in science. Her instructional philosophy embraced experiential learning long before it was popular. She also practiced service learning, leading undergraduate students on invasive algae clean ups and guiding students in native plant propagation techniques. She served as the major professor for graduate students from the U.S. and countries such as Japan, India, Nepal, and Kiribati. Janice trained by example, conducting her research with clear objectives, solid design, and rigorous methodology. Her command of plant pathology led to invitations to lecture and present at symposiums in Korea, Taiwan, Tahiti, Japan, and Brazil. 

Janice conducted research and published on a wide range of diseases of tropical plants, including anthurium, basil, ferns, koa, ohia, orchids, palms, papaya, and protea. She also conducted research on fungicides and fungal taxonomy. In collaboration with Dr. Aragaki, she identified and named Phytophthora tropicalis. She published in Plant DiseaseMycologia, and Phtopathology as well as in college-level publications that were particularly important because they addressed the needs of Hawaiʻi farmers. She contributed chapters to books, compendia, and served as senior editor for Plant Disease

Janice is survived by her husband, son, daughter, and two grandchildren. She lived by the motto “Be creative, laugh a lot. It keeps your brain young, and laughter makes us human.”

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