Retirees, Department of Plant Sciences

In this issue of The Leaf, we highlight four recent faculty retirees. Additional retirees will be highlighted in future issues. Clockwise from top left in the photo: Albert Fischer, John Labavitch, Muhammad Marrush, and Kevin Rice.


Albert Fischer

Albert Fischer, UC Davis
Albert Fischer, UC Davis

Albert Fischer began working as a professor in the Department of Vegetable Crops in 1997. His subject areas were the ecophysiology of weeds and weed management in rice, and he held the Melvin D. Androus Endowed Professorship for Rice Weed Control.

He retired this year from the Department of Plant Sciences, having worked in the areas of biochemical mechanisms of weed resistance to herbicides, the ecophysiology of weed interference in Echinochloa spp. (grasses), and weed management in rice systems.

Fischer conducted outreach to rice growers and practitioners on weed management, and he taught courses on weed science, mechanisms of herbicide action, biochemical processes in crops, and plants and people. He held international collaborations in research and teaching in several European and Latin American Countries. He published about 80 refereed papers and more than a hundred general distribution papers.

In retirement, Albert Fischer plans to pursue his interests in sailing and photography, spend more time with his grandchildren, and finish his term as past-President of the International Weed Science Society.


John Labavitch

John Labavitch, UC Davis.
John Labavitch, UC Davis.

John Labavitch began his faculty position in the Department of Pomology in 1976, working on cell walls and postharvest biology. He retired in 2014 as a professor in the Department of Plant Sciences. His main subject areas were cell wall metabolism in relationship to aspects of fruit development and ripening, plant-pathogen interactions, and biofuel production.

Labavitch’s lab group introduced the use of specific polysaccharide structural information to describe and understand changes in plant cell walls that occur as fruits ripen and/or are infected by pathogens. These studies led to the description of plant proteins that inhibit pathogen and insect cell wall-digesting enzymes and, thus, contribute to plant resistance to these crop “enemies.”

In 2015, John Labavitch received the Academic Senate’s ” Distinguished Teaching Award for Graduate and Professional Teaching.” Over the course of his career, he developed and taught, with colleagues, several undergraduate and graduate courses, and the core courses of the Plant Biology, and the Horticulture and Agronomy graduate groups.

Since officially retiring in 2014, Labavitch has continued to work, but will taper off in this current academic year. His plans include gardening, non-data and non-acronym reading, traveling with his wife, and challenging his dog to see who can walk farther.


Muhammad Marrush

Muhammad Marrush, UC Davis.
Muhammad Marrush, UC Davis.

Muhammad Marrush began working in the Department of Vegetable Crops in 1988 as a lecturer and staff research associate. He later moved to the Department of Pomology, then the Department of Plant Sciences. His key subject areas were horticulture and plant physiology.

He retired in 2016 as a lecturer, with a focus on general horticulture, plant physiology, and plant nutrition. Marrush was primarily involved in teaching undergraduate courses with emphasis on the hands-on application of different horticultural practices such as seeding, cuttings, transplanting, grafting, and different techniques of plant propagation. He also was involved in offering internships in those topics. Students invariably praised his teaching and his sense of humor.

Upon retiring, Muhammad Marrush said of his teaching career and his students, “I liked teaching students. You never feel old when you’re around young people.” He is looking forward to spending more time with his family


Kevin Rice

Kevin Rice, UC Davis.
Kevin Rice, UC Davis.

Kevin Rice began his career as a professor in 1986 in the Department of Agronomy and Range Science. His subject areas were plant ecology, invasion biology, and range ecology. He retired in 2014 from the Department of Plant Sciences, with subject areas of evolutionary ecology, plant ecology, range ecology, invasion biology, and restoration ecology.

Rice’s research and teaching focused on the application of basic fields in plant ecology and evolution to environmental problem solving. In particular, he provided information for land managers trying to conserve and restore native plant biodiversity in the face of habitat destruction, weed invasions, and climate change.

Looking forward to retirement, Kevin Rice has 200 different hikes he wants to take in the Sierra, along with extended camping trips with his wife to Montana, Idaho, and Utah. He has resumed scuba diving in clear- and warm-water places like Fiji and the Philippines. He is also involved with local environmental organizations in terms of education, activism, and hands-on ecological restoration.

He sums his career by saying, “I still can’t believe I got paid to have so much fun!”


(Profiles written by Ann Filmer, Department of Plant Sciences)

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