Mountain Hort: Spotlight On…

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MHCREC employee spotlight is a way to get to know the faculty and staff at the Center. Check back here often for future spotlights.


Tucker Brandt

Greenhouse and Ornamental Research Specialist, MHCREC

Tucker Brandt
  • Tucker started here as a temporary summer employee in 2014, working in between college years at NC State University, before returning as a full-time a Research Technician in 2018. In 2020, Tucker was promoted to Greenhouse and Ornamental Research Specialist.
  • He really enjoys being over the greenhouses because it allows him to interact with almost all the project leaders and their programs. At some point, everyone comes through the greenhouse at MHCREC!
  • Tucker takes pride in his position and supports all the programs here at MHCREC to the best of his abilities.
  • Outside of work, he enjoys a good craft IPA and supporting our many local breweries!

Tom Bilbo

Postdoctoral Research Scholar, Dept. of Entomology & Plant Pathology

Tom Bilbo
  • Tom researches methods and practices to improve the biological and cultural management of insect pests in vegetables.
  • He is an avid gardener and outdoor enthusiast.
  • Tom lives in complete denial every year that summer will end, and overcompensates in September by listening exclusively to his luau-themed Spotify playlists.
  • He will miss all his MHCREC friends when leaving this Fall to take a position in Charleston, SC as Clemson’s Vegetable and Strawberry Entomologist—but promises to return each summer to trade SC watermelons for NC Peaches.

Michelle Benigno

Director, Satellite Office of the NC State University Science House

Michelle Benigno
  • Michelle grew up in Ashe County and graduated from the NC School of Science and Mathematics, and NC State University.
  • She runs on coffee and mountain air.
  • She loves traveling and is open to adventure- at one point she lived in a teepee off the grid.
  • Teaching is her passion. The Mountain Satellite Office of the NC State University Science House serves around 40,000 students and 1300 teachers each year providing STEM instruction and equipment to rural and underserved communities.