I grew up on my mother’s small farm in the Eastern part of Nigeria. Although I didn’t realize this then, the lessons I learned from helping out in the farm inspired most of my career choices. I completed my undergraduate degree in Biochemistry with a focus on plant biochemistry at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Since 2013, I have been an active science communication and outreach member. I worked as a program assistant for five years at OFAB Nigeria, an organization that promotes access to innovation for small holder farmers. There, I conducted outreach programs and awareness campaigns on Agricultural Biotechnology in Nigeria. My favorite events involve seeing-is-believing tours, farmers field days, social media engagements, science cafes and town hall meetings. I was part of the inaugural cohort of Alliance for Science Global Leadership Fellows program at Cornell University in 2015, where I developed and implemented a 3-year plan on strategic communication, volunteerism and grassroots engagement on GMOs. I also help to lead and advance the communication strategies as well as train other cohorts on grassroots organizing and strategic communications. I am currently a graduate student in Horticultural Sciences at University of Florida. I am completing my thesis research with Dr. Harry J. Klee on tomato flavor improvement. The goal of my research is to introgress desirable alleles for flavor into modern commercial tomato varieties.
Mathieu Ayenan is passionate about harnessing advances in molecular technologies and machine learning to fast track the development of improved crop varieties. Originally, from Benin Republic, Mathieu is pursuing his Ph.D. in Plant Breeding at the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI), University of Ghana under the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) scholarship. He holds a Master of Philosophy (MPhil) in Crop Science with a Major in Genetics and Plant Breeding at the University of Ghana (Ghana), and a Bachelor Degree in Agricultural Science with a Major in Crop Science at the University of Abomey-Calavi (Benin Republic).
Mathieu has over ten years of experiences working in the agri-food sector. His research and development activities since 2009 up to now have yielded more than 15 working documents, policy briefs, and scientific publications in peer-reviewed journals. He has previously worked as research assistant at the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI), University of Ghana; the Soil Science laboratory at the University of Abomey-Calavi, and SOJAGNON, a local non-governmental organization (http://sojagnon-benin.org/).
Mathieu’s PhD research focuses on the dissection of the genetic architecture of heat tolerance in tomatoes. His research embodies the identification of new sources of heat tolerance in tomatoes through a combination of phenotypic and genotypic data, and mapping of quantitative traits loci controlling heat tolerance related traits and assessment of their stability and their interaction under various heat stress regimes.
As a member of Mendeley Advisor Program, Mathieu usually organizes training sessions on Mendeley and other reference management software. He is also a member of the European Association for Research on Plant Breeding (EUCARPIA). He is currently working as a volunteer in a multi-stakeholder platform to develop technical datasheet for tomatoes in Africa. Besides his academic activities, Mathieu is an agripreneur. He co-founded in 2014 the farming venture “Cooperative Agro-pastorale et agro-alimentaire du Bénin”, which is active in disseminating technologies and innovation to farmers through extension and on-site learning (https://caagbenin.wordpress.com/about/).
Mathieu envisions pursuing a career in academia and consultancy for public and private breeding companies. He spends time in nature and reads at his leisure time
I am Ana Carolina Ballén Taborda (also known as “Carito”). I am originally from Bogotá, Colombia. My parents, my two sisters and my niece live in Colombia, and I usually travel to spend Christmas with them every year.
My interest in plants and agriculture began early in life, when I used to leave my hometown to spend vacations at my family’s farms in the guava region (Santander) and coffee region (Antioquia) in Colombia. This interest developed over the years as I realized the importance of agriculture for people’s livelihoods on a local basis and also at a regional level. In this manner, I studied biological sciences (B.Sc. in Biology) at Pontificia Javeriana University (Bogotá, Colombia). While at the university, I participated in projects mainly related to genetic diversity in tropical mammals.
My first experience working with plants started when I joined the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) during my senior undergraduate year, where I used next-generation sequencing to investigate post-transcriptional regulation in cassava by microRNAs. Then, as a research assistant for nearly five years, I was involved in bioinformatic analysis to support the rice, cassava and common bean breeding programs.
Then, in 2014 I joined the Institute of Plant Breeding, Genetics and Genomics at the University of Georgia (UGA) as a lab technician. Later, I was accepted into the PhD program in the same institute the following year (spring 2015) and I graduated the past December 13th (2019). As a technician and graduate student at UGA, I have worked with the peanut crop. My dissertation research focused on the use of peanut wild relatives to find resistances against the root knot nematode that challenge peanut. This research allowed us to closely define the chromosomic segments conferring resistance to nematodes in one of the peanut wild relatives, we transferred them into elite, high productive, Georgia adapted lines, and we developed 271 advanced lines. These will be subjected to different genetic analysis, in-vitro and field testing, selections and advancement for germplasm release.
During these years I have been involved in different research projects related with plant breeding, genetics and bioinformatics, and my objective is to apply the knowledge I have acquired to keep supporting the improvement of crop production, to improve food security in the developing world and to sustainably increase crop production. I look forward to the opportunities and challenges ahead of me as a researcher in the agricultural sector.
My name is Rostislav Blume. I am a fourth year undergraduate student, finishing my bachelor degree at Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv (Kyiv, Ukraine). At the same time, I am working at position of laboratory assistant in the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics of National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, where I do my research related to plant biology.
My passion with plant science started at school, when I firstly came to lab at the institute, where I am currently working, to do investigations associated with plant-based biofuels. As for my field of scientific interests, it is also tightly bounded with plants: now I am started working in field of plant molecular genetics. Respectively I have focused already main part of my activity on two topics. One of them is development of molecular markers that could be used in future for marker-assisted breeding, molecular systematic, identifying domesticated plant ancestors and ways of evolution in plant families and giving consideration for utilization of germplasm of crop wild relatives for utilizing plant diversity. Other important part of my research activity is plant genetic engineering, oriented on creation of more productive oilseed crops, especially for biofuel production.
My first experience in plant genome editing started during internship at the lab Prof. E. Cahoon, who is Director Center for Plant Science Innovation at University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL). At that time I was working under the project oriented on modification of fatty acid composition of one of promising oilseed crops – Camelina sativa, – to make its seed oil more suitable for conversion into bio-jet fuel. Besides that, I have obtained some experience in plant cell biology. During last summer (2019) I was funded by Mitacs Globalink program (Canada) for internship at University of British Columbia (the lab of Prof. G. Wasteneys at Department of Botany) to work under the project, focused on revealing mechanisms of regulation of cellulose production in plants. In addition, I have interest in science propagation in my country to popularize science and make this profession more prestigious. I am excited to participate in the 2020 ASPB-Conviron Scholars program and hope to develop my career plans with the help of this program.
My name is Aya Bridgeland I am a first-year master’s student at Texas A&M University. I received my bachelor’s degree at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Crop Sciences with a concentration in Plant Biotechnology and Molecular Biology. During my time at the University of Illinois, I was also a fellow for the Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and the Environment, which led to my interest in plant-environment interactions and plant stress tolerance, especially in relation to climate change and global food security. During my junior year, I studied abroad in Puerto Rico, where I visited farms that had been flooded and destroyed by Hurricane Maria. These experiences reminded of the urgency of the problems facing food systems around the world, and it solidified my intent to attend graduate school in plant science.
Currently, I am a master’s student in Plant Breeding under Dr. Endang Septiningsih and the Crop Genome Editing Laboratory at Texas A&M University. I mainly work with rice and am in the process of identifying genes involved in cold tolerance during germination, which is an important trait for rice grown in Texas and Arkansas as low germination under spring frosts is a recurrent problem. I am also working on creating a genome editing protocol for cowpea using CRISPR/Cas9. Ultimately, I want to target candidate genes I have found for improving the mineral and amino acid content of cowpea seeds so that they can meet WHO and FAO nutritional requirements. I am very interested in any work that can help alleviate global food insecurity, so I am so excited be studying two major staple crops in different plant families.
Because I just moved to Texas and have only been in graduate school for a few months, I am very interested in learning more about this area and becoming involved on campus. Currently, I am a member of the Texas A&M chapter of Deeds Not Words, a Texas-based nonpartisan organization that aims to bring about gender and minority equity through advocacy, civic engagement, community involvement, and garnering support to pass legislation through the Texas Congress. I have worked previously as a nonpartisan election volunteer in Champaign and hope to become involved in a similar capacity here in College Station. I am also interested in science outreach, as well as science policy, and look forward to learning more from the ASPB community on those topics!
I am a first year Masters student in Plant Biology and Conservation in the partnership graduate program between Northwestern University and the Chicago Botanic Garden. I am fascinated by the way plants use chemistry in ecological interactions and I am pursuing a research career unraveling the genomics and evolutionary history responsible for this phytochemical diversity.
My current graduate work combines biochemical and genetic analyses to understand how selection acts on the floral scent compound linalool in Oenothera harringtonii. I graduated with a BSc with Honors in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Brown University in 2017, where I worked on leaf chemistry of Viburnum species. I am originally from Wisconsin, where my fascination with botanical and chemical diversity began with extracting pigments from my mother’s flower garden. I am excited to be involved in such an inspiring community as the ASPB Conviron Scholars Program! Also find me on Twitter @hsharoncarter or check out my website at hscarter.github.io.
I am in my final year of my undergraduate degree in Biochemistry and Cellular Biology at the University of California San Diego. I have been fortunate to have several opportunities to participate in various research projects over the course of my degree, and these experiences have nurtured my love for scientific inquiry, research, molecular biology, and plants themselves.
I was a 2018 SURF awardee in Dr. Alisa Huffaker’s lab, and with this fellowship I was able to study a novel defense signaling peptide in alfalfa. More recently, the project has expanded to include orthologues in other fabaceous species, which we screened for elicitation of a defense response. We are working on characterizing the activity of these peptides, as well as investigating receptor candidates. The project provides me with a strong sense of responsibility and pride, as well as fueling my love of the field. Dr. Huffaker has been an inspiring and supportive mentor, believing in me even when I could not not believe in myself. I am extraordinarily grateful to her for cultivating my independence and innovation in a research environment, and providing life advice as well as research guidance.
After I graduate, I am planning on pursuing a PhD in the plant sciences. I am particularly interested in plant molecular physiology, phytopathology, and plant-insect interactions, though it is easy for me to imagine myself studying any aspect of plant biology.
I am very grateful to be part of the ASPB Conviron Scholars Program, as this will provide me with direction and support in pursuing my PhD and taking the next steps in my career. This opportunity will also allow me to get more involved with the driven, inspiring people who make the plant science community what it is!
I am a seedless plant lover! It has been part of my daily life and great pleasure to searching, learning and growing pteridophyte and bryophyte. I have by far collected and grow over two hundred kinds of plants, over half of them are seedless plants. Besides an enthusiasm for plants, I also possess a board interest, piano, dancing, Taekwondo, cooking, you name it!
I am now a senior undergraduate student at National Taiwan University, double majoring in the Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology (PPM) and the Department of Forestry and Resource Conservation. I also volunteered for several internships or direct laboratory research. As a 2016 Young Dawgs participant at the University of Georgia, I tested SA-mutant Arabidopsis for a summer. Soon after, I took part in “Plant Specimen’s Digital Archiving Project” for one semester. At my department, PPM, I volunteered an entire year in the “Brown Root Rot Disease Management Project”. Furthermore, I joined a plant-parasitic nematode laboratory and handled independent experiments for three semesters. My main projects included revealing the life cycle of a rice pathogen (Aphelenchoides besseyi), inspecting quarantine samples, developing nematode identification AI program, establishing strawberry tissue culture, etc.
Now, determined to keep up my passion in the seedless plant, I have recently started to study Liverworts, Marchantia polymorpha, in Professor Chun-Neng, Wang’s Plant evo-devo lab. The main goal is to alter the expression of MpmiR390 in liverworts and examine candidate pathways. In the future, I plan to pursue my M.S. degree in Taiwan, then apply for a Ph.D. program aboard, both in the field of seedless plants. Eventually, I wish to become a professor focus on seedless plants, which I believe best combine my passion for teaching and seedless plants. Thanks to ASPB Conviron Scholar, I am looking forward to greeting everyone who loves plant sciences!
I am a master’s student majoring in Molecular Biotechnology at a joint graduate program between University of Pisa and Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies (Pisa, Italy). My main field of interest and research is the implementation of genomic tools, computational and statistics approaches and biotechnology techniques to untangle the architecture of complex genetic traits, to dissect the genetic and phenotypic variability of biological systems and, ultimately, to shed light upon their evolution and adaptation.
As I was learning to analyze the genetic diversity and architecture of the gut-associated microbiome and its association to neuropsychiatric traits in mice via metagenome-wide association studies during my undergraduate thesis research at the Biology Department at the University of Pisa, I became increasingly fascinated by the potentials of quantitative genomic approaches to unfold the variability of complex multifactorial traits with agricultural relevance and to address key issues such as crop evolution, adaptation and improvement. The keen desire to broaden my perspectives in the crop genomics field- in particular, neglected or underutilized non model crop species genomics- and pursue research that can be translated into impacts in my Country, Eritrea, was further encouraged by the opportunity to join an exciting research environment led by Professor Mario Enrico Pè as an Allieva, to collaborate with the Plant Genetic Resources and Crop Improvement Units at the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) in Eritrea as a graduate research intern and to undertake formal surveys with farmers in Eritrea within a joint NARI-ICARDA project. In this context, I am currently about to start my master thesis research, which deals with genomic characterization of taff (Eragrostis tef) genetic resources in Eritrea and Ethiopia. Furthermore, the opportunity to join a sensational training environment at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory within the “Cereal Genomics” workshop has allowed me to expand beyond the innovative scientific features of cereal genomics and embrace a profound willingness to pursue a FAIR type of scientific research.
As a young Eritrean student at the dawn of her research career in plant sciences, I seek to acquire further knowledge and the specific scientific toolset to develop solutions that diversify agriculture using neglected and underutilized crop species- the “crops for the future”- and to contribute to the advances in crop genomics research in Eritrea. Outside of academia, I pursue social engagement and community outreach activities aimed at promoting intercultural exchange and social integration in Pisa and surroundings.
I am a second year PhD student in Dr. Sara Farrona’s lab for Plant Developmental Epigenetics in the Plant and Agri-biosciences Centre at the National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG). I was awarded a prestigious Hardiman research scholarship to pursue my PhD. My PhD project focuses on understanding the role of novel interactors of the Polycomb Group (PcG) pathway in Arabidopsis. My other project is to unravel the epigenetic mechanisms involved in establishing a memory of seed priming. Currently, I am working as a part time lab demonstrator in Botany Lab (BO 101) for first year undergraduate students in NUIG.
Before my journey to Ireland, I pursued my M.Sc. degree in Desert Studies specialising in agriculture and biotechnology of drylands at the Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Israel with a full tuition and living scholarship. In my M.Sc. project, I have studied the potential of the dry pericarp to function as a storage for proteins and other substances and their role in seed germination under the supervision of Prof. Gideon Grafi. From this work, I published my first research article in Plants (doi: 10.3390/plants6040064). I am immensely proud to be a first-generation graduate from my family in Biotechnology from Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, India and further, my interest towards science communication had driven me to contribute popular articles on a series titled “Food sustainability: Navigating by Plant biotechnology” in IMoT Agriforum, Indian web platform for sharing articles related to agriculture and environment.
The career experience, network and skills acquired in three different countries (India, Israel and Ireland) helped me to identify and develop insights in plant science research with a broader perspective. My career goal is to land a scientist position in a research and development unit of an agricultural biotech industry after my PhD. The final goal of my career path would be to apply the cutting-edge tools available for crop improvement which will contribute for food security and ultimately improve the livelihood of the farmers. My short-term career goal is to develop a science communication strategy for the general public, especially to break the myths and create awareness about GM crops in India. As an ASPB Conviron Scholar, I look forward to further progress through my career goals and identifying ways in which I can use my research background to make a difference in society.
I am Xiang Li, a Ph.D. candidate at the Plant Biology Graduate Program at University of Massachusetts Amherst. I am interested in plant evolutionary development. My academic aim is to understand the developmental process and its underlying genetic basis of the traits of agricultural significance from the perspective of evolution.
I am currently working on the seed shattering (seed dispersal) of weedy rice (Oryza spp.). Weedy rice is a weedy type of rice that invades fields and competes with cultivated rice around the world. High level of seed shattering is one of the most important traits differentiating weedy rice from cultivated rice and contributes to the spread and persistence of weedy rice in agricultural fields. This trait was selected against in cultivated rice during domestication but re-evolved in weedy rice populations with independent origins. My research focuses on how seed shattering has convergently evolved in the weedy rice populations from both morphological and genetic perspectives. Curtailing the ability of weedy rice to shatter and disperse its seed is crucial to limiting its severe impact on cultivated rice production.
Prisca Meyer is a third year PhD student in bioscience engineering at the KU Leuven, Belgium. Her research is about vertical farming of strawberry, or, to be more precise: she is using LED light quality to control plant development with focus on flowering and disease susceptibility.
Born in Germany, Prisca studied Biology at the University of Leipzig to gain a broad understanding of different natural sciences. During that time, she discovered her passion for plants and crop cultivation systems. To understand the bigger picture of crop production and in order to improve her technical knowledge, she studied horticultural sciences at the Technical University of Munich and Humboldt-University in Berlin as a joint-degree master program of which she graduated with high distinction. Then, she moved to Belgium to join the division of crop biotechnics at KU Leuven. Since joining KU Leuven, Prisca is involved in various science communication initiatives. She joined GeneSprout Belgium in 2019 and published her own blog about plant science related topics. In her spare time, Prisca likes to write fantasy stories, doing sports, playing the piano or spending time with her guinea pigs.
I am Nikolaos Ntelkis, a senior undergraduate student in Biochemistry and Biotechnology at the University of Thessaly in Greece. I am currently in the Plant and Environmental Biotechnology lab, developing a modular biosensor to detect and image triterpene accumulation in plant tissues for my thesis project. My interests lie within the fields of Plant Synthetic Biology, Metabolic Engineering and plant secondary metabolism in general.
As an undergraduate student, I have participated in in the iGEM 2019 Synthetic Biology Competition as a Wet Lab, Dry Lab and Fundraising member in iGEM Thessaly 2019, winning a Gold Medal and the Undergraduate Best Diagnostics Award. That is when I came across the cutting-edge interdisciplinary field of Synthetic Biology (SynBio). Together with the Plant Sciences, SynBio can achieve its goals to solve major today’s issues, like advancing Agriculture to meet the global food demand.
My career goals are to promote plant models as functional chassis for high-value compound production at industrial scale using SynBio principles, through my graduate studies.
Outside of the academics, I have a hobby in planted aquaria, with a constant enthusiasm about simulating the natural habitats of several plant and fish species, while observing their behavior and interactions under different conditions, like allelopathy and native-invasive species interactions.
Overall, I am fascinated by the ASPB Conviron Scholars Program. In my spare time, I enjoy reading and writing, in a range of subjects and I believe that the opportunities that the Program provides will be valuable for my next career steps.
Pratheek is pursuing his masters in Plant Physiology at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi. He has a Bachelor in Agricultural Biotechnology from the University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore, where he worked on identification, annotation and analysis of multiple stress responsive hypothetical genes in rice. He has also worked on development of fluorescent tag based cell cycle marker system in Arabidopsis with summer projects funded by Indian Academy of Sciences.
Last summer he was a Khorana Scholar at MIT in the lab of Prof. Mary Gehring. He worked on pathways regulating genome dosage sensitivity in endosperm and identified possible regulators of paternal genome excess seed abortion. Using genetic approaches, his key findings were that the methylation critical for dosage sensitivity is laid down in gametes rather than sporophyte. He also discovered that loss of a maternally expressed imprinted auxin signaling gene significantly increased seed abortion in paternal genome excess crosses, suggesting a role for auxin in dosage sensitivity. Pratheek’s current graduate work at IARI focuses on the regulation of abiotic and biotic stress responses by a hypothetical protein family -DUF1645. He is generating mutants for these genes with the aid of CRISPR-Cas9 mediated genome editing in rice with an aim of functional validation of these novel multiple-stress responsive proteins.
Apart from academic interests, he is one among the twenty members of Next Generation Scientist Foundation, India; working towards providing internships opportunities at world class labs for talented undergraduates from challenging backgrounds. He is also part of Share Biology team disseminating biology knowledge on social media and initiating discussions. He served as i-Biology student ambassador in 2016 and love teaching biology to undergraduates.
I am currently a Master’s student at Colorado State University majoring in plant pathology. I graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science from the University of Delaware in 2018. I found my passion for plants while interning with Cooperative Extension in the plant diagnostics clinic. Most of my knowledge about plant pathology came from the hands-on experiences I got in the clinic. My activities ranged from diagnosing samples that came into the clinic with microscopy and cultures, talking with local growers, and learning other molecular biology techniques. From my experience in the clinic, I not only gained skills required to perform diagnostic tests but also writing and communication skills through blog available to the public. After interning as a Cooperative Extension Scholar, I knew I wanted to apply my knowledge to the field of plant science. After graduation, I worked for a plant biotechnology company where I continued to gain technical skills and knowledge about the power of plants. Working with transgenic plants opened my eyes to the ways plants can benefit us in a more untraditional sense. With my new perspective on plants, I entered grad school at CSU working under Dr. Vamsi Nalam, focusing on potato viruses. My goal is to use molecular biology and biotechnology to create tools that will making growing food easier. My pathogens of interest are PVY, PMTV, and TRV. I want to create a tool that will visually allow us to locate resistant cultivars and also visually track the diseases as they make their way through the potato. My work will allow be connect the two realms of plants–the people that learn about them in the lab and the people that learn about them in field. My main goal as a plant scientists is to keep community connected and intertwined. I volunteer in the plant clinic at CSU in order to stay in tune with the hot pathogens in the local community. This furthers my goal as a plant scientist is to keep not only colleagues and fellow scientists informed about the problems plant face, but also the people in the community, ranging from children to local farmers.
Samantha Snodgrass studies the genetic models of hybrid vigor and genome evolution across the genus Zea under Dr. Matthew Hufford at Iowa State University. By understanding how evolutionary and population dynamics have affected the genome structure of maize and its wild relatives, and then relate those processes to phenotype, this research will provide important foundational information to plant domestication which can be used to improve existing crops or accelerate domestication of wild plants or orphan crops. Samantha Snodgrass started research at Grinnell College studying urban stormwater dynamics and sustainable landscaping to inform the redesigning of the College’s master landscape plan. She also conducted research at Iowa State University on the relationship between genome and cell size in cotton. Both of these experiences inspired her to pursue plant sciences. After graduating in 2016 with her bachelor’s degree in biology and environmental studies, Samantha worked as a field botany technician for the Alaska Bureau of Land Management through the Conservation Land Management Internship program run through the Chicago Botanical Garden. She then returned to Grinnell College to work as a post-baccalaureate fellow for the Partners In Education program, which aims to reduce the number of first year dropouts through peer mentorship and academic support. This opportunity and previous teaching experience affirmed her desire to teach at the collegiate level. Samantha is currently a third year PhD student in Dr. Matthew Hufford’s lab at Iowa State University. She is also a trainee of the NSF-NRT Predictive Plant Phenomics (follow us on Twitter @p3iastate) and an NSF GRFP fellow. When not tending to maize plants or navigating the command line, Samantha tends to her orchid collection or makes art.