2017 Awardees

Mary Modupe Adewole

Mary Modupe Adewole, is a young female research student in the field of entomology. She hailed from Ilesha, Osun State, Nigeria. Mary bagged her first degree in crop protection from the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State Nigeria in 2010, after which she worked at Forestry Research Institute (FRIN) Umuahia during her National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) in 2011. She proceeded to the University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Oyo State Nigeria where she obtained her master degree in entomology in 2015. Afterward she obtained a professional diploma in education at Federal College of Education, Osielle, Abeokuta, Ogun State in 2016.

Mary has co-authored three published paired reviewed papers in reputable local and international academic journals. These include; Influence of varietal differences and pyrethroid insecticides on the population densities of cucumber insect pests, Dacus spp and Bacterocera invadens (Diptera : Tephritidae) and fruit damage; Nigeria Journal of Horticultural Science 18: 69-77, Relationship between plant chemicals in some Malvaceae crops and host Preference by Podagrica  sjostedt Jacoby (Coleoptera : Chrysomelidae); Journal of Agricultural Science and Environment (ASSET) 11: 1-8 and Essential oil extract from Moringa oleifera (Lam.) roots as cowpea seed protectant against Callosobruchus maculatus (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae); Africa Journal of Crop Science Uganda Vol. 23 : 1. She also took part in an oral conference presentation at the International Congress of Entomology (ICE, 2016) Orange County Convention Center, Orlando, Florida, USA September 25th -30th, 2016. Title of paper presented: Efficacy of Moringa oleifera root oil extract as a seed protectant against Callosobruchus maculates (F.) (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) on cowpea.

Mary has served as an examiner with two reputable examination bodies (the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) and the National Examinations Council (NECO) in Nigeria from 2014-till date. She worked as support staff with the community development team on cassava weed project management under the sponsorship of International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in 2015. She has been a student member of the Entomological Society of America (ESA) (from 2015 till date) and Entomological Society of Nigeria (ESN) (2015 till date). She is a 2015 fellow of the prestigious African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) fellowships. She attended a number of trainings in some Africa countries on Career Development for African Women in Agricultural Research under the full sponsorship of AWARD fellowships from 2015 to 2017.

Beverly Agtuca

I was born in Queens, New York, United States of America and grew up at Holbrook, Long Island, New York. For my bachelor’s degree, I went to State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry at Syracuse. I am currently a 4th year candidate pursuing a Ph.D. in Plant, Insect and Microbial Sciences with a focus of Plant Breeding, Genetics and Genomics at the University of Missouri-Columbia, U.S.A. As a graduate research assistant in the Legume-Microbe Interactions Laboratory lead by Dr. Gary Stacey, my research interest is on the symbiotic interaction of nitrogen-fixing bacteria in legumes/non-legumes. I am working on a collaborative research project with other colleagues from George Washington University, Washington, DC and the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, Richland, WA U.S.A. Our project focuses on identifying unique, metabolic biomarkers associated with nitrogen fixation using Laser Ablation – Electrospray Ionization Mass Spectrometry (LAESI-MS) coupled with the 21 Telsa Fourier Transform Ion Cyclotron Resonance (21 T FTICR). This is a very new application technology that can measure metabolites in fresh, living tissues. The ultimate goal of my project is to use this technology to sample the metabolic content of single, plant cells. This LAESI-MS and 21 T FTICR method holds tremendous potential for use in further studies of plant-microbe interactions, as well as other plant processes.

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/beverlyjoseagtuca

Nicole Choquette

Nicole E. Choquette received her B.S. degree with Honors in Earth, Society, and Environmental Sustainability from the University of Illinois in 2016. She is presently working on her Master of Science degree in Plant Biology in Dr. Lisa Ainsworth’s laboratory at the University of Illinois.  She is also a 5th year member of the Fighting Illini Women’s Cross Country and Track and Field team and was a 2015 Big10 Indoor Track Champion and a 2016 Big10 Indoor Runner Up. Her graduate research focuses on investigating the genetic basis for variation in maize photosynthetic responses to atmospheric pollution. Ozone (O3) pollution is estimated to reduce U.S. maize yields by ~10%, and reduced photosynthesis is a key response of maize to O3 stress. However, there is considerable genetic variation among diverse inbred and hybrid lines, and Nicole’s research aims to understand the heritability of photosynthetic traits under elevated O3 and to map quantitative trait loci (QTL) associated with O3 response. This research provides a platform for improving tolerance to O3 in maize.

Victoria DeLeo

I’m a third year PhD student in Jesse Lasky’s lab at Penn State focusing on local adaptation of plants to abiotic stress. Currently I work on modeling phenotypes like isotope discrimination and flowering time from Arabidopsis herbarium records over the native range. I study how traits change through space, over years, and with respect to climate variables to see how well we understand the basis for phenotypes in the wild.

Past projects I have worked on include physical mapping the wheat genome, sampling populations of invasive species in China, testing light responsive promoters in Arabidopsis, tracing intron loss across grasses, mapping distribution of Striga, and automating maize transformation. I have also worked with plants outside of the lab at a flower farm and a winery.

I’m fascinated by genetic patterns of adaptation and how they are affected by things like plasticity, reproductive strategy, and hybridization. My undergraduate degree was in Genetics from the University of Georgia, and I hope to continue my research on diverse plant systems and engage in more science communication and outreach.

When I’m not in the lab, I am a knitter, language partner for international students, and volunteer counsellor on the Crisis Text Line.

Elizabeth Feldeverd

Elizabeth Feldeverd is a M.S. candidate in Molecular Biosciences and Bioengineering at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. She is currently researching the function of protein disulfide isomerase (PDI) in Arabidopsis pollen under Dr. David A. Christopher. She plans to begin a PhD in plant molecular biology following the completion of her master’s degree.

Her interdisciplinary background in the plant sciences began on her family’s farm in central Minnesota. She obtained her B.S. at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY studying International Agriculture and Rural Development. Her degree focused on the socio-economic interactions of agriculture, in addition to soil and plant sciences. She traveled to Havana, Cuba to work with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations on two projects related to food sovereignty. During her final year at Cornell University, she spent two weeks in central India visiting plant research stations and interviewing local farmers for a project on transgenic crop production.

Ms. Feldeverd worked for Syngenta as an intern and as part of their Production and Supply Development Program. The highlight of her internship in Waterloo, NE was leading a field trial comparing the efficacy of an upcoming herbicide to its competitors and showcasing the results in a farmer field day. In Kekaha, HI, Ms. Feldeverd designed and led two studies to determine the impact of cover crop rotations and the effect of irrigation shut-off time, separately, on the incidence of Fusarium molds in corn. She briefly worked in Tuscola, IL at a commercial soybean seed plant and gained a deeper understanding of the agronomic and managerial complexities of seed production. At all three locations, she worked alongside agronomists to manage dozens of fields from planting to harvest.

Ms. Feldeverd is an aspiring advocate for adult agricultural literacy. While working in Hawaii for Syngenta, she developed and taught a six-week course called Employee Empowerment 101 to help address hostility towards GMOs and pesticides. The​ ​objective ​of​ ​the course​ ​was​ ​to​ ​give​ ​employees​ ​without​ ​a​ ​science​ ​background​ ​the​ ​knowledge​ ​and communication​ ​tools​ ​they​ ​needed​ ​to​ ​positively​ ​discuss​ ​their​ ​job​ ​in​ ​the​ ​community. At the University of Hawaii, she helps teach a biotechnology ethics course. Ultimately, Ms. Feldeverd is working towards a career that combines outreach with impactful plant research.

Sterling Field

 I am a graduate student in the Biochemistry and Cellular & Molecular Biology department at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. I am investigating in vivo protein-protein interactions of Calmodulin Like 38 (CML38), a calcium sensor protein that is induced during flooding. The goal for my research is to understanding how CML38 helps Arabidopsis survive flooding stress by looking at the proteins CML38 is regulating.

As an undergraduate at the the Ohio State University, I double majored in Plant Cellular & Molecular Biology and Microbiology, and I received research distinction in Plant Cellular & Molecular Biology. I then got my masters degree at East Carolina University in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology. I am now in my third year working on my doctoral degree in Biochemistry & Cellular & Molecular Biology at the University of Tennessee.

My volunteer experiences have ranged from promoting plant science to helping my local Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (GLBTQ) community, as well as promoting visibility and support for the GLBTQ community within the STEM fields. Now that I am in Knoxville, TN, I am volunteering with the Tennessee Equality Project for outreach and fundraising for LGBTQ equality in Tennessee. I enjoying hiking, going out with friends, and gardening in my free time.

My career goals are to get more citizens to understand that plant research is important for our future, and to help bring the science behind plant-based technologies to the public.

My linkedIn account:https://www.linkedin.com/in/sterling-field-16a48b60

Xinyu Fu

I graduated from South China Agricultural University with a bachelor’s degree in Horticulture and a master’s degree in Pomology. My research work at Physiological Lab for South China Fruits has contributed to the understanding of the ecophysiology of several subtropical woody species, including photosynthetic development and adaptation to abiotic stresses. After achieving my master’s degree in 2013, I started in the Interdepartmental Plant Biology Ph.D. program at Iowa State University and joined Dr. Basil Nikolau’s group, where I study the dynamics of acetyl-CoA metabolic network in plants. My work takes advantage of both traditional reverse genetics and stable-isotope assisted metabolomics techniques to investigate the roles of acetyl-CoA-generating enzymes in distinct subcellular compartments.

Social Profiles

https://www.linkedin.com/in/xinyu-f-840822ba

Andika Gunadi

I am currently a doctorate student in the laboratory of Dr. John J. Finer at the Ohio State University Department of Horticulture and Crop Science, Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center in Wooster, Ohio. I am interested in plant biotechnology technique development and optimization, in understanding gene expression in plants, as well as in engineering improved traits in agricultural plants. My current research involves elucidating the function of plant promoters, and improving the efficiency and utility of gene-editing tools in legumes. Some of the research tools that I currently employ include molecular biology, fluorescence microscopy, CRISPR/Cas, automated image collection, and plant transformation. I also have prior research experience in plant pathology (Genetic and physical mapping of soybean resistance genes to Phytophthora sojae), as well as insecticide and insect resistance gene screening against soybean aphids. Besides research, I enjoy mentoring undergraduate interns and managing daily laboratory functions. I am grateful to be a part of the ASPB Conviron Scholars Program, and I look forward to positively contribute in the ASPB research community.

OSU Plant Transformation Laboratory: http://u.osu.edu/plantranslab/
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/andikag/
ResearchGate: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Andika_Gunadi2

Juniper Kiss

Juniper started her part-time undergraduate degree at Anglia Ruskin University (Cambridge, UK) on the Marine Biology with Biodiversity and Conservation BSc Honours course while working at the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB, Cambridge, UK) full-time as a Field Trials Technician and Team Leader. She worked on cereal, pulse and oilseed rape crop variety trials using image analysis for DUS-testing. She also worked at CABI (Egham, UK) with the Invasive Species Management team in 2013 and 2015.

She received the Anglia Trust Foundation Scholarship three times (2015, 2016, and 2017) to do research in the Namib Desert, Finland and Nepal. During her latest trip to Nepal, she lived at host families and worked on small farms in rural areas and then visited the Plant Protection Directorate (Ministry of Agriculture) where CABI’s Plantwise program is implemented and compiled a Plant Clinic newsletter. She is passionate about how research reaches small farm holders in developing countries and how technological advancements can be applied in the field. After her trip she transferred to Aberystwyth University (Wales, UK) to continue her undergraduate studies in Plant Biology. She is a Golden Opportunities Scholar awarded by the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science and Soil Science which enabled her to attend the AGM in Phoenix in 2016. Her dissertation is on subgenus Rubus (brambles) classification as their current classification system groups them into sections, subsections, series and microspecies. She is combining morphological data from digital geometric morphometric analysis and genetic data from cpDNA and nDNA PCR and cloning to reveal microspecies as ecotypes under the supervision of Dr Philip Pugh.

Juniper started up GOES magazine (www.goesmagazine.org) and publishes science student articles in an interactive, open access way. She edits and designs articles within 24 hours after submission using online sharing platforms which allows the authors to see every step of the publishing. With the ‘Be the change’ grant from the Global Sustainability Institute (Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, UK) she also ran non-compulsory ‘mini-module’ with her lecturer for her own classmates about science communication and publishing.

Juniper is well-known for her ‘infectious enthusiasm’, endless drive to motivate others, backpacker-style sample collection trips and being a fan of statistics. She looks forward to getting to know more students and collaborate with more professors in the USA with ASPB Conviron Scholars Program and hoping to start a PhD after her undergraduate graduation in 2019.

Twitter: GOESbyJuniper (https://twitter.com/GOESbyJuniper)

Facebook: @GlobalOpportunitiesForEcologicalSustainability

(https://www.facebook.com/GlobalOpportunitiesForEcologicalSustainability/)

Website: www.goesmagazine.org

Rachelle Lapham

Rachelle Lapham developed a love for plants and animal husbandry at an early age while growing up on her family’s farm. Involvement in agricultural programs such as 4-H, the National FFA Organization, and the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA) inspired her to pursue a career in science. While she pursued a Bachelor’s degree at Purdue University in Biology, she had the opportunity to work for Dr. Maureen McCann, studying plant cell wall genetics for the improvement of second generation biofuels. She worked as an undergraduate research assistant for three years, developing a passion for plant sciences. Her majors in Genetics and Microbiology began to fuel an interest in plant host-microbe interactions. An internship at Dow AgroSciences supporting maize genetic transformation allowed her to explore her new found passion and gain experience in genetic engineering. This led to a position as a contracting Molecular Biologist for the soybean transformation group at Dow AgroSciences. Here she expanded her skill set and set a foundation for her future research of Agrobacterium. She was approached by Dr. Stanton Gelvin (Purdue University) with the opportunity to pursue a Ph. D. studying the underlying mechanisms of Agrobacterium-mediated genetic transformation. She has spent the past four years studying the effect that the Agrobacterium virulence protein, VirE2, has on the plant transcriptome during the early stages of infection. She was awarded a two-year Andrew’s Fellowship from the Purdue University Graduate School, a one-year research grant from the Purdue Research Foundation, Yeunkyung Woo Achieve Excellence Travel Award from the Department of Biological Sciences (Purdue), and was on the Graduate Student Honor Roll. She has given talks and presented posters at three National Agrobacterium meetings and was a selected speaker for the inaugural Euro-Mediterranean Agrobacterium Meeting in Gif sur Yvette, France in 2016. She served as the President for two-years and is still an active member of the Biology Graduate Student Association. She also works part-time as a tutor and assistant for hearing and visually impaired students at the Disability Resource Center. She enjoys teaching microbiology and helped to rewrite and edit the latest version of the manual used for the introductory microbiology laboratory class for undergraduate students pursuing careers in health-related fields. In her free time, she volunteers with her church’s mission group, enjoys singing and playing the ukulele, sewing, reading, and taking long walks with her husband.

Hannah Lucas

Hannah completed her undergraduate degree in Plant Pathology and Life Sciences Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. There, she worked in an applied plant pathology lab studying the fungal soybean pathogen Sclerotinia sclerotium and its race diversity.  Through her courses in science communication and marketing, and studying amongst French scientists at Montpellier SupAgro, Hannah developed an interest and understanding of how the public forms opinions on new technologies, specifically genetically modified organisms.  Understanding the food industry, its politics, and surrounding public perception has remained an important part of Hannah’s personal interest, which she believes relevant and applicable to her research in agricultural development.

During her undergraduate career, Hannah completed an NSF-REU in the labs of Dr. Rebecca Bart and Dr. Dmitri Nusinow at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, studying the effect of light on pathogenicity in Xanthomonas axonopodis pv. manihotis, the cause of Cassava Bacterial Blight.  Enchanted by bacterial pathogens and the cassava community, she returned to Washington University in 2016 to pursue a PhD in Plant and Microbial Biosciences with Dr. Bart.  She is currently studying host resistance mechanisms of Cassava Mosaic Virus.

Outside of the lab, Hannah is the Marketing Coordinator for the graduate student organization ProSPER, which promotes science policy, advocacy, and effective public communication.  There, she has organized public panels on GMOs, CRISPR gene editing, and green energy innovation. Hannah also works part time as a consultant for The BALSA Group, completing short projects with other PhD, MBA, and Law students for local startups and small businesses in market research, product development, or competitor analysis.  Through BALSA, Hannah has had the rewarding opportunity to work with local AgTech startups, some of which had their beginnings at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.  Lastly, Hannah volunteers with Science on Tap as their Assistant Organizer.  Science on Tap is a monthly seminar series hosted at a local brewery, which makes scientific advances by Washington University professors accessible to the public.

Relevant links:

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/hannah-lucas-94861986/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/hannahlucas17

George Markou

George Markou is a fifth-year Ph. D. candidate in Chemical Engineering at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. He received a Bachelor of Science in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering along with a minor in Engineering & Management from Georgia Tech in his native Atlanta, Georgia. George’s interests lie within the field of biomolecular engineering, where he seeks to create innovative solutions to problems in plant science by taking inspiration from biomedical engineering. In particular, he focuses on studying the plant immune system and its recognition of biotic threats by employing techniques originally developed for the discovery of biologics. For this interdisciplinary work, George has received several awards including a USDA, NIFA Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Predoctoral Fellowship and a University of Minnesota Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellowship. He has presented his research at annual meetings for the Biomedical Engineering Society and American Society of Plant Biologists, and he will be discussing his findings during an oral talk at the annual meeting for the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. Outside of academics, he enjoys taking part in STEM outreach including Science For All, a program that showcases science to middle schoolers via experimentation under graduate student mentorship.

Kari Miller

Kari is currently a first year graduate student at Washington University in St. Louis where she is working towards a Ph.D. in plant and microbial biosciences. Originally from a resort town in Missouri, she was not exposed to the possibility of scientific research as a career until much later in life, as this was very uncommon in her community. However, after learning about the concept of “plant blindness”, Kari realized that plants are highly underappreciated despite their pervasiveness. She believes that an understanding of the complexities of plants could be an effective tool for directly improving quality of life. This belief, in addition to the diverse range of plant science applications, motivated her to enter the field.

Determined to cure this “blindness”, she received a B.S. in biology with a minor in mathematical biology from Truman State University. Here, she developed a research project examining the effects of the hormone Karrikin on the germination of thermally inhibited seeds. As part of this project, she designed a simple image analysis program to expedite the determination of germination rates.  Kari also participated in an internship at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center (DDPSC) during which she explored root system architectural responses to high planting density, using 2D and 3D imaging systems. After graduating from Truman State, Kari returned to the DDPSC where she contributed to the development of X-ray micro-CT as a phenotyping tool. She has an interest in mathematical and computational applications to plant science, particularly image analysis.

Outside of research and school, Kari enjoys knitting and running, but not at the same time.

Mie Monti

I began to explore the world of plants through an essay competition on the Spanish botanist Jose Celestino Mutis. I wrote my paper comparing the anatomy of educational systems and orchid physiology, awed by the richness of applicable metaphors in nature. Years later, I have specialized in plant sciences because of its potential to solve real-world problems. Graduate in Plant Sciences from the University of Cambridge, I am beginning my Masters in Systems and Synthetic Biology, which the long-term aim of harnessing the biochemical repertoire and genomic potential of the botanical world.

My main research experience is focused on algal biotechnology and the development of molecular probes for experimentation. As a member of the Cambridge University iGEM team 2016, I worked alongside my team to establish tools for efficient chloroplast transformation. This experience exposed me to the energy of the interdisciplinary field of synthetic biology and I became aware of the importance of science communication and outreach for public engagement for acceptance of novel technologies. For this reason I closely participate in the growing movement of citizen science and DIY biology. Moreover, for my final year project I worked at the Baulcombe lab developing RNA technology for genetic circuits in Chlamydomonas, investigating the possibility of utilizing artificial microRNA and target mimicry for gene expression regulation. With the technical experience learnt in this project I undertook a 10-week research fellowship at the Meyerowitz Lab in Caltech to yield transgenic green siphonous macroalgae for future cell-biological investigations.

In my spare time, I am a committee member of GapSummit: the world’s first international and interdisciplinary conference tackling the gaps of the bio-economy. My role is to bring together the most diverse and innovative applicants worldwide to catalyse interesting discussions and ideas. I am also an active member of my universities basketball club.

Dev Paudel

Dev Paudel is a PhD fellow in Agronomy Department at the University of Florida (UF), Gainesville, Florida, USA. His research focuses on utilizing traditional plant breeding approaches and modern bioinformatic and molecular techniques in the genetic improvement of napiergrass (elephantgrass) and its interspecific hybrids with pearl millet. This will eventually help in sustainability of forage and biofuel feedstock.

Dev received his MS degree in Crop Science from Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas, USA where his research focused on evaluating the potential of new testing methods for cotton breeding. Plant breeders, ginners, farmers, and spinning mills can use the information obtained from his research to make informed decisions for increased profitability in the premium yarn market. After his MS degree, he worked at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research, Pecos, Texas where he optimized nutrient media for algae production. He has a BS degree in Agriculture from Tribhuvan University, Nepal.

As the founding president of Plant Science Council (www.ufplants.org) which organized the first annual DuPont Pioneer Plant Science Symposium at UF, Dev is heavily engaged in capacity development activities. This is an entirely student led symposium and has helped in improving managerial capabilities of students. Dev was awarded USAID/Trellis fellowship to travel to Tamale, Ghana where he led a one-week long workshop on “Grant proposal writing” and also led a two-week long hands-on training program on “Utilizing R for Applied Statistics”.

Social media: www.twitter.com/devRpaudel

Alex Rajewski

My name is Alex Rajewski and I am originally from Topeka, KS. I earned my bachelor of science in biochemistry from Drake University in Iowa. I then went on to earn my master of science in horticulture at the University of Georgia studying population genetics and tissue culture of native bamboo. Between these degrees I spent some time working for Pioneer Hi-Bred on soybean yield enhancement and then at the University of Rostock, Germany on tissue culture and transformation of tobacco, pea, and lupine.

Currently, I am a PhD student working with Dr. Amy Litt at UC Riverside. My project investigates how fleshy fruits like the berries of tomato evolved from ancestral dry fruits like the capsules of tobacco. The question at the heart of my work is: what genetic and developmental mechanisms give rise to fleshy fruits, and how are these mechanisms conserved across evolution (or not)? This project involves developmental analysis of fruits, generation of CRISPR/Cas9 knockouts for several transcription factors, and also the characterization of wild-type and transgenic transcriptomes.

In my spare time, I have spent the last six years volunteering as a Master Gardener across four states. More recently, I have become involved in LGBT activism and serve currently as the president of the Queer Graduate Student Association at UC Riverside.

After graduation, I plan to seek a job that makes the benefits of science more accessible to the public. I can foresee myself working at a small teaching college, a public policy firm, or potentially in industry.

I am very excited and thankful for the opportunity to be an ASPB Conviron Scholar, and I look to the upcoming year.

Veronica Sondervan

Veronica Sondervan is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Plant Science at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, where she received six merit scholarships and participates in the Honors Program. Veronica has conducted research in four plant science labs, and is an associate member of Sigma Xi: The Scientific Research Honor Society. In summer 2017 she researched the function and evolution of nitrate transporters in dikarya fungi as a Summer Research Intern in Plant Pathology in the Evolution of Fungal Ecology Lab (Dr. Jason Slot) at The Ohio State University, and gave a presentation to the Department of Plant Pathology. She previously researched the metabolic flux of nitrogen in Spirodela polyrhiza (duckweed) in the Plant Metabolomics Lab (Dr. Adrian Hegeman) at the University of Minnesota. She presented results in a poster at the University of Minnesota 2017 Undergraduate Research Symposium, and won a Sigma Xi New Student Member Award for superior accomplishments. She has worked at the USDA-ARS Cereal Disease Laboratory (Dr. Shahryar Kianian) in Saint Paul, Minnesota, part-time since September 2015 and full-time in summer 2016, helping with projects such as alloplasmic wheat lines and crop resistances to wheat stem rust, oat crown rust, and Fusarium head blight. While still in high school, Veronica was selected as a 2014 USDA Wallace-Carver Fellow and interned at the USDA-ARS NCGRP Plant Germplasm Preservation Research Unit (Dr. Christina Walters) in Fort Collins, Colorado, researching seed longevity of wild species stored for 65 years, and improvements to storage methods for recalcitrant seeds. Veronica plans to pursue a Ph.D. related to plant biology and bioinformatics and work as a research scientist in an academic, government or industrial setting. She won an informal R coding award at the 2016 TACC Summer Supercomputing Institute on Scientific Visualization and Data Analysis, and was a 2014 NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing National Runner-Up and Georgia winner. Veronica has performed research for the Real Food Challenge’s Real Food Calculator with the student group U Students Like Good Food, taught about grain domestication at a farmers market through Market Science outreach, and served as a Group Leader at the World Food Prize Global Youth Institute, which she formerly attended as a delegate. Veronica grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, with a half Dutch heritage, and has studied Dutch, Spanish and Korean.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/veronicasondervan/

Maria Sorkin

I am a second year graduate student at Washington University in St. Louis completing my thesis work at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center with Dr. Dmitri Nusinow. Our lab uses protein biochemistry to understand the molecular mechanisms behind how light and other environmental signals synchronize the plant circadian clock. I first became fascinated with circadian research during my NSF REU at NC State working with Dr. Colleen Doherty and was fortunate to be able to continue thinking about clocks when I returned to my undergraduate institution, Kenyon College, where I worked with Dr. Karen Hicks. I have many plant biologists to thank for showing me that plants are not the green backdrop of biology, but in fact are the protagonists of countless stories in science.

I developed my passion for science communication and outreach in college, serving as the STEM Community Intern and member and president of the Kenyon STEM organization. In both roles, I worked to support Kenyon students in STEM fields and make science accessible to members of the community surrounding the college. I led the efforts to initiate a STEM Day of Service, where Kenyon students led small science activities for children in the community. Here in St. Louis, I am the head of the Genetics and Genomics Teaching Team with the Washington University Young Scientists Program (YSP), which organizes classroom visits to K-12 schools in the St. Louis area where YSP teams lead modules on a wide range of STEM topics.

I am excited to participate in the inaugural class of ASPB Conviron Scholars and hope to develop my career plans with the help of this program. Currently, I am interested in a career where basic plant biology research can directly improve human and environmental health.

DeQuantarius Speed

My name is DeQuantarius Javon Speed. I was born and raised in Shreveport, LA. I received a B.S. in Biochemistry from Louisiana State University in May 2015. As a first-generation PhD student and black man born to poor teenage parents, I am sensitive to fact that people from certain ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds may be hesitant to consider a career in STEM. At times, it may be necessary to highlight to students the scientific accomplishments of women and people of color. As someone who had never met a scientist before attending Louisiana State University, I set my own path during my early career.  I’m aware of how daunting it can be to enter into a STEM career when appropriate role models of your ethnic, gender, or economic group are rare in a field. As such, I have sought to be a role model for young scientists, especially those from under-represented social backgrounds and to serve as a mentor and encourage them throughout their careers in STEM. I am committed to continuing and increasing my outreach, especially to URM students. As part of U. Chicago’s Multicultural Graduate Community, I organized an information panel to advise and encourage 3rd and 4th year undergraduates to apply to STEM graduate programs. We recruited faculty to discuss how to apply to different programs. I am mentoring and collaborating with an undergraduate URM researcher funded by Dr. Jean Greenberg’s NSF grant.

My goal is to lead an academic research team focused on deciphering fundamental aspects of plant biology using various approaches in the hopes of making plant life more resistant to environmental stressors. Working in an academic institution will grant me the privilege to train young scientists while being mentored by senior academics. I will encourage members of URMs to participate in STEM fields and will provide an opportunity for them to do so. Additionally, I hope to develop a faculty-driven outreach program aimed at adults from URM groups. Many groups already perform outreach to children and teens, however their parents are often left out. Effectively communicating with those parents will greatly increase their exposure to science. I hope that in turn, those parents will encourage their children to pursue STEM careers.

Virginia Tartaglio

I am a second-year plant biology graduate student interested in genomics and evolution. Born and raised in Pasadena, CA, I have been happily settled in the East Bay since arriving here as an undergraduate seven years ago. As a molecular environmental biology major at UC Berkeley, I developed a passion for plants as both fascinating organisms and as keys to a more sustainable future. During this time I worked in Dr. Frank Harmon’s lab, where I used PCR and next generation sequencing to map an Arabidopsis mutation that caused aberrant circadian rhythms. Delighted with the rewards of research, I decided to pursue a career in plant biology. Following graduation, I spent two years working in Dr. Henrik Scheller’s lab at the Joint Bioenergy Institute in Emeryville, CA, where I engineered rescue lines of an embryo lethal mutation in Arabidopsis, and studied the myriad phenotypes in the rescued mutants, which possessed defective sphingolipid metabolism. As a graduate student, I am currently working in Dr. John Vogel’s lab at the Joint Genome Institute in Walnut Creek, CA, using computational methods to study the genomics and evolution of a polyploid grass that may serve as a model for proposed biofuel crops.

In addition to my research, I love communicating with the public about science. I am part of an organization at UC Berkeley called CLEAR (Communication, Literacy, and Education in Agricultural Research) through which I give presentations to the public, write blog articles, and operate our booth at community events. I want to empower people to consider the scientific reports they see in the media with skepticism and curiosity. Every single one of us has valid insights and experiences to bring to the table when it comes to interpretation of scientific data. The more people we have at the table, the better our chances of finding honest answers to society’s biggest questions.

I love to collaborate and am happy to engage with any and all regarding science or science communication issues. I look forward to making more connections and learning more about science and life as I grow into my career.

Lucas Vanhaelewyn

Lucas Vanhaelewyn was born in Roeselare, Belgium on March 14, 1990. After having completed secondary school education at the VABI in Roeselare in 2008, he pursued a bachelor degree in agro- and biotechnology at the KATHO University College. His thesis related to plant biotechnology for banana was done in in Uganda, Africa in 2011, accounting for his first international experience where he has found his passion in Plant Biotechnology. Hence he continued his study in biotechnology and biochemistry and received a master degree majoring in plant biotechnology in July 2015 with great distinction at Ghent University.

He started working as a PhD researcher in August 2015 at the Laboratory of Functional Plant Biology (FPB) in the department of Biology of Ghent University, this position includes both research duties and tutoring master students. Both of the Master thesis and PhD research focus on the morphological effects of UV-B on plants. During recent years, academic education and research experiences were obtained through several specialist courses at Ghent University and Pécs University. International experiences have been expanding through various opportunities, such as an oral presentation at the UV4PLANTS conference in June 2016 (Pécs, Hungary), a one-month scholar visit in the internationally recognized Biological Research Centre of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (BRC) in October 2016, and a poster presentation in the annual plant biology meeting of American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) in Honolulu, Hawaii with a travel grant awarded. Until now, his PhD research has yielded two first author international peer-reviewed publications within the first year and two co-authored manuscripts which are currently under review.

Apart from his main research interest in UV-B light related plant morphology and plant resistance, he is also devoted in voluntary development work in Africa. In his spare time, he is actively engaged in various plant biotechnology projects in Uganda while putting the knowledge of entrepreneurship in emerging economies (a completed specialist course from Harvard University) into practice and bringing vision into life.