Welcome New Graduate Students!

September 30, 2019

Jake botkin Portrait

Jacob Botkin

Hometown: Corcoran, MN

What is plant pathology to you? 

Plant pathology is an essential field of science that allows plant producers access to the information they need to manage plant diseases, and prevent yield loss. 

Why did decide to attend graduate school at the University of Minnesota? Tell us about your path to Plant Pathology.

I chose the University of Minnesota for graduate school due to the exceptional experience I had as an undergraduate studying Plant Science, and as a young professional in the Department of Plant Pathology.  My first internship was at the Plant Disease Clinic in Stakman Hall, where I became fascinated with disease-causing microbes, especially fungi, and learned that I have a passion for lab work.  

What do you hope to accomplish in your time at the University of Minnesota, and what are your goals for the future?

One goal I have is to strengthen my writing skills so that I can write grants and publishable papers throughout my career. My professional goal is to contribute to my field by publishing valuable research. 

What are some of your favorite hobbies?

I enjoy growing a vegetable garden, especially with species in the nightshade family. Also, I like to hunt for grouse, waterfowl, and pheasants when I can. And, I go fishing up north, around the Grand Rapids area

Davy DeKray Portrait

Davy DeKrey

Hometown: Bemidji, MN

What is plant pathology to you? 

Plant pathology is a way in which I can use plants and fungi to invent, transform, create and destroy for a living. For me, that is exactly the life I want to live.

Why did you decide to attend graduate school at the University of Minnesota? Tell us about your path to Plant Pathology.

My path to plant pathology at UMN was a rather direct one. I knew to go into my undergraduate studies at Augsburg University that I wanted to do something involving plants but was unsure of what. I quickly introduced myself to the only exclusive plant professor on campus which lead to me conducting 3 years of research on brown stem rot of soybean under my mentor at Augsburg. I knew after that I wanted to conduct plant pathology research as a career. Following undergrad, I gained some agricultural industry research experience at the UMN start-up Caylxt and thereafter gained government research experience at the UMN/USDA Cereal Disease Laboratory. During my time as a researcher at CDL, I realized I wanted to research pathogens of woody plant species and I started going to departmental seminars accordingly. Eventually, this leads me to meet my now advisor and joining the UMN forest pathology lab. Attending UMN was an obvious choice for me to stay close to family and I particularly love a good strong Minnesota winter.

What do you hope to accomplish in your time at the University of Minnesota, and what are your goals for the future?

A lot. First and foremost, I want my graduate research to positively impact the kindling midwestern grape and wine industry by providing stakeholders with data-backed best practices. I also hope to become efficient in my research, a passionate student, a caring teacher, a role model for underrepresented people, and an entertaining public science communicator.

What are some of your favorite hobbies?

I am an energetic individual and enjoy many various physical activities such as dancing, biking, longboarding, and snowboarding. Having once been a bike mechanic, I like getting my hands dirty by tweaking my own or sometimes other people's bikes or boards. On occasion I enjoy more sedentary activities like watching TV or gaming—The Legend of Zelda is my all-time favorite series.

Eva Henningsen portrait

Eva Henningsen

Hometown: White Bear Lake, MN

What is plant pathology to you? 

Plant pathology is a subject matter that I knew nothing about until recently but has been the most exciting to learn about and do research for. 

Why did you decide to attend graduate school at the University of Minnesota? Tell us about your path to Plant Pathology.

I was initially going to apply for the APS program here, but after taking a graduate course taught by my mentor I realized that my passion was for pathology. I also love the location and size of the University of Minnesota.

What do you hope to accomplish in your time at the University of Minnesota, and what are your goals for the future?

I hope to do work that fulfills me and helps others, and in the future, I would like to continue doing that. My goal for the future is to become a mentor to someone in the way that I was mentored.

What are some of your favorite hobbies?

I like biking and weightlifting, as well as cooking, playing video games, and reading. Some of my other interests include historical and vintage hairstyling and garments (of which I own a few) and growing indoor ornamental plants from seed for fun.

Dong-Gyu Kim

Dong-gyu Kim

Hometown: Daegu, South Korea

What is plant pathology to you? 

Plant pathology is my opportunity to appreciate the role of microbes in agriculture and food security.

Why did you decide to attend graduate school at the University of Minnesota? Tell us about your path to Plant Pathology.

From my initial aspirations to become a pharmacologist as an undergraduate studying biochemistry, my academic journey has had many twists and turns. It was during my time conducting undergraduate research in mycology and plant pathology that I realized my enthusiasm for microbiology, and the immense impact microbes can have on our livelihoods. Combined with my newfound fascination for plant-parasitic nematodes, I am excited to begin my graduate student career at the University of Minnesota.

What do you hope to accomplish in your time at the University of Minnesota, and what are your goals for the future?

I hope to become well-versed in scientific communication and current research in plant pathology during my time here. My future goals are to contribute knowledge that may help address the diverse needs of a growing global population.

What are some of your favorite hobbies?

Whenever the weather permits, I enjoy cycling and hiking around the Twin Cities area. Otherwise, I may be found either reading, playing music or attempting a new recipe.

Savana Lipps Portrait

Savana Lipps

Hometown: Woodbury, MN

What is plant pathology to you? 

Plant pathology is an interdisciplinary field where concepts of microbiology, genetics, epidemiology, and more combine in an effort to solve disease problems and ultimately contribute to agricultural security.

Why did you decide to attend graduate school at the University of Minnesota? Tell us about your path to Plant Pathology.

Being a Minnesotan with a passion for plant pathology, I have been aware of the rich history of this department for a while. I remember how impressed I was to learn that the father of the Green Revolution, Norman Borlaug, is an alumnus of the department. I was involved in summer research in Dr. Samac's lab during undergrad and enjoyed every minute of it. I got to know just how supportive and kind the faculty, staff, and students of the department truly are. Now, I am excited to continue my path in this department as a graduate student!

What do you hope to accomplish in your time at the University of Minnesota, and what are your goals for the future?

I hope that the products of my research help growers improve their success in the field and provide insights to the scientific community about this pathosystem. I also hope to engage in scientific outreach and communication and have experience studying agriculture internationally. My future career goal is to engage in research that directly impacts the security of food, feed, fiber, and fuel of our world. 

What are some of your favorite hobbies?

I enjoy practicing yoga, walking, mushroom hunting, and drinking coffee.

Mitchell Ritzinger Portrait

Mitchell Ritzinger

Hometown: Woodbury, MN

What is plant pathology to you? 

The study of plant diseases, and their interactions with their hosts.

Why did you decide to attend graduate school at the University of Minnesota? Tell us about your path to Plant Pathology.

Norman Borlaug has been a longtime hero of mine, and as I was searching for a graduate program which would fit my interests and career goals, doctor Brian Steffenson's program lined up incredibly well.

What do you hope to accomplish in your time at the University of Minnesota, and what are your goals for the future?

I hope to learn a great deal both in my classes and in my research project(s). Also I hope to better myself as a scientist and scientific communicator, so that in the future, I can 1. apply the skills I have learned to develop stronger crop varieties which can be used to combat problems like food security in developing nations.and 2. effectively communicate my work and goals to others in my community, or in the communities which I help to serve.

What are some of your favorite hobbies?

I enjoy playing and watching both soccer and tennis, and also like to watch football and basketball. I enjoy traveling, and learning about other cultures in different parts of the world. Finally, I like to learn new things, whether it be by reading, watching videos, or practicing them hands-on- some topics which interest me include cooking, scientific news and communication, and global health.