Graduate Students

Name Degree Areas of Interest Advisor
Jacob Botkin Ph.D.

My research focuses on developing an assay for the detection and quantification of Aphanomyces cochlioides, the causal agent of damping off and root rot of sugarbeet; using RNA-Seq to evaluate host-pathogen interactions, and genome sequencing to look at oomycete effectors and the genetic diversity of A. cochlioides isolates; and developing a remote sensing technique to detect Aphanomyces root rot of sugarbeet.

Ashok Chanda
Davy DeKrey Ph.D.

My graduate research is focused on morphological and genetic identification of endophytic and pathogenic fungi of cold hardy grapes grown here in the Midwest. The ultimate goal of my graduate research is to help determine and establish best practices for viticulturists that grow in our particular growing climate.

Robert Blanchette
Ryan Franke M.S.

I will be investigating native canker-rot, wilt and root rot fungi for their potential to act as a biological agents of control for Frangula alnus and Rhamnus cathartica (Glossy Buckthorn and Common Buckthorn, respectively). I will also develop technologies for the field application of the fungal agents.

Bob Blanchette
Liam Genter M.S.

My research focus is community fungal ecology of the Soudan Iron Mine and the impacts of Pseudogymnoascus destructans, an introduced fungus that causes white nose syndrome in hibernating bats.

Robert Blanchette
Alisha Hershman M.S.

My research will focus on understanding soybean structural linkages to Sclerotinia stem rot development also known as white mold of soybean. Specifically, I am going to look at plant architecture along with the amount of light that reaches the apothecia and how it affects disease development.

Megan McCaghey
Lauren Jackson Ph.D.

My research focuses on identifying and characterizing mechanisms of wood decay fungi in the sub-phylum Agaricomycotina. Specifically, I’m interested in the strategies employed by fungi to colonize different substrates and what factors control their respective generalist or host-specific lifestyles.

Robert Blanchette
Pranaya Kaki Ph.D.

My research is focused on mechanisms of microbial interactions in the synthetic microcosm designed for corn rhizosphere with the goal of reducing pathogen pressure and nitrogen fertilizers.

Devanshi Khokhani
Ji Hyun Kim M.S.

My research focus is in molecular interaction between soybean and its pathogen Screlotinia screlotiorum. I will be looking into different components of plant and microbial extracellular vesicles and how these vesicles interact with each other. 

Ashish Ranjan
Kristi Ledman Ph.D.

My research is focused on bacterial leaf streak disease in small grains. I will be investigating the host range of the pathogen Xanthomonas translucens. I take a particular interest in surveying weedy grass species in the field to find where the pathogen survives.

Ruth Dill-Macky
Yoonjung Lee Ph.D.

My research focuses on small grain resistance genes, specifically examining diverse barley germplasm and studying bacterial leaf streak resistance caused by Xanthomonas translucens pv. translucens in barley. My goal is to identify resistance genes related to BLS in barley.

Brian Steffenson
Kay Lerohl M.S.

I am assessing the genetic diversity of Verticillium spp. in Minnesota, and identifying resistant potato lines. I am interested in investigating the molecular interactions between the plant host and pathogen to identify genes related to virulence and resistance.

Ashish Ranjan
Austin Lien Ph.D.

My research focuses on Cercospora leaf spot, caused by the fungus Cercospora beticola; specifically the identification of fungicide interactions that impact disease control, relative root yield, and quality for future recommendations in fungicide management strategies. My research improves fungicide decision-support systems while providing insights into epidemiology, population biology, aerobiology, and disease prediction.

Ashok Chanda
Andrew Mann Ph.D.

My research will investigate fungi associated with bark and wood-boring beetles that are invasive in the U.S. and China. I will study potential functions of these fungi and use sequencing to understand how these fungi may have changed during invasion.

Robert Blanchette
Kathryn Bushley
Eric Otto Ph.D.

My research focuses on Heterobasidion root rot of pines, one of the most important pathogens of conifer forests in North America. I will be exploring the distribution and elucidate the biology of Heterobasidion irregulare, a new invasive pathogen in Minnesota with the goal of developing biological control strategies.

Robert Blanchette
Colin Peters Ph.D.

My research focuses on the effectiveness and application of using fungi as biological control for the emerald ash borer. I will also characterize the relationship between these several species of entomopathogenic fungi with their beetle host across its various stages of development.

Robert Blanchette
Kevin Propst M.S.

My research analyzes the effects of abiotic stress in maize using hyperspectral imaging and the plant's nutritional composition after being exposed to these stressors.

Cory Hirsch
Nick Rajtar Ph.D.

My research is focusing on invasive forest pathogens in Minnesota with emphasis on detecting
Phytophthora species as well as Heterobasidion irregulare.

Robert Blanchette
Nisha Paneru Regmi M.S.

My research focuses on enhancement and diversification of stem rust resistance in wheat. I will also characterize the races of the stem rust pathogen, 𝘗𝘶𝘤𝘤𝘪𝘯𝘪𝘢 𝘨𝘳𝘢𝘮𝘪𝘯𝘪𝘴 f. sp. 𝘵𝘳𝘪𝘵𝘪𝘤𝘪,  from the international collection.

Pablo Olivera Firpo
Sam Rude Ph.D.

My research focuses on developing a DNA-based diagnostic tool for identification and quantification of Aphanomyces cochlioides, the causal agent of Aphanomyces root rot of Sugarbeet, in field and soil. I will also be investigating the genetic and pathogenic diversity in isolates of Aphanomyces spp including Aphanomyces euteiches and identifying genes involved in pathogenicity and host-pathogen interactions.

Ashok Chanda
Isaac Schmitt M.S.

My research focuses on brown stem rot in soybeans, and its causal agent Cadophora gregata. There are still many unknowns about cadophora and BSR, particularly regarding its life cycle and the variation in symptom severity between pathogen genotypes.

Dean Malvick
Alexis Shatrau M.S.

My research will be centered around brown stem rot (BSR) in soybeans. I will investigate more detailed molecular diagnostic techniques for detecting BSR, as well as finding a current host range for BSR in Minnesota among other potential projects.

Dean Malvick
Sofia Simeto Ph.D.

My research will focus on the fungal community associated with Emerald Ash Borer and the role those fungi play in ash decline and mortality. I also will study the entomopathogenic fungi associated with EAB as potential biocontrol agents of the pest.

Robert Blanchette
Connor Slawin M.S.

My research is focused on fusarium head blight of barley, a disease caused by Fusarium graminearum which produces the mycotoxin DON.  I am investigating how F. graminearum infects barley, how to improve barley's resistance to the pathogen, and how DON is produced.

Jose Ortiz Solorzano Ph.D.

My research will focus on understanding the distribution and factors that contribute to spread and establishment of tar spot of corn; expanding knowledge of the host range, etiology, and detection methodologies for tar spot and the pathogen; and investigating the potential for management of tar spot with fungicides and/or resistant hybrids.

Dean Malvick
Nick Talmo M.S.

My research will be focused on characterizing phenylpropanoid pathway genes involved in soybean resistance and susceptibility to S. sclerotiorum. Following characterization, we will explore manipulation of expression of these genes as a means of imparting enhanced resistance to this fungal pathogen.

Ashish Ranjan James Bradeen
Cristina Toapanta Ph.D.

My principal research involves the biochemical mechanisms during degradation by five species of brown rot fungi and their specificity on different substrates, morphological investigations of the decay process using light and confocal microscopy, and scanning electron microscopy. I will also study Ecuadorian polypores; these new taxa are being identified using molecular methods and studies are being done on the biology and ecology of these little-known fungi.

Robert Blanchette
Molly Veregge M.S.

My research focuses on the molecular pathogenesis of the causative agent of Goss's Wilt on corn, Clavibacter nebraskensis. My project will utilize multiple omics technologies to uncover mechanisms of virulence.

Devanshi Khokhani
Hsuan Fu Wang Ph.D.

My research will be focused on characterizing aggressiveness determinants of Sclerotinia sclerotiorum and using gene silencing strategies to target these determinants.

Megan McCaghey