Graduate Students

Name Degree Areas of Interest Advisor
Jacob Botkin M.S.

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. Finally, developing a remote sensing technique, using a hyperspectral camera, to detect Aphanomyces root rot of sugarbeet.

Ashok Chanda
Davy DeKrey M.S.

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 viticulturist that grow in our particular growing climate.

Robert Blanchette
Worku Denbel Bulbula Ph.D.

My research focus is on identifying sources of stem rust resistance from tetraploid wheat landraces of Ethiopia and phenotyping and genotyping of stem rust isolates collected from tetraploid wheat growing regions of Ethiopia.

Pablo Olivera
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
Nicholas Greatens M.S. Yue Jin
Endale Hailu Abera Ph.D.

My research focus on the role of barberry plant in stem rust disease epidemiology and race analysis of stem rust in Ethiopia.

Yue Jin
Alisha Hershman M.S.

My research is going to look at different viruses and how they are expressed within the plant. We are looking to use the promoter regions for gene editing vectors.

Shaun Curtin
Lauren Jackson Ph.D. 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
Dong gyu Kim M.S.

My research investigates the molecular bases of the tripartite interaction between the soybean cyst nematode (Heterodera glycines), soybeans (Glycines max) and nematode-antagonistic soil fungi. Ultimately, my goal is to help identify and screen for effective biological control (biocontrol) agents against economically consequential plant-parasitic nematodes.

Kathryn Bushley
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
Carol Ishimaru
Austin Lien Ph.D.

Cercospora leaf spot, caused by the fungus *Cercospora beticola*, continues to be a challenge for sugar beet growers. My research focuses on the identification of fungicide interactions that impact disease control, relative root yield, and quality for future recommendations in fungicide management strategies. As well as improving fungicide decision-support systems, my research is also aimed at providing insights on epidemiology, population biology, aerobiology, and disease prediction.

Dr. Ashok Chanda
Eric Otto Ph.D.

My research is 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
Rae Page Ph.D.

My research will focus on disease resistance in small grain crops. Specifically, I will perform genome-wide association studies of rust resistance in the wheat relative Aegilops longissima, and of Fusarium head blight resistance in barley.

Brian Steffenson
Kevin Propst M.S.

I got my start at a molecular lab at UC Davis focusing focusing on programmed cell death in grape caused by Xylella fastidiosa. From 2014-2020 I have worked in the Applied Plant Pathology department at a seed company called HMClause where worked with numerous types of pathogens and vegetable crops.

Cory Hirsch
Nick Rajtar M.S.

My research is focusing on the biological control of Emerald Ash Borer. Specifically, I will be attempting to identify and test entomopathogenic fungi as a method for this biocontrol.

Robert Blanchette
Mitchell Ritzinger M.S.

My research focused on the hormonal regulation of a gene called KLOTHO in the mouse kidney.

Brian Steffenson
Samantha Rude Ph.D.

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. Investigating the genetic and pathogenic diversity in isolates of Aphanomyces spp including Aphanomyces euteiches and identifying genes involved in pathogenicity and host-pathogen interactions.

Dr. 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
Yeidymar Sierra Moya M.S.

My research focus is in the legume, Medicago sativa, also known as alfalfa. We are trying to develop a method for an easy characterization, identification, and quantification of the bacterium Pseudomonas syringae pv. syringae infecting alfalfa to be able to detect, predict and minimize the losses related to an outbreak.

Deborah Samac
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
Jose 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 Ph.D.

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.

Ranjan/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, as well as morphological investigations of the decay process using light and confocal microscopy as well as scanning electron microscopy. In addition, a study of Ecuadorian polypores is underway. These fungi are unique organisms from the Yasuni National Park in the Ecuadorean Amazon. 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