Dr. Ying Zhai attended the Fall Commencement on December 7th and was hooded by her major advisor, Professor Hanu R. Pappu. Her thesis was titled ‘Genomic Characterization and Molecular Investigations into Negative-Stranded RNA viruses of Plants’. Zhai’s thesis committee included Drs. Hanu Pappu (Chair), Amit Dhingra (Horticulture), Ken Eastwell, and Neena Mitter (University of Queensland). Zhai, for her PhD dissertation research, focused on tospoviruses and rhabdoviruses. Using Tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV) as a model, she characterized the regions critical for the suppressor activity of the NSs protein and screened and identified regions in TSWV genome that are effective triggers of RNAi. She also studied the genome structure and organization of Eggplant mottled dwarf virus, a phytorhabdovirus. Zhai was born in China and received her MS in Cell Biology from Hebei Normal University, Shijiazhuang, China, where she worked on rice blast resistance. She obtained her Bachelor’s in Biotechnology from Hebei University, Baoding, China. Before joining Pappu’s lab, Zhai was involved in teaching Botany and Molecular Biology at Shijiazhuang College and conducted research on rice functional genomics.