Plant Pathology DEI Committee

Maren Friesen.

Dr. Maren Friesen (Chair)

Maren Friesen is an evolutionary ecologist with a deep passion for fostering cooperation and mutually supportive interactions. She strives to bring mindfulness into her professional roles and to practice non-violent communication, honoring every person’s inherent worth. She has trained diverse students and postdocs and is currently on the leadership team of BIORISE, a training grant to support indigenous post-bac researchers. 
Jana U’Ren.

Dr. Jana U’Ren (Vice-Chair)

I am an integrative microbial ecologist with training in microbial ecology, evolutionary biology, mycology, and genomics. I completed a BA in Biological Sciences from the University of Missouri-Columbia and my PhD in Plant Pathology from the University of Arizona’s School of Plant Sciences. I was an Assistant Professor of Ecosystem Genomics in the Department of Biosystems Engineering and BIO5 Institute at The University of Arizona for five years. Currently, I am an Assistant Professor of Mycology in the Department of Plant Pathology at WSU.
Sapinder Bali.

Dr. Sapinder Bali (She/Her)

Sapinder Bali is a Research Associate in the Department of Plant Pathology. She is studying the molecular basis of host-nematode interactions. She holds a PhD in Plant Molecular Biology from University of Delhi, India. Prior to joining Washington State University, she worked with Oregon State University. She is a first-generation college graduate and comes from a supportive and liberal working-class Indian family. She has served as the founding member of CAHNRS DEI committee and has been a champion of DEI issues. In her free time, Dr. Bali likes to cook and watch true crime shows.
Ninh Khuu.

Ninh Khuu

Ninh is a PhD Student from San Jose, California. His work involves understanding the interplay of multiple viral infections on the yield and quality of hops. He believes in the mission of public land grant universities as a driver for good through making the results of public research accessible to everyone.
Samodya Jayasinghe.

Samodya Jayasinghe

Samodya is a PhD candidate in the Department of Plant Pathology. Her current research focus is understanding the genetic basis behind the interaction between the powdery scab and potato mop-top pathogens. In addition to working with the DEI committee, she currently serves as the President of the Plant Pathology Graduate Students Association and the finance chair of the Graduate Women of Color Alliance. In her free time, she likes to cook food from her home country of Sri Lanka, knit, or tend to her many houseplants.
Elliott Marston.

Elliott Marston (He/They)

Elliott is a PhD candidate based at the Pullman campus. Elliott under Dr. Deven See at the USDA Western Regional Small Grains Genotyping Lab (WRSGGL). His research focuses on the genetics behind baking quality and falling number issues in wheat, with a focus on identifying potential breeding targets for overall end-use quality. Elliott also serves as faculty liaison for the PPGSO, on the PLP FUN committee, and as an editor for the Spore Print. He is interested in making agricultural research accessible for a wider audience. Elliott spends his free time with his rescue dog, Kona, playing card games, or reading.
Prabu Gnanasekaran.

Dr. Prabu Gnanasekaran (He/Him)

Prabu is a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Plant Pathology department, WSU, Pullman. He was born and raised in India and got his Ph.D. from Jawaharlal Nehru University, one of the premier institutions in India. Prabu joined WSU in 2019, he is working on fundamental aspects of plant pathology focusing on economically important viral pathogens, such as Potato virus Y, Tomato Spotted Wilt virus, geminivirus and Dahlia mosaic virus. He uses molecular and genomics approaches to understanding plant-virus interactions with a long-term goal to developing eco-friendly and sustainable disease management strategies.
Jonathan Puglisi.

Jonathan Puglisi

Jon is a graduate student at Washington State University working toward a Ph.D. in plant pathology. He moved to Wenatchee from Pennsylvania in 2021 where he studied biology and music performance at Pennsylvania State University. Outside of the lab, you can find him playing trumpet or rock climbing.
Harpreet Kaur.

Harpreet Kaur

I received my undergraduate degree from Punjab Agricultural University in Punjab, India. Agricultural sciences was my major. During my undergrad, I became really interested in studying plant diseases. Later, I was given the option to pursue a master’s degree in Agricultural Sciences (with an emphasis in Biotechnology) at Tennessee State University, Nashville, Tennessee. My master’s thesis focused on identifying pathogenicity factors in Erwinia tracheiphila. My primary interests are in studying the host-pathogen interactions and bacterial genetics, therefore I contacted Dr. Youfu Frank Zhao at Washington State University for a Ph.D. My research will primarily focus on understanding the genetics of the apple fire blight disease. I also want to work on volunteer services, which will allow me to focus on doing something for others outside of academics.