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Students

Chiti AgarwalChiti Agarwal
PhD; chiti.agarwal@wsu.edu
Major Professor: Dr. George Vandemark


Scott Anderson
PhD; scott.d.anderson@wsu.edu
Major Professor:  Dr. Cynthia Gleason


 

Hannah Baker
MS; hannah.baker@wsu.edu
Major Professor:  Dr. Cynthia Gleason


 

Qing BaiQing Bai
PhD; qing.bai@wsu.edu
Major Professor: Dr. Xianming Chen

Receiving BS and MS degree in Huazhong Agriculture University, China; finishing some research related to the pathogen characterization(phomopsis.sp) of pear shoot canker; I will join WSU in Spring Semester, 2017. In WSU, I will follow Dr. Xianming Chen, doing some research about “Evolutionary Mechanisms of the Stripe Rust Pathogen”, including genome structures and sequence fragments that are informative for studying evolutionary relationships of the pathogen isolates and populations.


Alex Batson
Former MS student, now PhD student; alex.batson@wsu.edu
Major Professor: Dr. Lindsey du Toit

I graduated with a major in Cellular and Molecular Biology from Western Washington Unviversity.  My research during undergrad focused on the Arabadopsis-Aspergillus pathosystem.  Specifically, I investigated several flavonoid biosynthesis genes in Arabadopsis that influenced resitstance to Aspergillus.  After graduations, I worked at Adaptive Symbiotic Technologies in Seattle, WA where I studied fungal endophytes that confer multiple stress tolerances to crop plants.  I am grateful to have had hands on experience researching fungal pathogens and mutualists.  As an MS student at WSU, I studied effector genes in Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. spinaciae in Dr. Lindsey du Toit’s laboratory at the NWREC in Mount Vernon, WA from 2017-2019.  I am continuing with a PhD degree in the department on the same project.


 

Lauren Braley
MS; lauren.braley@wsu.edu (Visit the Profile Link for more information)
Major Professor:  Dr. Kiwamu Tanaka


 

Alex CrossAlex Cross
MS; alex.cross@wsu.edu
Major Professor:  Dr. Scott Harper

I obtained my BS in biology at the University of Illinois Springfield, which is also where I fell in love with the micro world.  Viruses peaked my interest the most, due to their ability to hijack cellular machinery to replicate their own genome.  This combined with my love of primary producers, led me to Washington State University.  Starting In the spring of 2018, I’ll work with Scott Harper in order to characterize virus populations causing the decline of apple rootstock across the state.


Shimul DasShimul Das
PhD; shimul.das@wsu.edu
Major Professor:  Dr. Naidu Rayapati

Shimul Das, native to Bangladesh is a PhD student in Plant pathology. He attained his Bachelor of Science (Hons) in Agriculture from Khulna University and subsequently Master of Science in Entomology from Bangladesh Agricultural University. His master’s dissertation was “Host suitability of Epilachna beetle (Epilachna dodecatigma) on brinjal cultivars at variable temperature”. He has been employed as a faculty of Agrotechnology Discipline, Khulna University since 2011. He claimed the BHEARD Fellowship funded by USAID mission, Bangladesh to pursue his PhD at WSU. He is currently undertaking his Doctoral research works on vegetable viruses economically important to agriculture in Bangladesh under the supervision of Dr. Naidu Rayapati.


Jonathan Eagle
PhD; jonathan.eagle@wsu.edu
Major professor: Dr. Deven See


Christine “Jade” Ermita
PhD; c.ermita@wsu.edu
Major Professor:  Dr. Scott Hulbert

Jade obtained her bachelor’s degree in agriculture with a major in plant pathology from the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB). She pursued MS Genetics in UPLB while working fulltime as a researcher at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). She worked mainly on SNP marker development and SNP marker validation for genes underlying biotic stress resistance. In addition, she was involved in developing SNP genotyping workflows and SNP sets customized for different breeding groups, and the testing of different next-generation sequencing protocols at IRRI. Her passion for plant pathology has driven her to study the genetics of rice resistance to bacterial blight disease for her MS thesis. Her study on the “Genome-wide association of bacterial blight resistance in cultivars of rice (Oryza sativa L.) through SNP marker analysis and Genotyping-by-Sequencing” had brought her recognition as one of the Young Rice Scientist Awardee during the 4th International Rice Congress in 2014. She will be joining Dr. Scot Hulbert‘s lab as a PhD student in Fall 2016. She will be studying soil microbial communities affecting disease suppressiveness and the genetic basis of wheat genotypes affecting soil microbial communities.


Lederson Ganan
PhD; l.gananbetancur@wsu.edu
Major Professors:  Dr. Achour Amiri and Dr. Tobin Peever

Born and raised in a traditional town in the Colombian coffee region, Lederson Ganan began at a young age to understand the challenges of agricultural production in his country. This motivation led him to obtain a Bachelor’s Degree in Agronomy and a Master’s Degree in Plant Pathology from University of Caldas in Colombia. Afterwards, he joined the Plant Pathology lab at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture in Cali (Colombia) as a research assistant, where he focused on the molecular identification of fungal plant pathogens in tropical fruits and developed integrated management strategies for banana and cassava diseases. In 2015, Lederson was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship, and has joined Washington State University in fall 2016 to pursue a Ph.D. in Plant Pathology under the supervision of Drs. Achour Amiri and Tobin Peever. During his PhD studies, Lederson’s research will focus on epidemiology, population biology and management of apple powdery mildew, caused by Podosphaera leucotricha, a major disease affecting apple in WA.


Kristen Hamel
MS; kristen.hamel@wsu.edu
Major Professor:  Dr. Cynthia Gleason


 

Samodya Jayasinghe
MS; samodya.jayasinghe@wsu.edu
Major Professor:  Dr. Tim Murray


 

Ninh Khuu
MS; ninh.khuu@wsu.edu
Major Professor:  Dr. Scott Harper

I received my BS in Plant Science from UC Davis in 2015. During my undergraduate studies, I discovered a passion for botany and agriculture. My summers were spent performing botanical surveys for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife documenting rare flora that occur in the southern portion of the Snow Mountain National Monument. During academic sessions, I specialized in micro-shoot tip culture of clonally-propagated perennial crops in support of California’ grape, strawberry, fruit tree, and sweet potato industries as part of the National Clean Plant Network. I was retained as a technician until Summer 2018 when I took a brief venture with a commercial tree nursery’s R&D tissue culture lab. I will be pursuing an MS with Dr. Scott Harper at Prosser working on hop viroids – to develop improved viroid elimination protocols and to better understand the spatial distribution of the viroid within host tissue.


 

Yuxiang Li
PhD; yuxiang.li@wsu.edu
Major Professor: Dr. Xianming Chen

Yuxiang Li joined Dr. Xianming Chen’s lab and pursued his Ph.D. in the fall 2014. His research will focus on “Genetic and Functional Characterization of Avirulence/Virulence Genes in the Stripe Rust Pathogen”. Yuxiang received his BA in Plant Protection from Northwest A&F University in China in 2014. He participated in the “Knockout of Secretory Protein Related Gene Which Unknown in Fusarium” and “Cloning and Functional Verification of Pathogenic Genes in Verticillium dahliae” programs in his BA degree, which laid the foundation for his Ph.D. study.


Richard Manasseh
PhD; richard.manasseh@wsu.edu
Major Professor:  Dr. Hanu Pappu


 

Elliott MarstonElliott Marston
PhDelliott.j.marston@wsu.edu
Major Professor:  Dr. Deven See

I majored in Agricultural Biotechnology and graduated from WSU in 2017 with a B.S. in Integrated Plant Sciences. During my undergraduate my research focused on plant virology, specifically sequencing the genome of potato mop-top virus. After graduation I had the opportunity to work for Dr. Xianming Chen’s stripe rust research project where I assisted in field and greenhouse management.

As a PhD student at WSU, I am studying under Dr. Deven See at the USDA-ARS Western Regional Small Grain Genotyping Lab. My research will focus on late maturity alpha-amylase (LMA) in PNW wheat and attempting to identify QTL’s related to LMA resistance and develop markers for MAS. I will also be studying the use of genomics data for increasing the efficiency of traditional wheat breeding methods.


Arunabha Mitra
PhD; arunabha.mitra@wsu.edu
Major Professor:  Dr. Naidu Rayapati

Arunabha Mitra did his B. Sc. in Microbiology honours from St. Xavier’s College (Autonomous), Kolkata, India under University of Calcutta. He subsequently did his M. Sc. in Molecular Microbiology from University of Hyderabad, Telangana, India. The work he undertook in his M. Sc. project was responsible for arousing his interest in Plant virology. In that project, he worked on the molecular characterization of the p28 protein of Melon necrotic spot virus (MNSV-Hyd). He was attracted to plant virology, since viruses are one of the most intriguing microorganisms causing serious problems to humans, animals, and agriculture. When he is am able to get some time off from the lab, he loves to indulge the bibliophile in him. He absolutely loves reading. Apart from reading, he also likes to listen to music and play badminton. He will be starting his course at WSU from Spring 2016.


Marilen Nampijja
PhD; marilen.nampijja@wsu.edu
Major Professor: Dr. Lindsey du Toit

Marilen was born and raised in Masaka, Uganda in East Africa. She attended Makerere University in Uganda’s capital, Kampala, for a Bachelor of Science degree in Conservation Forestry and Production Technology. In 2015, Marilen worked with Hall Hunter Partnership, the leading soft fruit grower in the United Kingdom, after which she returned to Uganda to start passion fruit farming. Having worked in the UK and on her passion fruit farm, Marilen realized that plant diseases are among the most challenging aspects to manage in crops, and recognized the need for a better understanding of plant diseases so that she could help other farmers when she returns to her home country. In 2017, Marilen enrolled in an MS degree in Plant Science at South Dakota State University, with an emphasis in Plant Pathology. Her MS research project evaluated the efficacy of synthetic and biopesticides on bacterial leaf streak of wheat, and the influence of cultivar and environment on epiphytic bacterial diversity on wheat seeds. After completing her MS degree in 2019, Marilen worked at the North Dakota State University Williston Research & Extension Center as a laboratory technician on soilborne pathogens: Aphanomyces euteiches and Fusarium species affecting field peas, evaluating the impacts of seed treatments on commercial rhizobia inoculants, and evaluation of the relative nodulation of chickpea using different rhizobial isolates that are native to western North Dakota. Marilen started a PhD degree at Washington State University in spring 2020, based at the WSU Mount Vernon Northwestern Washington Research & Extension Center, under the supervision of Dr. Lindsey du Toit. Her dissertation project is on management of bacterial leaf spot in table beet and Swiss chard, caused by Pseudomonas syringae pv. aptata. This is part of a larger USDA NIFA Specialty Crops Research Initiative project on Pseudomonas syringae pathogens of Cucurbitaceae and Chenopodiaceae (Award No. 2019-51181-30019).


Nickisha Pierre-Pierre Nickisha Pierre-Pierre
PhD; n.pierre-pierre@wsu.edu
Major Professor:  Dr. Weidong Chen

Nickisha completed her B.S. degree as a double major in Molecular Biology/Microbiology and Biotechnology at the University of Central Florida (UCF). As an undergraduate, she worked in a Genetics lab on the Climate Change Effects on Sea Urchin Larvae. After receiving her B.S. degree she began working at MD Anderson on pancreatic cancer. Upon beginning her Masters degree at UCF, she continued working on cancer, but on the diagnosis of it. Nikisha’s thesis revolved around diagnosing prostate cancer using an assay titled NanoDLSay (nanoparticle-enabled dynamic light scattering assay). So far, this technique has been applied for quantitative detection and analysis of a wide range of chemical and biological targets. She received my Masters degree in Biomedical Science in 2015. She is currently doing research on Rhizobium and its symbiotic relationship with chickpeas for the USDA.


 

Mohammad RahmanMohammad Rahman
PhD; mohammad.rahman@wsu.edu
Major Professor:  Dr. Naidu Rayapati

Rahman, born in Bangladesh and obtained his B.Sc. in Agriculture (Hon’s) from Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University, Bangladesh and pursued his M.S degree with a major in Plant Pathology from the same University. His M.S project was Inheritance studies of molecular markers and phylogenetic relationship of rice genotypes resistant to tungro virus. After his graduation, he has been employed in Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute as a Plant pathology scientist since 2012 and he has been worked on management of Tomato yellow leaf curl virus and Cucumber mosaic virus and their vector. Rahman, was awarded BHEARD fellowship and has joined at Washington State University to pursue his PhD in Plant Pathology in spring 2016 under supervision of Dr. Naidu Rayapati. He studied on viruses infecting legumes and vegetable crops which is economical important in Bangladesh.


Ryan SolemslieRyan Solemslie
MS: ryan.solemslie@wsu.edu
Major Professor:  Dr. Lindsey du Toit

Ryan Solemslie grew up in Mount Vernon, Washington. Living in the Skagit Valley, he developed a love for agriculture starting with the work he did in his parents’ gardens and greenhouse throughout his childhood. In high school, Ryan spent time throughout the spring and summer working at a local nursery and garden center. During the summers of his college years at Washington State University, Ryan worked as a technician for Sakata Seed America, Inc., where he assisted with evaluating spinach trials, squash pollination, and packaging seed for various trials. In the spring of 2017, Ryan graduated from Washington State University with a B.S., majoring in Nursery and Greenhouse Management and minoring in Horticulture. Starting in the spring semester of 2018, Ryan enrolled as an MS student in the WSU Department of Plant Pathology. His M.S. thesis is on cold season emergence, vigor, and seedling blight in sweet corn production in the Columbia Basin of the Pacific Northwest.


 

Kayla Spawton Kayla Spawton
PhD: kayla.spawton@wsu.edu
Major Professor: Dr. Lindsey du Toit and Dr. Tobin Peever

Kayla graduated from the University of California, Davis in 2014 with a B.S. in Evolution, Ecology, and Biodiversity and a minor in Fungal Biology and Ecology. As an undergraduate, Kayla contributed to research on sudden oak death in California’s coastal forests, Cladosporium rot of table grapes, and pitch canker of Monterey pine in various faculty programs at UC-Davis. She also completed her honors thesis on the insect-gall diversity of sagebrush in the Eastern Sierras, which was published in a peer-reviewed academic journal (Environmental Entomology 44:1095-1100). After graduating, Kayla worked as a microbiologist at an agricultural biotechnology company, researching beneficial plant-associated bacteria and fungi. She then returned to UC-Davis to manage the California stream monitoring project for sudden oak death. Kayla joined Dr. Lindsey du Toit’s program at the WSU Mount Vernon NWREC in fall 2018 as a plant pathology PhD student, and is co-advised by Dr. Tobin Peever. Kayla received a fellowship from the Seattle Chapter of the ARCS Foundation, Inc. (Achievement Rewards for College Scientists). Her dissertation project is on the ecology and management of Stemphylium leaf spot of spinach.


Sajal Sthapit
PhD; sajal.sthapit@wsu.edu
Major Professor:  Dr. Deven See


Other Students Advised by Plant Pathology Faculty

Molecular Plant Science
Abigail Eaker

PhD; abigail.eaker@wsu.edu

Major Professor: Dr. Maren Friesen


 

Molecular Plant Science
Vishnutej Ellur
PhD;

Major Professor: Dr. Weidong Chen


Molecular Plant Science
Matt Marcec
PhD: matthew.marcec@wsu.edu (Visit the Profile Link for more information)
Major Professor: Dr. Kiwamu Tanaka

Matt Marcec is a PhD student in Molecular Plant Sciences and also on the NIH Biotechnology Training Program, under the guidance of Dr. Kiwamu Tanaka in the Plant Pathology department. Matt has earned an M.S. in biology from Northern Illinois University where he studied proteins of unknown function using the model organism Arabidopsis thaliana. Matt also taught two lab courses at NIU, the fundamentals of cell biology and the biology of land plants. Matt enjoys teaching and loves to study plants and plans to work in academia or industry hopefully studying how plants respond to their environment and how they can continue to feed and aid humanity. Matt also has a technical certificate in emergency medicine received from Florida College of Jacksonville where he volunteered as an EMT for three years.


Molecular Plant Science
Joel Sowders
PhD; joel.sowders@wsu.edu (Visit the Profile Link for more information)
Major Professor: Dr. Kiwamu Tanaka