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Plant Biology Graduate Students

Graduate student Sanhita ChakrabortySanhita Chakraborty

Harris Lab
sanhita.chakraborty@uvm.edu

Profile

I am from Kolkata, India. I received my Masters in Botany from the University of Calcutta, with specialization in Plant Genetics and Genomics. I have an active interest in music and reading. Recently, I have also started exploring my inchoate cooking skills in my spare time!

Research Description

I joined the Plant Biology graduate program at UVM in the fall of 2012, with a special interest in plant development, and how it is modulated by environmental factors. After two rotations, I joined the Harris lab. Currently, I am studying the process of nodulation in the model legume Medicago truncatula, in salt-stressed conditions.

Graduate student Paul CroninPaul Cronin

Preston Lab
paul.cronin@uvm.edu

Profile

I grew up in Limerick, Ireland. I received a B.A. in Plant Science from Trinity College Dublin in 2014. There, I did my final year project focused on the evolution of floral syndromes in Rhododendron. I have always had a keen interest in the evolution of plants and hope to continue this theme at UVM. My research here will focus on the evolution of sympetaly in the model organism Petunia axillaris. I love games of all kinds from board to video to table top and can often be found with a Magic the Gathering deck on my person.

Graduate student Aayudh DasAayudh Das

Preston Lab
aayudh.das@uvm.edu

Profile

Grown up in the city of joy of India i.e. Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), I completed my Bachelor’s in Botany from Presidency College, Kolkata. In the beginning of 2014, I got the opportunity to work as a Research Assistant in South Dakota State University where I worked on identifying of heat and drought stress-responsive proteins in soybean seedling proteome and also involved in pre-harvest sprouting of wheat in a metabolomic approach. Alongside, I also investigated the proteomic responses of switchgrass and prairie cordgrass to senescence. In the end of 2014, I joined Texas A&M University, College Station where I followed through my previous research and completed my Master’s in Biochemistry (2016). In addition to research, I enjoy playing acoustic guitar, singing and cooking Indian food.

Research Description

In early 2016, I joined Plant Biology graduate program as a PhD candidate and started working under Dr. Jill Preston where I worked on genomic comparison of freezing and drought stress responses across the temperate cereal grass clade Pooideae. Currently, I’m examining the physiological and genetic intersections between drought and freezing tolerance in Pooideae.

Selected Publications

1. Paudel B*, Das A*, Tran M, Boe A, Palmer N, Sarath G, Gonzalez JL, Rushton P and Rohila JS (2016). Proteomic responses of switchgrass and prairie cordgrass to senescence. Front. Plant Sci. 7:293. (*Equal Contribution) DOI:10.3389/fpls.2016.00293.

2. Das, A., Eldakak M., Paudel B., Kim D. W., Hemmati H., Basu C., & Rohila J. S (2016). Leaf Proteome Analysis Reveals Prospective Drought and Heat Stress Response Mechanisms in Soybean. Biomed research International. vol. 2016, Article ID 6021047, 23 pages. DOI:10.1155/2016/6021047

3. Das A., Paudel B., & Rohila J. S. (2015). Potentials of Proteomics in Crop Breeding. In Advances in Plant Breeding Strategies: Breeding, Biotechnology and Molecular Tools (pp. 513-537). Springer International Publishing. ISBN: 978-3-319-22521-0

More on: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Aayudh_Das2

Google scholar: https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=hLw7P68AAAAJ&hl=en&oi=ao

Graduate student Susan Fawcett.Susan Fawcett

Barrington Lab
susan.fawcett@uvm.edu

Profile

I grew up in Petoskey, Michigan and received a bachelor of fine arts and a bachelor of general studies from the University of Michigan in 2005. In 2012 I received a masters in biology from Northern Michigan University where I researched the flora and ecology of a neotropical savanna on Utila, Bay Islands, Honduras. Most recently, I worked at UC Berkeley as a freelance illustrator and employee of the UC / Jepson Herbaria. When not looking at plants, I enjoy playing old time music, drawing, snorkeling and cross country skiing.

Research Description

My first taste of field work came as an intern at the Fundacion Jardin Botanico del Orinoco, in Ciudad Bolivar, Venezuela, on a general collecting trip in the Sierra de Lema in the Venezuelan Guyana. I've since participated in research on fisheries and fungi in the Peruvian Amazon, warbler migration in Nicaragua, the flora of vernal pools in the Baja peninsula of Mexico, aquatic plants of Northern Wisconsin and on drought tolerance of vegetation on serpentine soils in California. As a member of the Barrington Lab, I will be studying the evolution of ferns. My interests include taxonomy, phylogenetics, biogeography and ecology.

Graduate student Karl FetterKarl Fetter

Keller Lab
karl.fetter@uvm.edu

Profile

I am from Greensboro, North Carolina and did my undergraduate degree at UNC-Chapel Hill, where I studied biology and German literature and researched Devonian fossil plants with Dr. Pat Gensel. After graduation, I worked for the US Forest Service and National Park Service in North Carolina and California. I returned to UNC-Chapel Hill and studied with Dr. Alan Weakley to complete my master’s degree in plant systematics. I spent about a year curating a Devonian plant collection in the Department of Paleobiology at Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, where I rekindled my enthusiasm for dead plants! I enjoy cooking, good wines, hanging out with friends, and I’m known to play bagpipes from time to time too.

Research Description

My research and work experiences have given me a deep-time perspective on the evolution of plant life, a subject that fascinates me. My work in the Keller lab revolves around the idea that natural selection works through phenotypic variation to select genotypes that are locally adapted between populations and within a species. By studying the genomes of organisms under gradients of selection, we can understand how evolution created the natural world around us. I work with the Balsam Poplar (Populus balsamifera), a widespread North American boreal forest tree that occurs in widely variable environments. I am identifying leaf phenotypes that may be under selection to produce populations with locally adapted trait optimums. My goal is to develop an integrated system for studying natural selection using leaf phenotypes and genomics so we can understand how populations of plants modulate an important organ to increase their fitness across variable environments.

Graduate student Matt GrassoMatt Grasso

Linitlhac Lab
msgrasso@uvm.edu

Profile

I was born in Rock Springs, Wyoming. I moved to Vermont when I was seven and have lived here since. I received my B.S. in Plant Biology from the University of Vermont in 2013. I did undergraduate research in the Barrington Lab working on the reproductive biology of Vermont’s Polypodium species. I enjoy skiing, playing guitar, and playing soccer.

Research Description

Plant development is unique from animals in that living cells are fixed in place and enclosed within a cell wall matrix. As an apical meristem grows divisions are made adding cells to the top of the plant body. In this sense plant development is a process of construction, and the addition of new cells is in part governed by the physical arrangement of existing ones. Assessing how mechanical inputs influence processes of cell division and differentiation is a goal of this project. In doing this we aim to create a system in which mechanical forces can be applied to isolated plant cells in a consistent manner.

Graduate student Maike HolthuijzenMaike Holthuijzen

Beckage Lab
maike.holthuijzen@uvm.edu

Profile

I am pursuing a Ph.D in Complex Systems and Data Science, and I have a diverse research and academic background. I received a BS in Ecology from the University of Idaho, where I studied the effects of burn severity on the regeneration of native and invasive species in the Pacific Northwest. I investigated the spatial association of perennial grasses and sagebrush over moisture and grazing gradients in the Great Basin ecosystem while pursuing an MS in Ecology and Utah State University. Recently, my research has focused on quantitative ecology, and I am working on finishing a study that compared the accuracies of five statistical and machine learning methods in predicting stream temperature over stream networks. I also have an MS in statistics from Utah State University. Presently, I am working on improving statistical models for climate data in the Northeastern United States.

Graduate student Suryatapa JhaSuryatapa G. Jha

Tierney Lab
suryatapa.jha@uvm.edu

Profile

My friendship with plants began when I was in high school and my mother gave me the responsibility of tending to her terrace garden. Since then, my love for plants has only increased and I gradually became more interested in how they function.

I received my M.Sc. in Botany from Presidency College, Kolkata, India in 2006. In 2012, I joined UVM Plant Biology as a graduate (PhD) student with an interest in answering questions of plant development using tools of genetics and molecular biology.

When not working, I enjoy reading, gardening and cooking.

Research Description

I am currently working in Tierney lab, studying VPS26c, a retromer subunit which plays a role in endosomal trafficking pathways. I am working to look at the expression profile of VPS26c gene in Arabidopsis, its expression in cell types and the root hair phenotypes in vps26c mutant alleles. In future, I would like to work on characterization of the protein and explain the interplay of this protein in the tip growth of Arabidopsis.

In my first year here at UVM, I also worked in Harris lab on my second rotation project studying how the nodulation in Medicago truncatula is affected by the two opposing factors, red light and high concentrations of nitrate.

During my first rotation in Preston lab, I worked towards functionally characterizing Arabidopsis Soc-1 like genes, and their evolution in Petunia flowering time pathways.

Connor Lewis

Tierney Lab
connor.lewis@uvm.edu

Profile

to come

Research Description

to come

Graduate student Giovanna Sassi.Giovanna Sassi

Harris Lab
giovanna.sassi@uvm.edu

Profile

I am from Montreal, Canada where I received a Bachelor of Science (1999), with honors, in Cellular and Molecular Biology from Concordia University and it was here where I first learned and became fascinated with the molecular communication between plants and microbes, particularly the symbioses formed with mycorrhizae in the Laurentian forest ecosystem. I pursued this interest in plant-microbe interactions during my Masters degree (2002) at the MacDonald Agricultural Campus of McGill University, Canada, where I studied the expression and translational changes that ensued when susceptible or resistant plant cultivars become infected by Potyvirus. My research interests then lead me to Cornell University (2003-2007), here I investigated the virulence role of fungal extracellular matrices on susceptible corn plants. In 2007, I joined the Harris lab at the University of Vermont and have built on my previous skill set and curiosity for symbioses as well as unexpectedly uncovered a new affinity for bioinformatics.

Research Description

I am studying the evolution of the NITRATE TRANSPORTER 1/PEPTIDE TRANSPORTER family (NPF) subfamily 1 in angiosperms and the origins of root meristem function for the eudicot-specific LATD/NIP clade. Using Bayesian and Maximum Likelihood analyses of both nucleotide and amino acid sequences from 400+ plant species, I have identified 5 monophyletic subclades (named A, B, C, D1 and D2) that comprise the NPF1 subfamily. Our MtLATD/NIP gene falls within subclade C along with orthologs from 56 other species, including sequences from 17 species of basal eudicots, indicating the appearance of an ancient LATD-like gene at least ~115 MYA. In order to determine the point at which MtLATD/NIP meristem function was acquired in the evolution of the NPF1 family, I am testing a subset of LATD/NIP orthologs, identified from diverse plant species in the phylogeny, by transforming each of the cloned orthologs into the Medicago latd mutant, defective for both root and nodule meristem function, then asking whether the ortholog is able to restore the mutant phenotype to normal. In this way, we will be able to test the meristem function of these orthologs in nodulating and non-nodulating taxa and ask whether the acquisition of meristem function predates the origins of nodulating plant species.

Selected Publications

UVM Students inspire through actions big and small. Burlington Free Press, January 31, 2010. http://www.uvm.edu/cals/pdfs/publications/Jan10.GSassiGreenHouse.pdf

Zhou, F.S., Mosher, S., Tian, M.Y., Sassi, G., Parker, J. and Klessig, D.F. 2008. The Arabidopsis gain-of-function mutant ssi4 requires RAR1 and SGT1b differentially for defense activation and morphological alterations. Mol Plant Microbe In 21: 40-49

Evolution of the NITRATE TRANSPORTER 1/PEPTIDE TRANSPORTER family (NPF) subfamily 1 in angiosperms and origins of the eudicot-specific LATD/NIP clade. Poster and Presentation Abstract, 2014. University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 12th Plant Biology Symposium - "Evolution of Plant Form and Function: Insights from the Integration of Development, Ecology and Genetics" and the New England Workshop on Symbiosis.

Graduate student Morgan Southgate.Morgan Southgate

Barrington Lab
morgan.southgate@uvm.edu

Profile

I grew up just outside of Montpelier, VT, and spent most of my time when not in school exploring the forests both around my house and the larger areas of wilderness in the Green Mountains. After graduating high school, I traveled across the US for half a year visiting different national parks and wilderness preserves. I was set to begin at UVM the following fall in the Environmental Science program, but realized during my travels that I wanted to focus my education around plants specifically. I began my Plant Biology major at UVM in 2013, and was quickly drawn in by the detailed education I received about plants from systematic, evolutionary, physiological, and ecological perspectives, as it provided the perfect complement to my pre-existing personal relationship with plants developed from a lifetime spent in the woods. During my undergraduate career, I worked at the Pringle Herbarium and the Proctor Maple Research Center, and joined the Barrington Fern Systematics lab. I focused my undergraduate research on the ecology and biogeography of the Adiantum pedatum complex, a clade of maidenhair ferns here in VT. This research captivated me so thoroughly that I decided to continue this research as a graduate student here at UVM.

Research Description

I am a MS student in the Barrington Lab, and my primary interest is plant ecology. My current research on the ecology of the Adiantum pedatum complex focuses on characterizing the ecological niche of the three species which comprise the clade, including two diploid progenitors and their tetraploid hybrid, and on understanding how the hybrid ancestry of the tetraploid hybrid A. viridimontanum is reflected in its ecological preferences. In the future, I intend to continue learning about why plants grow where they do, and especially about the importance of substrate in shaping plant distribution. Ultimately, I plan to apply this knowledge towards wilderness conservation and ecosystem remediation.

Graduate student Berke Tinaz.Berke Tinaz

Harris Lab
berke.tinaz@uvm.edu

Profile

I graduated from Skidmore College in Upstate New York where I majored in Biology and minored in Mathematics in 2016. During my time at Skidmore, I worked in Dr. David Domozych’s lab for all of my 4 years where I was introduced to plants. While there, I worked with the unicellular green alga Penium margaritaceum. We worked on Penium margaritaceum’s cell wall and developing it as a single cell plant model system. In my free time, I like working out and watching sports.

Selected Publications

Ochs J, LaRue T, Tinaz B, Yongue C, Domozych DS. The cortical cytoskeletal network and cell-wall dynamics in the unicellular charophycean green alga Penium margaritaceum. Annals of Botany. 5 March 2014.

Emily L. Larson, Mary L. Tierney, Berke Tinaz, David S Domozych. Using monoclonal antibodies to label living root hairs: a novel tool for studying cell wall microarchitecture and dynamics in Arabidopsis. Plant Methods. 2 October 2014

Graduate student Brittany Verrico.Brittany Verrico

Keller Lab
brittany.verrico@uvm.edu

Profile

I am from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where I received a B.A. in Biology and German from Washington & Jefferson College. My interest in plants began in high school while making a plant scrapbook that creatively explained the life cycle of a tree and I have since followed my intellectual curiosity of plants. My undergraduate research focused on plant ecology and vegetative phenology. As an intern in Dr. John Parker’s lab at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC), I investigated how phenotype, phylogenetic similarity, and introduced status influences community assembly. I enjoy hiking, photography, reading, cooking, and crafting.

Research Description

My academic interests lie at the confluence of population genetics, ecology, climate change, and forest tree biology. As a graduate student in the Keller Lab, I seek to understand how gene flow and selection structure genetic diversity and adaptation across fine-scale environmental and climatic gradients. I am using the boreal tree red spruce (Picea rubens) as a focal species, which is a dominant component of high elevation northeastern forests. I am also using a 50-year chronosequence to analyze forest community change and the upslope shift of the boreal-deciduous forest ecotone in the Green Mountains, VT.

Click here to meet the Field Naturalist students.

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