Students

Students

2008 Trainees (Cohort 1)

Butterfield, Timothy
530-752-5325 (Robbins)

530-754-7521 (PES)
tsbutterfield@ucdavis.edu
Dandekar Laboratory, 170 Robbins Hall
Putnam Laboratory, 2243 Plant and Environmental Sciences
Department of Plant Sciences, Plant Biology Graduate Group

Research Focus: Environmental Sustainability

Tim is pursuing research that will lead to new strategies for agronomic crop improvement in alfalfa. Specifically, his doctoral work will investigate whether increased Tannic acid and Gallic acid may function as Integrative Pest Management tools. We hypothesize that these metabolites confer herbivory deterrence against alfalfa weevil and army worms – the greatest insect pests in California agricultural fields. The findings of this research may result in reduced pesticide applications in California alfalfa fields – improving farm worker safety, safeguarding water supplies, and reducing the death of non-target insect species.

Chiniquy, Dawn
510-495-2459 (JBEI)

dmchiniquy@ucdavis.edu
Joint BioEnergy Institute, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab
Ronald Laboratory, 225 Robbins Hall
Department of Plant Pathology, Plant Biology Graduate Group

Research Focus: Biofuels & Biorefineries

Gaining a greater understanding of the enzymes that build the plant cell wall may lead to improved feedstocks that make a cheaper, more efficient biofuel. Dawn focuses on characterizing genes in rice that build the cell wall and whether these genes could be altered for an improved feedstock for biofuels.

Glavan, Tiffany
530-752-3542
twglavan@ucdavis.edu
Dandekar Laboratory, 5605A GBSF
Department of Medical Microbiology & Immunology, Microbiology Graduate Group

Research Focus: Plant-Made Products

Tiffany’s project is focused on the development of plant-derived therapeutic proteins to treat gastrointestinal dysfunction through the regeneration and renewal of the epithelial layer of the gut mucosa. She is collaborating with multiple groups on campus in an effort to express the protein in N.benthamiana and evaluate its activity in epithelial cell culture.

Lindenmuth, Ben
530-754-9452
ben.lindenmuth@gmail.com
McDonald Laboratory, 3069 Bainer Hall
Department of Chemical Engineering & Materials Science, Chemical Engineering Graduate Program

Research Focus: Biofuels & Biorefineries

Ben’s research is focused on the development of an inducible plant-based expression system for the production of cellulose degrading enzymes. He is investigating the expression and localization of these enzymes in planta, as well as their potential use in an exogenously applied biomass pre-treatments.

Simmons, Chris
530-752-0764
cwsimmons@ucdavis.edu
VanderGheynst Laboratory, 1339 Bainer Hall
Department of Biological & Agricultural Engineering

PhD Awarded in September 2011
Biological Systems Engineering with a Designated Emphasis in BiIotechnology

Research Focus: Plant-Made Products

Efficient, high-level transformation of leaf tissues is required for utilizing harvested plant tissue as an expression host for the production of recombinant proteins. Chris’s research seeks understand the fate of the plant-transforming pathogen Agrobacterium tumefaciens once it enters harvested leaf tissue with the ultimate goal of improving plant transformation efficiency through manipulation of variables affecting bacteria/plant cell interactions.

2009 Trainees (Cohort 2)

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Arzola, Lucas
530-754-9452
larzola@ucdavis.edu
McDonald Laboratory, 3069 Bainer Hall
Department of Chemical Engineering & Materials Science, Chemical Engineering Graduate Program

Research Focus: Plant-Made Products

The constant threat of bioterrorism and the recent H1N1 flu pandemic highlight the importance of developing the rapid, scalable, and cost-effective production of therapeutic agents. Recent advances in the field of plant biotechnology have made possible the use of plants as cost-effective biofactories of therapeutic proteins. Lucas’ research focuses on the development of a plant based transient expression system in tobacco plants, for the production of an anthrax receptor decoy protein that can mitigate the effects of anthrax.

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Castillo, Elenor
530-752-5325 (Robbins)
530-752-8069 (Wickson)
elecastillo@ucdavis.edu
Dandekar Laboratory, 170 Robbins
Negre-Zakarov Laboratory, 1048 Wickson Hall
Department of Plant Sciences, Plant Biology Graduate Group

Research Focus: Environmental Sustainability

Elenor’s project focuses on elucidating the metabolic pathways that underlie production of aromatic volatiles in fruits, which has direct commercial application in extending fruit shelf-life. On a broader scale, understanding the role of volatile chemical signals within and between plants in field populations may also play a part in increasing crop yields/biomass, engineering insect and pathogen resistance, and fine-tuning other agronomic and quality-related crop traits.

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Elmore, James Mitch
530-752-7231
jmelmore@ucdavis.edu
Coaker Laboratory, 210 Hutchison Hall
Department of Plant Pathology, Plant Biology Graduate Group

Research Focus: Environmental Sustainability

Innovative strategies for sustainable disease control in agriculture can be developed by understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying plant-pathogen interactions. Mitch’s research seeks to identify the plant targets and virulence mechanisms of proteins essential to the lifestyle of phytopathogenic bacteria.

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Kerwin, Rachel
530-752-7648
rekerwin@ucdavis.edu
Kliebenstein Laboratory, 127 Asmundson Hall
Department of Plant Sciences, Plant Biology Graduate Group

Research Focus: Environmental Sustainability

Rachel seeks to understand the metabolic pathways underlying glucosinolate production in plants. She will characterize nine genes involved in glucosinolate metabolism and investigate glucosinolate’s potential as plant-made product to deter herbivory in the field.

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Wolf, Mark
530-754-5234
mwolf17@gmail.com
Parales Laboratory, 225 Briggs Hall
Department of Microbiology, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology Graduate Group

Research Focus: Biofuels & Biorefineries

Mark will characterize a number of lignocellulose-degrading enzymes isolated from Acidothermus cellulolyticus, a hot springs microorganism isolated in Yellowstone National Park. His goal is to identify thermostable enzymes appropriate for use in the production of biofuels and industrial chemicals.

2010 Trainees (Cohort 3)

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Benn, Geoff
530-752-8190
gkbenn@ucdavis.edu
Dehesh Laboratory, 1203 Life Sciences
Department of Plant Biology, Plant Biology Graduate Group

Research Focus: Environmental Sustainability

Geoff is working on plant signaling and environmental stress responses. Understanding the underlying mechanisms of plant responses to environmental cues, both biotic and abiotic, will aid in engineering crop stress tolerance and increasing yields.

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Bjornson, Marta
530-752-8190 (Dehesh Lab)
530-752-5325 (Dandekar Lab)
mlbjornson@ucdavis.edu
Dehesh Laboratory, 1203 Life Sciences
Dandekar Laboratory, 1058 Wickson Hall
Department of Plant Biology and Department of Plant Sciences, Horticulture and Agronomy Graduate Group

Research Focus: Environmental Sustainability

Marta is looking at the potential signaling role of arachidonic acid in eliciting plant-stress responses. Recently it has been demonstrated that this fatty acid modulates plant responses to a range of pathogens through alteration of jasmonic acid and salicylic acid stress responsive pathways. Marta’s project will elucidate various components of arachidonic acid-mediated plant stress perception and response networks. Her findings have the potential of discovering novel strategies to enhance plant resistance to pests.

2011 Trainees (Cohort 4)

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Gillespie, Hyrum
530-752-5325
hgillespie@ucdavis.edu
Dandekar Laboratory, 170 Robbins Hall
Department of Plant Sciences, Genetics Graduate Group

Research Focus: Environmental Sustainability

Hyrum will be developing biomarkers for disease identification in vector-borne citrus diseases, Huanglongbing (HLB) and Citrus Variegated Chlorosis (CVC). In addition to developing robust methods of monitoring disease progression, he will engineer and express a chimeric antimicrobial protein (CAP) in transgenic citrus rootstocks with the goal of developing disease-resistant trees.

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Harkenrider, Mitch
530-752-7834
mharkenrider@ucdavis.edu
Ronald Lab, 225 Robbins Hall
Department of Plant Pathology, Plant Biology Graduate Group

Research Focus: Biofuels & Biorefineries

Mitch’s research is focused on identification and characterization of genes responsible for biotic and abiotic stress response and resistance in switchgrass, a crop for cellulosic biofuel feedstocks. Understanding these networks is a crucial step in order to optimize the crop for use in the field.

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Lemos, Mark
530-754-9452
mslemos@ucdavis.edu
McDonald Laboratory, 3069 Bainer Hall
Department of Chemical Engineering & Materials Science, Plant Biology Graduate Group

Research Focus: Plant-Made Products

Mark’s research involves the expression of cellulose degrading enzymes in duckweed. Ultimately, Mark is interested in development of duckweed as a scalable biomass crop and as a system for the production of biofuels and high value plant-made products, such as nutraceuticals and pharmaceuticals.

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O’Dell, Patrick
530-752-5009
pjodell@ucdavis.edu
Jeoh Laboratory, 1338 Bainer Hall
Department of Biological & Agricultural Engineering, Biological Systems Engineering Graduate Program

Research Focus: Biofuels & Biorefineries

Patrick’s work concerns the molecular interactions between cellulose and cellulose-hydrolyzing enzymes. This research will use multiple types of high resolution microscopy, including confocal microscopy and atomic force microscopy, to study the kinetic mechanisms of cellulose hydrolysis by cellulases.

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Vonasek, Erica
530-752-1192
elvonasek@ucdavis.edu
Nitin Laboratory, Robert Mondavi Institute South Hall 2221
Department of Biological & Agricultural Engineering, Biological Systems Engineering Graduate Program

Research Focus: Biofuels & Biorefineries

Erica has expertise in biopolymer design for the controlled release of bacteriophages and is developing optical imaging systems to monitor the distribution of bacteria and viruses within plant tissues. Her work will have applications across all three focus areas, with emphasis on the use of bacteriophages as biocontrol agents in food and agricultural systems.

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Worden, Natasha
530-752-1664
nnworden@ucdavis.edu
Drakakaki Laboratory, 204 Asmundson Hall Department of Plant Sciences, Plant Biology Graduate Group

Research Focus: Biofuels & Biorefineries

Natasha is studying the endomembrane trafficking processes involved in cell wall biosynthesis using a chemical genomics approach, which involves using small molecules to alter cell wall and trafficking phenotypes. Cell walls are important in the production of cellulosic ethanol and studying their biosynthesis can lead to improved biofuel feedstocks.

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Zeng, Tracy
530-754-8139
cjzeng@ucdavis.edu
Liu Lab, 2203 Life Sciences
Department of Plant Biology, Microbiology Graduate Group

Research Focus: Environmental Sustainability

Tracy will identify components that are important for triggering the onset of cell wall formation using Aspergillus nidulans as a model organism. The goal of her studies is to design novel approaches aimed at manipulating filamentous fungi better suited for applications like fermentation and bioremediation

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Zicari, Steve
530-754-9530
szicari@ucdavis.edu
Zhang Lab, 1350 Bainer Hall
Department of Biological & Agricultural Engineering, Biological Systems Engineering Graduate Program

Research Focus: Biofuels & Biorefineries

Steve’s research aims to better characterize Energy Beet non-sucrose compositions, study their affects on conversion to fuels and optimize downstream processing steps. Opportunities for upstream genetic plant modifications will also be identified. Steve’s research will be conducted as a larger collaborative UCD research effort lead by Dr. Ruihong Zhang aimed at developing advanced biomass and conversion systems for producing biofuels and coproducts with Energy Beets and saline tolerant crops as core feedstocks.

Tuskegee University Trainees

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Gales, Dominique N.
IBS Program, Yates Laboratory
Department of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, Tuskegee University

Research Focus: Plant-Made Products

Dominique’s primary motives are to contribute to the field of oncology and natural agents. She is currently working on the development of natural agents such as Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) for the drug treatment of Human Prostate cancer cells. This natural agent is a succulent plant found in the subtropical and Mediterranean areas. It is a rich source of polyphenols, vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids. These nutrients have been shown to have positive impact on the reduction of risk factors associated with cardiovascular diseases, and may be effective against proliferation of cancer cells.

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Lateef, Dalya
IBS Program, Bovell-Benjamin Laboratory
College of Agricultural, Environmental, and Natural Sciences
College of Veterinary Medicine and Allied Health, Tuskegee University

Research Focus: Plant-Made Products

Dalya is looking at the role of the enteric nervous system in the short term control of food intake by cholecystokinin. Recent projects include the investigation of candidate genes in the development of holoprosencephaly (HPE). HPE is a brain malformation that is caused by incomplete cleavage of the prosencephalon.

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Miller, Sonni-Ali
IBS Program, Martinez Laboratory
College of Agricultural, Environmental, and Natural Sciences
College of Veterinary Medicine and Allied Health, Tuskegee University

Research Focus: Plant-Made Products

Sonni is interested in multi-faceted research concerning interactions between nutrition and cytological behavior, specifically in energy nutrient metabolism. He is characterizing specific biomarkers in atherosclerosis as a result of differences in lipid metabolism. He is also investigating the efficacy of peptide fragments as treatments effecting plaque formation in various rodent models.

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Odom, LaKisha
IBS Program, Ankumah Soil and Water Quality Laboratory
College of Agricultural, Environmental and Natural Sciences &
College of Veterinary, Nursing, and Allied Health, Tuskegee University

PhD Awarded in May 2011

Research Focus: Environmental Sustainability

Evaluating through field trials, the efficacy of a transgenic cotton plant which has been transformed with a synthetic antimicrobial peptide, D4E1, on the progression of cotton seedling disease, soil microbial diversity and enzymatic activity.

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Samuels, Steven B.
IBS Program, Egnin Laboratory
College of Agricultural, Environmental and Natural Sciences, Tuskegee University

Research Focus: Plant-Made Products

Steven is working on the development of transgenic sweetpotato lines expressing synthetic lytic peptides, for potential therapeutic uses. In addition to developing transgenic plants for the biomanufacture of drugs and vaccines in developing countries, Steven is interested in the use of transgenic plants to increase yields and nutrient levels of staple crops.

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Shange, Raymon S.
IBS Program, Ankumah Soil and Water Quality Laboratory & Zabawa Laboratory
College of Agricultural, Environmental, and Natural Sciences, Tuskegee University

PhD Awarded in May 2011

Research Focus: Environmental Sustainability

Raymon’s research has directed him into the area of metagenomics and bioinformatics. His future concerns in research include the characterizations of microbial populations in differing environments, and their transcriptomic and proteomic responses to human influence (natural resources communities as well as organismal mutualisms). He retains an avid interest in the interface between science, the humanities, and society and hopes to be able to venture into this area in the future as well. He maintains his interests and completes lectures in Environmental Justice, Environmental Sustainability, Environmental Ethics, and the Philosophy of Nature.

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