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Washington State University Molecular Plant Sciences

Recent MPS Graduates

Jared Bell

PhD: Spring 2013
Advisor: Burke
Department: CSS
Current: Dow Agro Sciences


Dissertation: Biochemical and Genetic Characterization of Rubber Production in prickly lettuce (Lactuca serriola L.)

Jared's main research interest was characterization of rubber biosynthesis in prickly lettuce (Lactuca serriola) a common, troublesome weed found throughout North America. Prickly lettuce produces long chain polyisoprene (rubber) in specialized vascular tissues called laticifers. Jared's research included: 1.characterize variation in rubber content and quality between collected biotypes, 2. identify genes or QTL responsible for rubber production, 3.begin to develop possible germplasm or breeding lines and, 4.analyze the physical properties of prickly lettuce rubber as compared to current natural rubber sources. The long term goal is to test the feasibility of making this common, drought tolerant, disease and herbicide resistant weed an alternative source of natural rubber.

He was also fortunate to work in the development and evaluation of a new experimental herbicide being developed by Dupont called Aminocyclopyrachlor. Using radiolabelled herbicide tracers, we have studied the absorption and translocation of various formulations on broadleaf weed species when applied to leaves. Woody tree species have also been studied using both foliar and basal bark applications. The goal is to describe how this herbicide behaves physiologically in different species to determine optimal application rates and methods.
Amber Hauvermale

Email: ahauvermale@wsu.edu
PhD: Fall 2012
Advisor: Steber
Department: CSS
Current: Associate in Research, Crop & Soil Sciences, WSU


Dissertation: The Role of the Plant GA Normone Receptor GID1 in Controlling Seed Germination in Arabidopsis thaliana

GA signaling, and the mechanisms controlling after-ripening in seeds. Amber completed a masters at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and the project was to characterize the novel fatty acid synthase involved in fatty acid production in Schizochytrium sp.
Aytung Tuncel

PhD: Summer 2013
Advisor: Okita
Department: IBC
Current: Postdoctoral Scientist-Metabolic Biology, John Innes Centre

Dissertation: Allosteric Regulation of the Rice Endosperm ADP-Glucose Pyrophosporylase

Regulation of starch metabolism in developing rice endosperm.
Structure-function relationship of starch regulatory enzyme, ADPglucose pyrophosphorylase.
Berkley Walker

PhD: Spring 2013
Advisor: Cousins
Department: SBS
Current: Employed at USDA, Agricultural Research Services, Photosynthesis Research Unit

Dissertation: Determining the Response of Leaf Photosynthetic Carbon Metabolism and Energy Balance to Changes in Temperature, C02 and Nitrogen Form

PhD research: Berkley used biochemical models to unravel the basic physiology of leaf photosynthesis. He focused on photorespiration and the budget of carbon under elevated temperatures. He is moved into addressing the mechanisms the plant uses to match photosynthetic production of energy with demand.

Current Research: Crop plants currently use about 2% of the sun's energy to convert CO2 to biomass under ideal conditions. This 2% is only one-third of the theoretical maximum efficiency for photosynthesis. I am working on ways to increase realized photosynthetic conversion efficiency through aggressive re-engineering of core photosynthesis components. I use a model-led approach ranging from the impact of lighter-green leaves to improved schemes for reducing the energy demand pf photorespiration.

Publications:

Berkley Walker, Deserah D. Strand, David M. Kramer, Asaph B. Cousins. The response of cyclic electron flow around photosystem I to changes in photorespiration and nitrate assimilation. Plant Physiology. (2014)

Wei Sun, Nerea Ubierna, Jian-Ying Ma, Berkley Walker, David M. Kramer, Asaph B. Cousins. The coordination of C4 photosynthesis and the CO2 concentrating mechanism in Zea mays and Miscanthus × giganteus in response to transient changes in light quality. Plant Physiology. (2014)

Berkley Walker, Lorenzo Ariza, Sarah Kaines, Murray Badger, Asaph Cousins. Comparison of Rubisco in vivo kinetics and mesophyll conductance between Arabidopsis thaliana and Nicotiana tobacum. Plant, Cell & Environment (2013)

Berkley Walker, Asaph Cousins. The influence of temperature on measurements of the CO2 compensation point: Differences between the Laisk and O2 exchange methods. Journal of Experimental Botany (2013)
Diwaker Tripathi

Email: diwaker.tripathi@wsu.edu
PhD: Spring 2014
Advisor: Pappu
Department: Pl Path
Current: Post-Doc in Plant Pathology

Dissertation: In Vivo Localization and Interaction Studies of Tospovirus (Genus: Tospovirus; family: Bunyaviridae)

Diwaker joined the MPS program at WSU in 2010. Diwaker's research focused on understanding the protein interaction patterns among viruses and their response to chemical inducers of plant defense. He used tospoviruses as a model system and BiFC technique to understand the interaction patterns of viral proteins. A long term goal of his research is to develop an efficient molecular strategy for controlling the damages caused by pathogens in the field.
Jacob Blauer

PhD: Spring 2013
Advisor: Knowles
Department: HORT
Current: Research Scientist and breeder - Forage Genetics

Dissertation: Factors Affecting Tuber Ascorbate Content, Physiological Age, Tuber Set and Size Distribution in Potato (Solanum tuberosum L.)

PhD research: Physiological aging in seed potatoes and Vitamin C regulation in potatoes during development and storage.

I am currently employed as the Agronomy Scientist Manager in the R&D sector with J.R. Simplot Co. - Plant Sciences. My responsibilities are generally two-fold: (1) Member of the discovery/leadership team with 5 other scientists to plan, design, and leverage research opportunities to discover new traits and develop biotech potatoes for the fresh and frozen markets. Our traits focus on various sectors of the potato industry and are targeted towards benefits for growers, processors, and consumers alike. These traits include; reduced waste, reduced inputs, disease resistance, improved shelf-life, and improved health benefits. (2) Manage the Whole Plant Team and all research projects in the R&D greenhouses and research fields. This position requires both management of personnel and experimental design/analysis. Additional, it provides significant opportunities to stream-line production and research to leverage more data and product with fewer resources and reduced inputs. While I get the opportunity to work with researchers both nationally and globally from academia and other companies, I also have the opportunity to pursue my own research interests which are generally around: disease resistance, variety development, processing improvements, postharvest attributes, and texture/flavor.

Blauer, J.M., L.O. Knowles, G.N.M. Kumar, A. Dhingra, and N.R. Knowles. 2013. Changes in ascorbate and associated gene expression during development and storage of potato tubers (Solanum tuberosum L.). Postharvest Biology and Technology. 78: 76-91.

Blauer, J.M., L.O.Knowles, and N.R. Knowles. 2013. Evidence that tuber respiration is the pacemaker of physiological aging in seed potatoes (Solanum tuberosum L.). Journal of Plant Growth Regulation. 32 (4): 708-720.

Blauer, J.M., L.O. Knowles, and N.R. Knowles. 2012. Manipulating Stem Number, Tuber Set and Size Distribution in Specialty Potato Cultivars. American Journal of Potato Research. 90 (5): 470-496.
Jeremy Jewell

Email: jbjewell@wsu.edu
PhD: Spring 2014
Advisor: Browse
Department: IBC
Current: Post-Doc IBC

Dissertation: Jasmonate Metabolism and Signaling in Abiotic Stress and Male Reproductive Development

Jeremy received a bachelor's degree in cell biology with a chemistry minor at Montana State University. He discovered that plants are cool and did a master's in plant science (quantitative trait loci mapping of barley quality traits) also at MSU. Jeremy worked with John Browse on jasmonate signaling and metabolism.

Publications:
Bhosale R*, Jewell JB*, Hollunder J, Koo AJ, Vuylsteke M, Michoel T, Hilson P, Goossens A, Howe GA, Browse J, Maere S. (*contributed equally). Predicting Gene Function from Uncontrolled Expression Variation among Individual Wild-Type Arabidopsis Plants. Plant Cell. 2013 Aug;25(8):2865-77.

Bates PD, Jewell JB, Browse J. Rapid separation of developing Arabidopsis seeds from siliques for RNA or metabolite analysis. Plant Methods, 2013 Mar 26;9(1):9.
Jianfei Zhao

PhD: Fall 2013
Advisor: Neff
Department: CSS
Current: Post-Doc at University of Pennsylvania


Dissertation: Functional and Phylogenetic Analysis of the At-Hook Motif Nuclear Localized Gene Family in Land Plants

Jianfei's research project was with a family of DNA-binding proteins in Arabidopsis thaliana.
Joo Hyun Lee

PhD: Fall 2014
Advisor: Hellmann
Department: SBS
Current: Post-Doc Seoul National University, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences


Dissertation: Functional Impacts of Arabidopsis thaliana Math-BTB/POZ Proteins on the ERF/AP2 Transcription Factor

Research Interests: Molecular Biology, protein-protein interaction, signal transduction pathway, abiotic stress tolerance
Joseph Lynch

PhD: Summer 2013
Advisor: Roje
Department: IBC
Current: Post-Doc Biochemistry, Purdue University

Dissertation: Characterization of Enzymes Involved in Flavin Cofactor Metabolism

Joseph's thesis project looks at flavin cofactor metabolism in plants. Through both in vivo and in vitro approaches, he worked identifying the enzymes responsible for synthesis and degradation of FMN and FAD, and determining how they ensure sufficient levels of these critical cofactors throughout the plant cell.
Nuan Wen

Email: nuan.wen@email.wsu.edu
PhD: Summer 2014
Advisor: vonWettstein
Department: CSS
Current: Associate CSS, WSU

Dissertation: Celiac-Safe Wheat, Reaching One Objective by Two Approaches, Gluten Elimination by Random and Site-Directed Mutagenesis, and Detoxification by Ectopic Expression of 'Glutenases'

Nuan came from northeast China to work on celiac safe wheat in Dr. Diter von Wettstein's group.
Rhoda Araba Tawiah Brew-Appiah

Email: brewappr@wsu.edu
PhD: Summer 2014
Advisor: Von Wettstein
Department: CSS
Current: Associate CSS, WSU

Dissertation: Epigenetic and Post-transcriptional Elimination of Celiac Causing Wheat Storage Proteins

Rhoda earned a BA in Biochemistry/Molecular Biology from Reed College in Portland, Oregon. Then worked for a year as a research assistant at Oregon Health and Sciences University in Portland, Oregon. Her research focus has been on silencing the Celiac-causing epitopes in bread wheat.
Scott Schaeffer

Email: smschaeffer@wsu.edu
PhD: Fall 2013
Advisor: Dhingra
Department: HORT
Current: Research associate at Baylor College of Medicine - studying genetic factors involved in plant nutrient bioavailability

Dissertation: Genomics and Morpho-Developmental Characterization of Plastids in Rosaceae

Scott's research aimed to use genomics approaches to find novel genes encoding plastid targeted proteins in members of the Rosaceae family and link those to potentially new plastid functions. Scott also functionally characterizing two plastid-localized calcium transporters from apple which may be involved in controlling senescence and possibly Bitter pit, a physiological disorder in apple.
Stefanie Tietz

PhD: Spring 2014
Advisor: Kirchhoff
Department: IBC
Current: Michigan State University - East Lansing

Dissertation: Understanding Structural Flexibility of Photosynthetic Membranes

Stefanie studied photosynthesis. Worked on understanding the function of a stress induced switch from a random to a highly-ordered semi-crystalline state in photosynthetic membranes. Her hypothesis for the arrangement is that plants developed this strategy to facilitate molecular diffusion processes in crowded photosynthetic membranes.
Tyson Koepke

PhD: Fall 2012
Advisor: Dhingra
Department: HORT
Current: Director of Operations at Phytelligence, Inc.

Dissertation: Linking Genes and Physiology Utilizing Genomics and Transcriptomics Approaches in Sweet Cherry (Prunus Avium)

Growing up on his family farm, Tyson was always intrigued about how plants work in ever changing environments on the farm. This primary observation established a strong desire in him to learn how to make crop plants better for increased yields. To pursue this passion, he completed his bachelors degree in Plant Biotechnology from Montana State University. He continued to explore this field through his Ph. D. research with Dr. Amit Dhingra which leverages genomics and transcriptomics approaches to unravel interesting and agronomically important, physiological traits. One such intriguing trait is the impact of a rootstock on scion performance in perennial crops. In sweet cherry, the rootstock is known to control scion yield by up to 10-fold and his dissertation is focused on understanding which genes of the scion, or fruit producing variety, are modulated by the rootstock to control flower number. Tyson also enjoyed the opportunity to help train and mentor many undergraduates in the Dhingra Lab.
R_SharpeRichard Sharpe

Email: rsharpe@wsu.edu
PhD: Fall 2014
Advisor: Edwards
Department: SBS
Current: Post-Doc Horticulture, WSU

Dissertation: Gene Expression Profiling in Single Cell C4 and Related Photosynthetic Species in Suaedoidea

Rick's interests included gene expression, chloroplasts and photosynthesis. Unraveling the transcriptome differences between a unique single-cell C4 photosynthetic type higher plant Bienertia sinuspersici and its Kranz C4 photosynthetic type relations was his major focus.

Publications: Sharpe, RM and Offermann, S. 2013. One decade after the discovery of single-cell C4 species in terrestrial plants - What did we learn about the minimal requirements of C4 photosynthesis? Photosynthesis Research, March 14. DOI: 10.1007/s11120-013-9810-9.

Kirchhoff H, Sharpe RM, Herbstoval M, Yardbrough R, Edwards GE. 2012 Differential Mobility of Pigment-Protein Complexes in Granal and Agranal Thylakoid Membranes of C3 and C4 Plants. Plant Physiology. 161, 1, 497-507. DOI: 10.1104/pp.112.207548.

Sharpe RM, Mahajan A, Takacs EM, Stern DB, Cahoon AB. 2011. Developmental and cell type characterization of bundle sheath and mesophyll chloroplast transcript abundance in maize. Curr Genet

Cahoon AB, Sharpe RM, Thompson EJ, Ward AD, Mysayphonh C, Linn A. (2010) The complete chloroplast genome of tall fescue (Lolium arundinaceum; Poaceae) and comparison of whole plastomes from the family Poaceae. American Journal of Botany 97:49-58. DOI: 10.3732/ajb.0900008.

Sharpe RM, Dunn SN, Cahoon AB. 2008 A Plastome Primer Set for Comprehensive Quantitative Real Time RT-PCR Analysis of Zea mays: A Starter Primer Set for Other Poaceae Species. Plant Methods 4:14. DOI: 10.1186/1746-4811-4-14.

Cahoon AB, Takacs EM, Sharpe RM, Stern DB. 208. Nuclear, chloroplast, and mitochondrial transcript abundance along a maize leaf development gradient. Plant Mol Biol. 66, 1-2, 33-46 DOI: 10.1007/s11103-007-9250-z.

Farone M, Sharpe R. 2007. Smooth and Rough Colony Variants of Shigella sonnei on Congo Red Agar. Journal of Microbiooty & Biology Education. American Society for Microbiology.
R_TayengwaReuben Tayengwa

Email: rtayengwa@wsu.edu
PhD: Spring 2015
Advisor: Neff
Department: CSS
Current: Post-Doc, CCS, WSU

Dissertation: Molecular Genetic Analysis of Two Plant-Specific Gene Families, SOFL and AHL, in Arabidopsis Thaliana

Worked in the Neff lab where the lab identified a family of three plant-specific proteins in Arabidopsis (SOB5, AtSOFL1 and AtSOFL2) which, when over-expressed, increase levels of specific cytokinins. These proteins have no known function. I am currently using a combination of molecular genetics and biochemical tools to investigate the biological function of these three proteins.
S_NelsonSven Nelson

Email: sven.nelson100@email.wsu.edu
PhD: Spring 2015
Advisor: Camille Steber
Department: CSS
Current: USDA, University of Missouri, Columbia

Dissertation: Transcriptomic and hormonal analyses to elucidate the control of Arabidopsis seed dormancy

Sven completed his PhD in the lab of Dr. Camille M. Steber where he investigated the role of GA signaling in Arabidopsis seed dormancy. GA (gibberellin) is a phytohormone that functions antagonistically to ABA (abscisic acid) with regards to seed dormancy; whereas ABA is involved in the onset and maintenance of seed dormancy, GA functions to stimulate seed germination. Prior to entering graduate school at WSU he was a research technician in the laboratory of Dr. Stanley Fields who is well known for his development of the yeast 2-hybrid technique for detecting protein-protein interactions. Prior to that he was living in Japan as an English teacher which is also where he met his wife, Shoko.

Publications: Ariizumi, T., Hauvermale, A. L., Nelson, S. K., Hanada, A., Yamaguchi, S., and Steber, C. M. (2013). Lifting DELLA repression of Arabidopsis seed germination by nonproteolytic gibberellin signaling. Plant Physiol 162 (4), 2125–2139.

Shramm, E.C., Nelson, S.K., Kidwell, K., and Steber, C.M. (2012) Increased ABA sensitivity results in higher seed dormancy in soft white spring wheat cultivar 'Zak'. Theor Appl Genet 126 (3), 791-803.

Schramm, E.C., Nelson, S.K., and Steber, C.M. (2012). Wheat ABA-insensitive mutants result in reduced grain dormancy. Euphytica 188: 35-49.

Fowler, D.M., Cooper, S.J., Stephany, J.J., Hendon, N., Nelson, S., and Fields, S. (2010). Suppression of statin effectiveness by copper and zinc in yeast and human cells. Mol. BioSyst 7: 533-544.

Cooper, S.J., Finney, G.L., Brown, S.L., Nelson, S.K., Hesselberth, J., Maccoss, M., and Fields, S. (2010). High-throughput profiling of amino acids in strains of the Saccharomyces cerevisiae deletion collection. Genome Res 20: 1288-1296.
R_KaurRamonjot Kaur

Email: ramanjot.kaur@wsu.edu
PhD: Summer 2015
Advisor: Gill
Department: CSS
Current: Research Associate

Dissertation: Understanding and Utilizing Chromosome Pairing Control in Polyploid Wheat

Ramanjot received her B.S from Punjab Agricultural University, India and Joined WSU as a graduate student in the year 2009. Her research focused on understanding chromosomal pairing in polyploid plants with emphasis on wheat. A precise understanding of homologous and homoeologous pairing as a basis of meiotic crossing over is of fundamental importance if transfer of genes for plant improvement from closely or distantly related species is to be undertaken. The research will be a step towards answering many questions related to the fundamental processes of recombination.
A_DhaliwalAmandeep Dhaliwal

Email: adhaliwal@wsu.edu
PhD: Fall 2015
Advisor: Gill
Department: CSS
Current: Director of Research Operations - GeneShifters

Dissertation: "Molecular Characterization of a Wheat Ortholog of ABC1 (TaABCB1) Gene Involved in Dwarfism via Interrupted Auxin Transport"


Important plant growth hormone gibberellic acid (GA)-deficient wheat and rice were instrumental in bringing about the Green Revolution. However, growing evidence suggests that GA-deficient plants put a ceiling for yield especially under limited water conditions. In addition to GA dwarfs, agronomically relevant reduction in plant height with no yield penalty can also be achieved by mutating genes involved in the biology of other plant hormones such as auxin and brassinosteroids. Therefore, focus of my research is to identify and characterize an alternate dwarfing gene system for wheat and other grasses.
K_CottonKim Cotton

Email: cottonkl@wsu.edu
PhD: Fall 2015
Advisor: Browse
Department: IBC
Current: Phytelligince, Inc.

Dissertation: Analysis of putative phosphatidic acid phosphatases involved in triacylglycerol synthesis in Arabidopsis

The triacylglycerol (TAG) synthesis pathway in plants generates storage lipids which can be used in food, fuel, and industrial and commercial substrates. However, the genes encoding several of the enzymatic steps generating TAG in plants have been largely unstudied due to a lack of molecular data on these genes. Specifically, the phosphatidic acid phosphatase (PAP) reaction catalyzes the dephosphorylation of PA to generate DAG, and is essential for generating not only TAG, but phospholipids as well. In her research, Kimberly is working to identify the PAP(s) involved in TAG synthesis. Putative PAPs involved in TAG synthesis have been identified using homology searches to known yeast and human PAP enzymes and bioinformatics tools. Total fatty acid quantification via GC and visual inspection of T-DNA knockout mutants will be used to determine if any of the PAPs identified using bioinformatics and homology have TAG-deficient phenotypes. Finally, putative PAP proteins involved in TAG biosynthesis will be assayed for PAP activity via activity assays and complementation of the Saccharomyces cerevisiae Δdpp1Δlpp1Δpah1 mutant. Identifying and characterizing the PAP(s) involved in TAG synthesis will lead to a more complete understanding of lipid biosynthesis and potential biotechnology applications such as altered lipid production in crop plants.
Keiko Tuttle

Email: keiko.tuttle@wsu.edu
PhD: Fall 2015
Advisor: Steber
Department: CSS
Current:

Dissertation: GA Signaling genes, Seed Germination, alpha-amylase production in wheat: Targets for Controlling Pre-Harvest Sprouting and Late Maturity alpha-Amylase Induction.

Kiko's research focused on exploring GA signaling in wheat in a translational approach from what we know in Arabidopsis. Discovering and characterizing the changes seen with after-ripening of grain and its effects on breaking dormancy in wheat grain. Finally, using these tools to create targets to advance agriculture in the prevention of Pre-Harvest Sprouting and Late Maturity alpha-amylase.
B_CakirBilal Cakir

Email: bilal.cakir@wsu.edu
PhD: Spring 2016
Advisor: Okita
Department: IBC
Current: Post-Doc, Yale University Med.-Genetics

Dissertation: "Elucidating the Rate Limiting Components of Starch Biosynthesis"

Bilal's research topic was to elucidate the structure-function relationships of ADP-glucose pyrophosphorylase (AGPase) a key regulatory enzyme of starch biosynthesis and to use this information to manipulate source-sink relationships in plants.
D_FaveroDavid Favero

Email: dfavero@wsu.edu
PhD: Spring 2016
Advisor: Neff
Department: CSS
Current: Post-Doc at RIKEN

Dissertation: "Transcriptional Control of Arabidopsis Development by AHLS"

David's work involved investigating the functions of various members of a family of DNA-binding proteins in plants, the AT-Hook motif Nuclear Localized (AHL) family. David was particularly interested in learning how specificity is accomplished among the 29 members of the family, and how differing protein-protein interactions and tissue expression patterns among family members may contribute to specificity. He earned his bachelor of science degree in Soil and Crop Sciences at Colorado State University, where he participated in research focused on mapping disease resistance genes in common bean. During his free time, he enjoyed being actively involved with a campus club known as Discovery, which is designed to meet the social and spiritual needs of international students here at WSU.
N_SaNa Sa

Email: Na.Sa@wsu.edu
PhD: Spring 2016
Advisor: Roje
Department: IBC
Current:

Dissertation: “Identification and Characterization of the Missing Phosphatase on the Riboflavin Biosynthesis Pathway in Arabidopsis Thalina”

Na Sa received her M.S. degree in China and then joined Dr. Sanja Roje's lab in August 2011. She worked on investigating the key enzymes in riboflavin (Vitamin B2) biosynthesis pathway. The long-term goal of her research was to advance the understanding of riboflavin biosynthesis and provide means for developing crops with improved riboflavin content.
S_BeecherSierra Beecher

Email: sierra.beecher100@email.wsu.edu
PhD: Summer 2016
Advisor: Knoblauch
Department: SBS
Current: Adjunct Faculty, Biological Sciences - Wagner College

Dissertation: "Rheology and Conductivity of Phloem"

I studied anatomy, physics, and physiology of the phloem in Dr. Michael Knoblauch's lab at WSU using confocal laser scanning microscopy and molecular biology. I previously worked in New York City teaching biology and environmental science at a private university. I am the proud mother of two fantastic teenagers, and enjoy spending time with them in lovely Palouse.
T_Ross-ElliottTim Ross-Elliott

Email: timothy.rosselliott@wsu.edu
PhD: Summer 2016
Advisor: Knoblauch
Department: SBS
Current: Post-Doc, Univ. North Carolina

Dissertation: "StruStructural and Functional Aspects of Protophloem Sieve Element Unloading in the Root Tips of Arabidopsis thaliana"

I study phloem anatomy and physiology. Specifically, I'm working on improving the current anatomical model of sieve elements and companion cells regarding sub-cellular components such as the nucleus, mitochondria, ER, golgi, etc., and looking at the interactions of viruses with these components.
B_PoirierBrenton Poirier

Email: brenton.poirier@wsu.edu
PhD: Summer 2016
Advisor: Lange
Department: IBC
Current: USDA-Wenatchee, plant pathologist/tree fruits

Dissertation: "investigating the Biosynthesis, Function, and Physiological Significance of Isoprenoids in Arabidopsis thaliana"

Plant-derived sterols (phytosterols) have a significant impact on human nutrition. Sitosterol, stigmasterol, and campesterol comprise a majority of these sterols, and are found as enriched components of vegetable oil. As a result of their structural similarity, they compete with cholesterol in many cellular processes, and there is a large body of evidence indicating that phytosterols have cholesterol-lowering activities in humans. A great deal of research has been done to study the roles of cholesterol within mammalian cells, but research into the endogenous functions of phytosterols is still in its early stages. We are only now beginning to realize the importance of these molecules at both the cellular and organ level. Aside from their role in regulating membrane fluidity, sterols function as precursors for the synthesis of other molecules. Campesterol, for example, is used to produce brassinosteroids, a class of hormones involved in plant growth and development. As a result, proper sterol biosynthesis is important for multiple cellular processes and is not simply limited to maintaining membrane integrity. The enzymes involved in the main biosynthetic pathway have been identified, but the mechanisms behind the regulation and coordination of synthesis remain unclear. My research is targeted towards understanding the regulation of sterol synthesis in Arabidopsis thaliana using a combination of genetic and biochemical approaches.
Ben Kilian

Email: ben.kilian@wsu.edu
PhD: Spring 2017
Advisor: Dhingra
Department: HORT
Current: Instructor-Liberty University

Dissertation: Identifying the Genetic Mechanism of Ethylene-Inducible Fruit Abscission in Sweet Cherry

Ben's research was genetic regulation of pedicel fruit abscission in sweet cherry and the potential implications for growers in the Pacific NW.
Ryan Boyd
Email: ryan.boyd@wsu.edu
PhD: Spring 2017
Advisor: Cousins
Department: SBS
Current:

Dissertation: Variation in Photosynthetic Enzyme Kinetics and Carbon Isotope Fractionation Paremeters

Ryan studied the differences in Rubisco kinetics between C3 and C4 grasses and how it relates to amino acid residues evolving under positive selection. My other interests include C4 photosynthesis, temperature response of photosynthetic enzymes, and plant response to climate change factors
Hong-Li Chou

Email: hong-li.chou@wsu.edu
PhD: Spring 2017
Advisor: Okita
Department: IBC
Current:

Dissertation: The role of multifunctional RNA finding protein OsTudor-SN in rice storage protein mRNAs transport and localization

Research Interests:
In-situ RNA/protein labeling. Analysis of functional genes involved in RNA movement. The mechanism of RNA binding proteins in RNA sorting.
Aaron Mahoney

Email: aaron.mahoney@wsu.edu
PhD: Spring 2017
Advisor: Hulbert/Okubara
Department: Pl Path
Current:

Dissertation: Genetic Characterization and Rhizosphere Microbial Community Analysis Associated with Root Rot Disease of Wheat

Aaron's research was to understand the molecular mechanisms for disease resistance in synthetic wheat lines. The focus includes the genetic and protein interactions between wheat and its pathogens. For my master's, He focused on characterizing transcriptional regulation in Arabidopsis for the stomatal gene MUTE.
Gaganjot Sidhu

Email: gaganjot.sidhu@wsu.edu
PhD: Spring 2017
Advisor: Gill
Department: CSS
Current:

Dissertation: Understanding the role of auxin and its transport in controlling wheat development

Polar auxin transport regulates various aspects of plant development such as embryonic development, shoot and root architecture, and tropic responses. Majority of the understanding of these mechanisms comes from studies on dicot model plant species Arabidopsis thaliana. However, clear morphological and developmental differences exist between monocots and dicots. The focus of his research is to study whether auxin transport route and the associated mechanisms are conserved or diversified in monocots with a special emphasis on wheat crop.