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Previous Recruits

2021 Cohort

Olivia Asher
Olivia Asher

What brought you to UGA? 

I did a virtual REU internship with Dr. Jonathan Arnold in the summer of 2020 prior to applying to graduate school. This internship was on mathematical modeling of a fungal-plant system. Prior to this internship, I was interested in fungi but I did not realize that I could combine my interest with fungi with computational and mathematical research. This experience was inspiring to me and I ended up applying to only PhD programs which offered bioinformatics or computational biology programs.

Once I was accepted to several schools, I ended up picking UGA because it was the one program that I was accepted to that allowed me to do bioinformatics and still continue to study fungi. I decided to continue and expand my REU project for my PhD.

What are your research/study interests? I am interested in using bioinformatics and wet-lab techniques to study fungal-plant interactions. I specifically study arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi-sorghum interactions using mathematical modeling and genomic methods.

What has been a benefit of being part of IPS?/How did it help you select your program? Being part of IPS allowed me to connect with other students studying plants and fungi from different perspectives. I was able to make a lot of friends through this program which was great. I came into IPS knowing I planned to join the Institute of Bioinformatics, but the lab rotations and flexibility of IPS allowed me to rotate in labs I wouldn’t normally get to do research in. The lab rotation experience led me to join two labs, Jeffery Bennetzen’s lab and Jonathan Arnold’s lab, to work on a collaborative project. If I hadn’t had a chance to rotate in the Bennetzen lab I may not have had the opportunity to develop the collaborative project I’m working on.

What are your career goals? I plan to pursue a career as a national lab scientist, working for one of the many labs run by the United States Department of Energy. I hope to continue working on interesting fungal/bacterial/plant systems using both experimental and computational approaches.

Who is your major professor? My major professors are Jonathan Arnold and Jeffery Bennetzen.

Summer Blanco
Summer Blanco

What brought you to UGA? I applied to 9 graduate programs, and UGA offered me the most competitive fellowship. Additionally, the cost of living in GA meant my graduate student stipend went farther here compared to other locations across the US that I applied to. I was also able to visit Athens, and it was such a fun & eccentric town that I could see myself living at for the next 5-6 years.

What are your research/study interests? Broadly, I’m interested in flower color evolution. The Chang lab works with the genus, Geranium, which has anther/pollen color variation within and between species. I’m interested in using citizen science & computational methods to understand how this variation came to be!

What has been a benefit of being part of IPS?/How did it help you select your program? I came into IPS wanting to work with 1 advisor and finished rotations with 2 advisors (I am co-advised)! That’s just to say that it made networking and collaborating with other labs really accessible. 

What are your career goals? I’m interested in working at a public institution like a museum or botanical garden!

Who is your major professor? Drs. Shu-Mei Chang & Jim Leebens-Mack

Kayla Bonilla

What brought you to UGA? 

What are your research/study interests? 

What has been a benefit of being part of IPS?/How did it help you select your program

What are your career goals? 

Who is your major professor? 

Kayla Bonilla graduated with a Bachelors in Biology from Wingate University.

Clayton Hale
Clayton Hale

What brought you to UGA? The array of faculty members doing the type of research I am interested in.

What are your research/study interests? The goal of my Ph.D. work is to understand the effects of anthropogenic change on plant populations and communities to inform biodiversity conservation decision-making. More specifically, I look at how human induced changes in the environment are affecting the phenology, fitness, and distributions of common and rare spring ephemeral species.

What has been a benefit of being part of IPS?/How did it help you select your program? Being apart of a community that has a wide breadth of faculty members across disciplines, but all work on plants, is an amazing benefit.

What are your career goals? To do research that contributes to our understanding of biodiversity and how we can protect it.

Who is your major professor? Dr. Megan DeMarche

Austin Hart

What brought you to UGA? I came to UGA because of its dedicated plant resources and community. I had been talking to some of the prospective professors I wanted to work with prior to applying and I felt like I really connected with them; compared to other universities, they seemed eager to help me learn plant genetics and develop my skills as a researcher. 

What are your research/study interests? My research interests have been in genetics, bioinformatics, and the biochemistry of plants.

What has been a benefit of being part of IPS?/How did it help you select your program? Rotating had been a great benefit to selecting my program and major professor. Without it, I would have had to do a lot of the legwork prior to attending UGA, from behind a computer screen. With the semester dedicated to finding my way around UGA, talking with people and faculty in person, and getting hands-on experience in three prospective labs, I felt like I was able to make a choice that was best fit for me.

What are your career goals? My career goals are aligned toward the industry for crop improvement. Before applying to UGA, I realized a lot of plant science jobs now require graduate education beyond a B.S. degree. By obtaining my Ph.D., I know many more doors will be open.

Who is your major professor? Dr. Esther van der Knaap

Emma Horne

What brought you to UGA? 

What are your research/study interests? 

What has been a benefit of being part of IPS?/How did it help you select your program

What are your career goals? 

Who is your major professor? 

Emma Horne graduated with a Bachelors in Plant Biology from the University of Georgia.

Ching-Ting Huang

What brought you to UGA? The plant research community is active and covers a wide range of topics.

What are your research/study interests? I am interested in genetic research of all kinds! I also would like to explore how we can apply genetics to improve our lives. 

What has been a benefit of being part of IPS?/How did it help you select your program? Three rotations in the first semester provide a good chance to interact with people from different labs and help me think about what I would like to study for my PhD.

What are your career goals? I am open to both industry and academic jobs.

Who is your major professor? Dr. Katrien Devos

Anne Jarrell
Anne Jarrell

What brought you to UGA? 

What are your research/study interests? 

What has been a benefit of being part of IPS?/How did it help you select your program

What are your career goals? 

Who is your major professor? 

Anne Jarrell graduated with a Bachelors in Biology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Pradeepa Jayawardhane

What brought you to UGA? The excellent reputation of UGA in higher education and its highly recognized inter-disciplinary nature of plant-based research studies, motivated me to apply UGA.

What are your research/study interests? My research interests are the understanding of the molecular mechanism behind the biosynthesis of plant pectic polysaccharides via the protein expression and enzymological studies. Furthermore, with the understanding of the pectin deconstruction enzymes, my research studies are focusing on the strategies for efficient solubilization of plant biomass during the consolidated bioprocessing to enhance the biofuels production.

What has been a benefit of being part of IPS?/How did it help you select your program? The most important aspect of IPS program is the flexibility to select a laboratory of my own research interest, covering a wide array of departments including Plant Biology, Bioinformatics, Genetics, Plant Breeding, Plant Pathology, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology etc.

What are your career goals? My ultimate goal is to join in academia and to continue my research career while making collaborations with industries to practically apply the research findings.

Who is your major professor? Dr Debra Mohnen

William LaVoy

What brought you to UGA? 

What are your research/study interests? 

What has been a benefit of being part of IPS?/How did it help you select your program

What are your career goals? 

Who is your major professor? 

William LaVoy graduated with a Masters in Environmental Science from Mahidol University (Thailand).

Ben Long

What brought you to UGA? 

What are your research/study interests? 

What has been a benefit of being part of IPS?/How did it help you select your program

What are your career goals? 

Who is your major professor? 

Ben Long graduated with a Bachelors in Biology from Georgia Tech.

Dionne Martin

What brought you to UGA? I came to UGA because of its outstanding plant biology researchers.

What are your research/study interests? I am interested in understanding the genetic mechanisms underlying tuber/ storage root formation across plant lineages using comparative genomics approaches. 

What has been a benefit of being part of IPS?/How did it help you select your program? A benefit of being a part of the IPS program was having the ability to do rotations prior to committing to a lab. I was able to learn valuable skills in these rotations that I can use in my own research. 

What are your career goals? My goal after graduate school is to have a career in industry. 

Who is your major professor? Dr. Robin Buell

Tuyetnhu Pham

What brought you to UGA? I initially came to UGA as a technician, I applied to UGA as a graduate student because the professors and students were very collaborative. There are also a lot of resources at UGA that I believe will help me succeed.

What are your research/study interests? I am interested in Fungal Biology.

What has been a benefit of being part of IPS?/How did it help you select your program? IPS is really great at grouping different labs from different disciplines together. I also like how IPS is small and I don’t feel like a number. Given a wide-range of different programs and to know that 1 professor can be a part of multiple programs take the burden out of choosing a program.  

What are your career goals? I hope to become a PI and open a research lab

Who is your major professor? Dr Xiaorong Lin

Justin Scherer

What brought you to UGA? 

What are your research/study interests? 

What has been a benefit of being part of IPS?/How did it help you select your program

What are your career goals? 

Who is your major professor? 

Justin Scherer graduated with a Bachelors in Plant and Microbial Biology from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities.

Julian Somers

What brought you to UGA? 

What are your research/study interests? 

What has been a benefit of being part of IPS?/How did it help you select your program

What are your career goals? 

Who is your major professor? 

Julian Somers graduated with a Bachelors in Biochemistry from the University of Arizona.

Mingyu Wang

What brought you to UGA? 

What are your research/study interests? 

What has been a benefit of being part of IPS?/How did it help you select your program

What are your career goals? 

Who is your major professor? 

Mingyu Wang graduated with a Masters in Plant Pathology from Zhejiang University.

Previous Recruits

2020 Cohort

Ethan Baldwin
Ethan Baldwin

What brought you to UGA? I came to UGA to work with faculty that strongly aligned with my research interests.

What are your research/study interests? Phylogenetics and population genetics.

What has been a benefit of being part of IPS?/How did it help you select your program? Lab rotations made IPS/UGA an attractive choice for a PhD program. Not being locked in to working with one professor and being able to experience working with multiple professors was hugely beneficial for me.

What are your career goals? Either a faculty member with a research-heavy position, or staff at a research institution (e.g. government). 

Who is your major professor? Dr. Jim Leebens-Mack and Dr. Magdy Alabady

Emile Barnes
Emile Barnes

What brought you to UGA? Beyond UGA’s excellent reputation in plant sciences, I was particularly drawn to the university’s longstanding connection to local agriculture and the amount of research being done on crops important to farmers and consumers in the state of Georgia. The interdisciplinary nature of the Plant Center and the ability to rotate in several departments through IPS was also very exciting. 

What are your research/study interests? Broadly speaking, I am interested in crop improvement through molecular breeding and biotechnology. In the Wild Peanut Lab, my research involves both breeding peanut lines with improved disease resistance, and helping to develop resources for the peanut breeding community through basic genomic research.

What has been a benefit of being part of IPS?/How did it help you select your program? Being a part of IPS was hugely helpful! My research interests are represented in labs across the plant biology, genetics, plant breeding, and horticulture departments, and being able to rotate among them was an opportunity unique to IPS that made me confident I would find a home lab that’s an excellent fit for me. My semester doing rotations also served as a useful refresher in various lab techniques, and was a good introduction to UGA beyond my home department.

What are your career goals? Whether in industry or academia, my goal is to work towards a more secure and resilient global food supply. 

Who is your major professor? Dr. David Bertioli

Wesley Bonelli
Wes Bonelli

What brought you to UGA? I sent my P.I. an unprompted email asking for a job as a programmer in early 2020. He hired me as lab staff and then encouraged me to apply as a grad student.

What are your research/study interests? I’m interested in developing phenotyping software to process high volumes of image data in HPC/HTC computing environments. I would also like to develop mathematical characterizations of root system architecture and computer simulations of root branching patterns.

What has been a benefit of being part of IPS?/How did it help you select your program? Coming from a background distant from plant science, IPS provided great exposure to a wide range of subdisciplines. This helped me come up to speed quickly. I was able to learn about computer vision techniques for phenotyping, bioinformatics pipelines for genome sequencing and structural variant calling, and mechanical/physiological measurements (stress-response curves for cavitation and embolism), spanning from sunflower to tomato to various tree species.

What are your career goals? I’m not sure yet. I’d either like to pursue a career in industry developing phenotyping software or in academia as a mathematical biologist. I’d like to wed these two areas if possible.

Who is your major professor? Dr. Alexander Bucksch.

Hannah Cook
Hannah Cook

What brought you to UGA? 

What are your research/study interests? 

What has been a benefit of being part of IPS?/How did it help you select your program

What are your career goals? 

Who is your major professor? 

Walter Dauksher
Walt Dauksher

What brought you to UGA? UGA has so many great qualities. I was drawn by the impressive breadth and depth of plant research. UGA is among the best institutions in the country for plant research, and paired with the fun, diverse, collaborative atmosphere of the school, along with the town of Athens’ rich traditions and lots to do, the choice was easy. 

What are your research/study interests? I am broadly interested in the genetic engineering and manipulation of plants to meet the needs of humanity. My current research involves engineering herbicide resistance in turfgrass. 

What has been a benefit of being part of IPS?/How did it help you select your program? There are many benefits to the IPS program. My cohort was a wonderful positive, as I had the opportunity to quickly make friends with people from diverse backgrounds and similar interests. Another major benefit of IPS are the rotations. Being able to rotate through a few labs from an assortment of departments allows you to define your interests, know the lab culture, and ultimately make the best decision for a home base lab for the next few years.

What are your career goals? I am open to all pathways, but my current aim is to work in industry. I would like to be involved with the genetic engineering of plants with value-added traits. Specifically, I would love to work on projects that help to solve the tragedy of world hunger. 

Who is your major professor? Dr. Wayne Parrott 

Michelle Henson

What brought you to UGA? The botanical research and location. UGA has a strong reputation in plant science and I wanted to be a part of that. Also, Athens is a great community not only for me, but for my partner who moved down here with me as well.

What are your research/study interests? I’m interested in studying the effects of fire on plant-soil microbe interactions and post-fire recovery patterns.

What has been a benefit of being part of IPS?/How did it help you select your program? I really liked that I could rotate through the different labs and get a feel for the different types of plant research I could do at UGA. Not only did I get to interact and meet new people this way, but I was also able to add new skills to my skill set.

What are your career goals? I’d like to work for a non-profit organization as a research director or as a federal research ecologist.

Who is your major professor? Dr. Anny Chung

Eliana Herman
Eliana Herman

What brought you to UGA? 

What are your research/study interests? 

What has been a benefit of being part of IPS?/How did it help you select your program

What are your career goals? 

Who is your major professor? 

Chen Hsieh
Chen Hsieh

What brought you to UGA? People’s attitude and dedication.

What are your research/study interests? Bioinformatics and plant physiology.

What has been a benefit of being part of IPS?/How did it help you select your program? The guarantee of stipend and wide range of programs to choose. Rotation let me experience the lab culture before joining one, prepared me with correct expectation.

What are your career goals? I am aiming for an industrial position.

Who is your major professor? Dr. CJ Tsai

Chazz Jordan
Chazz Jordan

What brought you to UGA? Friendliness of the professors and being a recipient of the GREAT fellowship.

What are your research/study interests? Evolution, phylogenetics, conservation biology, floral morphology. In short, I study the genus of Echinacea through a phylogenetic and morphological lens. 

What has been a benefit of being part of IPS?/How did it help you select your program? I made a good friend through the cohort and was able to experience a range of labs in the plant biology program. By choosing and rotating through different labs, I was able to understand the culture of the department and labs better – therefore, aiding in my decision. 

What are your career goals? To do a postdoc outside of the United States and then become a research coordinator at a botanic garden. 

Who is your major professor? Dr. Jill Anderson

Madeline Long
Madeline Long

What brought you to UGA? 

What are your research/study interests? 

What has been a benefit of being part of IPS?/How did it help you select your program

What are your career goals? 

Who is your major professor? 

Brandon Mangum
Brandon Mangum

What brought you to UGA? 

What are your research/study interests? 

What has been a benefit of being part of IPS?/How did it help you select your program

What are your career goals? 

Who is your major professor? 

Xiomy Pinchi Davila
Xiomy Pinchi Davila

What brought you to UGA? 

What are your research/study interests? 

What has been a benefit of being part of IPS?/How did it help you select your program

What are your career goals? 

Who is your major professor? 

Lubana Shahin
Lubana Shahin

What brought you to UGA? 

What are your research/study interests? 

What has been a benefit of being part of IPS?/How did it help you select your program

What are your career goals? 

Who is your major professor? 

Samantha Surber
Samantha Surber

What brought you to UGA? Being from the Midwest I was looking to explore new ecosystems and plant systems of study and the South intrigued me with their programs in plants and plant interactions with the environment. The IPS program allowed me to explore new options that I was considering without making me decide quickly on what I wanted to do. For that reason I was super thankful for the rotations we did and it allowed me to meet more people while we were still mainly staying home.

What are your research/study interests? I am interested in understanding how plants are responding to the changing environment due to climate change and other stressors at a molecular level. I worked in a wide range of crop species in my prior work and I am excited to be working in a woody tree species and learning about metabolism in a new study species!

What has been a benefit of being part of IPS?/How did it help you select your program? As I said above, I really enjoyed the part of IPS where we rotated for a semester. While I see where some might think that would put you behind in a graduation track, I think quite the contrary. It allowed me to explore new realms of science before deciding on working in genetics and metabolism for sure. The ability to do that gives people the chance to meet advisors and experience different mentorship which they can then choose the best place for them and a project that they are passionate about. The rotation program is one of the reasons that drew me to UGA, and I do not think I could have found a better place for me to be for the next years of my Ph.D..

What are your career goals? I do not have a concrete answer for this because of the possibilities that have been presented to me over the last year. I would ultimately like to work in science policy and communication while also still being part of a research team. I am keeping my options open, but I plan on seeking outside opportunities in the future.

Who is your major professor? Dr. CJ Tsai

Mary Washburn
Mary Washburn

What brought you to UGA? Quality of PBio program (top 5 in the US, land grant university, high number of PIs that are doing interesting and impactful research), cost of living, location.

In addition, I had been doing undergraduate research in plants at UNG and my mentor brought me along with her to the Plant Center Retreat. I really liked the dynamic and culture of the students/faculty.

What are your research/study interests? My research interests are plant reproduction, genetics and genomics.

What has been a benefit of being part of IPS?/How did it help you select your program? IPS gave me the ability to rotate in different labs that align with my research interests and the rotations helped me narrow down my research focus. I appreciated all of the advice and guidance I received from my rotation PIs and it helped me gain a clearer view of what direction I wanted to go.

What are your career goals? Upon finishing at UGA, I plan on either working for the government (USDA or NASA) or in an industry position (Syngenta, Corteva, Bayer, etc)

Who is your major professor? Dr. Brad Nelms

2019 Cohort

Philip Bentz

What brought you to UGA? I decided to come to UGA after learning about the breadth of plant research being done here, which illustrates the dedication that UGA has to producing cutting edge plant science. Plant science research at UGA is super collaborative and all plant related departments are very supportive of each other!

What are your research/study interests? My current research uses comparative genomics and phylogenetic approaches to investigate the evolution of dioecy and sex chromosomes. I am also interested in the diverse array of desert adaptations across the plant tree of life.

What has been a benefit of being part of IPS?/How did it help you select your program? As an incoming IPS student, you get to spend your first semester mostly focusing on a few short research projects that are part of your specific lab rotations. Even though I already had a good idea about which lab I wanted to join, IPS helped me choose my home department by exposing me to the various departments that you are able to join.

What are your career goals? I am open to a number of different career paths. My main goal is to have a positive impact on society and future generations of people.

Who is your major professor? Dr. Jim Leebens-Mack

Qian Feng

What brought you to UGA? UGA has strong plant sciences departments and actually the IPS program is one of the most important reasons I chose here.

What are your research/study interests? I am in a tomato genetics lab now and I am interested in the genetic characterization of fruit size and volatiles.

What has been a benefit of being part of IPS?/How did it help you select your program? IPS really helped me find what my interests were by allowing me doing rotations across departments. It also gave me time to know the labs and the people.

What are your career goals? I plan to take an academia path and work in a research institution.

Who is your major professor? Dr. van der Knaap

Kelly Goode

What brought you to UGA? I was initially drawn to UGA because of the Plant Center. Even though I did work with molecular breeding at my undergrad institution, there was a disconnect between our group in the forestry department and the plant biology/genetics departments across campus. The Plant Center showed a priority in facilitating communication between different research groups.

What are your research/study interests? I’m working on the characterizing the molecular interaction between root-knot nematodes and soybeans.

What has been a benefit of being part of IPS?/How did it help you select your program? I would not be in my current lab without IPS. My PI had moved to UGA the summer before I came to UGA and hadn’t learned anything about IPS.  I met my PI at the Plant Center Retreat in October and changed my final rotation the weekend before it started. The IPS program also provided great experience in other research areas. I still use techniques learned in my other rotations.

What are your career goals? I want to work in academia, but also work with the growers who will benefit from agriculture research through extension programs. There is a huge disconnect between the research lab and the applications of research. I want to help educate scientists to see all aspects of their research, instead of getting sucked up into bench work.

Who is your major professor? Dr. Melissa Mitchum

Austin Menzmer

What brought you to UGA? My best friend’s father is a horticulturist, and when he heard I had an interest in plants, he told me that I should come to UGA Plant Biology. Simple as that – and I’ve never regretted my decision!

What are your research/study interests? The effects of wind disturbances – such as tornadoes and hurricanes – and salvage logging on herbaceous plants of the southeast.

What has been a benefit of being part of IPS?/How did it help you select your program? Prior to IPS I already had a good idea of who I wanted to work with, but IPS did give me the opportunity to work with professors and learn who I work well with. It’s kind of like being able to go on a date with a girl before proposing marriage, which is much appreciated!

What are your career goals? College professor at small liberal arts teaching university.

Who is your major professor? Dr. Chris Peterson

Shreena Pradhan

What brought you to UGA? The IPS program was what attracted me the most to UGA. I stumbled across it when I was looking at the IPBGG website and the rotations and involvement of many departments immediately grabbed my interest.

What are your research/study interests? I am in Devos Lab now and I work in genetics underlying the leaf traits that help in salt tolerance in different turfgrasses.

What has been a benefit of being part of IPS?/How did it help you select your program? The rotations were a big help to start grad school as a research assistant. Not only were these rotations my very first step towards wet lab work, but also a way to understand lab culture, research discipline and my own particular interests of what I wanted to work on.

What are your career goals? I hope to work in a research position perhaps in an industry or organization. Things may change as I advance further!

Who is your major professor? Dr. Katrien M. Devos

Justine Rojas

What brought you to UGA? I came across the IPS program while looking for potential graduate schools to attend. I found the IPS program appealing because of the terrific faculty and graduate students to collaborate with. Not only has the program been amazing so far, but the opportunities and resources available through UGA has been great for grad students!

What are your research/study interests? My research is focused on the effects of drought on tree form and function. Specifically, I am interested in water transport of trees and how water is stored and released during drought or other stressful environmental conditions.

What has been a benefit of being part of IPS?/How did it help you select your program? The rotations that IPS requires students to do was a great way to meet a potential advisor or committee members. It is also a great way to meet other graduate students for collaboration or networking.

What are your career goals? I would like to work for the Forest Service R&D or work as a professor at a university.

Who is your major professor? Dr. Daniel Johnson

Yibing Zeng

What brought you to UGA? IPS gave me a chance to rotate. It’s so important to know your advisor beforehand, important that both parties had choices.

What are your research/study interests? I am interested in synthetic biology.

What has been a benefit of being part of IPS?/How did it help you select your program? IPS is a great program, the biggest driver is that IPS provides rotations.

What are your career goals? I want to be a researcher in the future.

Who is your major professor? Dr. Kelly Dawe

2018 Cohort

Max Barnhart

What brought you to UGA? I came to UGA because I wanted to go to a top plant sciences school and UGA felt like a great culture fit! It also happened to be close to some of my family in Atlanta.

What are your research/study interests? I study the evolution of temperature stress resistance in sunflower! My work involves screening the pollen of cultivated and wild sunflower species for temperature stress resistance and using that information to understand the underlying genetics of that resistance.

What has been a benefit of being part of IPS?/How did it help you select your program? I loved being a part of the IPS cohort and made many close friends right away. The supportive nature of the faculty involved in the program made me feel like the plant sciences program at UGA was the right place for me to grow.

What are your career goals? I would like to work in the start-up or non-profit sector helping to achieve food security for low-income families while promoting food equality in urban areas. Who knows what the future holds though!

Who is your major professor? Dr. John Burke

Ben Chadwick

What brought you to UGA? To join the IPS program. I was interested in fungal pathogens and UGA has many research professors in the fungal biology field.

What are your research/study interests? My area of interest is fungal biology and genetics. My PhD research focuses on the role of CO2 tolerance in pathogenesis, and mechanisms behind cellular differentiation in Cryptococcus neoformans.

What has been a benefit of being part of IPS?/How did it help you select your program? I think the most beneficial aspect of the IPS program is having lab rotations before selecting a program. The rotations give a chance to experience ​being a part of different labs studying different topics.

What are your career goals? ​My career goal is to launch my own lab and contribute to biological research as well as train future scientists.

Who is your major professor? Dr. Xiaorong Lin

Yen-Ho Chen

What brought you to UGA? As an international student (Hi, I’m from Taiwan), I was first attracted by the closely-connected Plant Science community and the high diversity of plant science in terms of the research materials, approaches, and aspects. Then, I had chances to talk to several IPS faculties who are doing cool researches, so I came. Also, the weather took a huge part of my decision-making. I prefer the warmth of the south because I am a sensitive ecotype to cold stress.

What are your research/study interests? I am curious about how trees, as long-lived plant organisms, manage to survive from the environmental stresses through their life. Now I am working with Dr. CJ Tsai to figure out the Salicylic acid signaling pathway and oxidative regulation in poplar tree.

What has been a benefit of being part of IPS?/How did it help you select your program? The IPS is a great portal program that helps students to rotate in different research groups and to find their best fits. IPS also includes outstanding professors working on diverse research aspects of multiple plant species. That’s a big plus for me.

What are your career goals? I wish to contribute on research, to explore a little tiny bit more into the unknown darkness of plant biology, no matter it’s in academia or industry.

Derek Denney

What brought you to UGA? I was interested in the extensive plant biology programs at UGA. There are many faculty and vast resources dedicated to studying plants. Few institutions have this amount of resources in one location, let alone accessible through a program like IPS.

What are your research/study interests? I am interested in the way plants respond to changes across environments, be that spatial or temporal changes. Currently I’m studying the genetic basis of local adaptation and the evolutionary consequences of climate change.

What has been a benefit of being part of IPS?/How did it help you select your program? I really enjoyed the opportunity to interact with people from multiple departments. This let me weigh the benefits of each department and program that best fit my needs. It has also increased my network so I can seek assistance from others outside of my realm.

What are your career goals? I would like to pursue a research position at a university.

Who is your major professor? Dr. Jill Anderson

Razi Ibrahim

What brought you to UGA? The reputation of UGA in the field of plant sciences research, its world class faculty, state-of-the art research facilities, and well equipped labs intrigued me to apply to this school.

What are your research/study interests? I am interested in applied plant breeding and plant genetics. I am trying to develop a herbicide resistant white clover cultivar.

What has been a benefit of being part of IPS?/How did it help you select your program? Applying to IPS was one of the best decisions of my life. The lab rotations helped me to explore the labs that I was interested in. Before joining a lab I had the opportunity to learn about the lab, work environment, and the lab members which helped me to make my decision.

What are your career goals? My carrier goal is to work in a company or research organization. My dream is to develop and release at least one cultivar that farmers will grow with confidence.

Who is your major professor? Dr. Ali Missaoui

Simone Lim-Hing

What brought you to UGA? UGA has a world-renowned plant program with myriad resources for research and teaching opportunities. Apart from the institution, I found Athens to be very welcoming and charming.

What are your research/study interests? I am interested in how plants interact with their enemies and how they employ defense mechanisms. I find chemical ecology and plant-pathogen interactions really exciting.

What has been a benefit of being part of IPS?/How did it help you select your program? IPS has allowed me to branch out my networks and work directly with the different departments at UGA that are working with plants.

What are your career goals? ​I have no idea!!!

Who is your major professor? Dr. Caterina Villari

Mia Rochford

What brought you to UGA? I first became aware of IPS while researching universities that offer PhDs in plant biology. My college plant ecology professor earned his PhD from the Odum school of ecology, so I asked him about his experience. He spoke very highly of the university’s graduate programs.

What are your research/study interests? I study the joint effects of habitat fragmentation and climate change on native plant populations. I am also interested in rare plant conservation.

What has been a benefit of being part of IPS?/How did it help you select your program? Rotations allowed me to get a sense of the day-to-day work and ethos of each lab so I could make an informed decision before committing. The same goes for choosing which department to join.

What are your career goals? I hope to have a research position at a museum or botanical garden.

Who are your major professors? Dr. Jill Anderson and Dr. Jennifer Cruse-Sanders

Dakota Starr

What brought you to UGA? The faculty and students were very welcoming when I visited for recruitment. The research that they were conducting was of the highest caliber. 

What are your research/study interests? My research is using CRISPR Cas9 to investigate the molecular basis of sex-determination and the origin of dioecy in the genus Asparagus.

What has been a benefit of being part of IPS?/How did it help you select your program? The benefit of being in IPS was getting to do rotations in three different labs. I joined the lab that was the best fit based on the projects that I would get to work on in the lab and the members of the lab.

What are your career goals? My career goals are to go back to industry and lead my own research team.

Who is your major professor? Dr. Jim Leebens-Mack

Momo Xie

What brought you to UGA? A group of world-class plant scientists.

What are your research/study interests? My research interest is to study the origins of root architecture diversity in crops. By combining knowledge from biology, statistics, and computer science:
(1) I develop a computing pipeline to describe and measure the diversity of root architectures using mathematical shape descriptors.
(2) I dissect the genetic components that regulate root architectures under water-sufficient and drought conditions.
(3) I question whether the maternal effect of seed size and kin recognition of root neighbors contribute to root architecture diversity.

What has been a benefit of being part of IPS?/How did it help you select your program? IPS program allows students to experience three labs that they are interested to work in. By interacting with fellow graduates and PIs during my three rotations, I am grateful and happy to choose the one that most suits my interest and personality.

What are your career goals? My primary goal is to be a professor at a research university. If my primary goal does not work out, my second goal is to be a data scientist in the industry. As long as my work that beneficial to humans’ well-being and build a better world for the current and next-generation, I embrace any career opportunity that life brings to me.

Who is your major professor? Dr. Alexander Bucksch

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