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Previous Recruits

2019 Students

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 Students

  • 2018 Students
    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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