Plant Breeding Students

Samuel Acheampong

Samuel Acheampong

Email: sacheam@ncsu.edu 
Degree Program: Ph.D. Horticultural Science - Plant Breeding
Previous Degrees: B.S. Biotechnology, University of Cape Coast, Ghana
M.S. Biotechnology, University of Cape Coast, Ghana
Advisor: Dr. Craig Yencho
Completion Date: Summer, 2020



Victor A. Amankwaah

Victor A. Amankwaah

Email: vamankw@ncsu.edu
Degree Program: PhD Horticultural Science
BSc Agriculture-KNUST (Ghana)
MSc. Agronomy (Plant Breeding)-KNUST (Ghana)
Advisor: Dr. Craig Yencho
Completion Date: Summer 2018

Research Description: My research topic is “Multilocation phenotyping, genotyping and QTL analysis of sweetpotato. It involves phenotyping at different locations with emphasis on quality traits and genotyping-by-sequencing, a modern technology which offers good opportunity for identification of high number of SNPs. This will be followed by construction of high density linkage map and subsequent association of SNP markers and phenotypes in the two reciprocal mapping populations namely Beauregard X Tanzania as well as Tanzania and Beauregard. Additionally, this study aims at investigating the activities of α-and β-amylase in the reciprocal mapping populations. 


Greta Rockstad

Greta Rockstad

Email: gbrockst@ncsu.edu 
Degree Program: M.S. in Crop Science
Previous Degree: B.S. in plant science from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
Current Advisers: Dr. Susana Milla-Lewis, Dr. Jeff Dunne
Expected Degree Completion Date: Fall 2021

Research Description: My project is building on drought tolerance mapping efforts in St. Augustinegrass by validating previously identified QTLs. Along with this, I’m exploring how high-throughput phenotyping technologies can be used to characterize drought in St. Augustinegrass and how the traits these technologies measure might give us more power to identify additional QTLs associated with drought tolerance. Overall, the goal is to identify genes conferring drought tolerance and then integrate these into the turfgrass breeding program using marker-assisted selection.


Jessica Brown

Jessica Brown

Email: jmbrow19@ncsu.edu 
Degree Program: M.S., Crop Science
Previous degrees: B.S. Genetics and B.S. Plant Biology, University of Georgia
Advisor: Dr. Milla-Lewis
Completion Date: Fall 2019

Research Description: My project is focused on improving selection methods for the development of freeze tolerant Zoysiagrass cultivars. I am conducting controlled freeze trials to study the mechanisms that control freeze tolerance, as well as identifying markers linked to the genes controlling freeze tolerance for use in a marker assisted selection program, and investigating proteomic response to cold acclimation. Ultimately, our goal is to be able to apply our findings into other species of grasses, as well as to develop Zoysia germplasm with improved cold tolerance, which would allow expansion of Zoysia cultivars into markets north of the transition zone.


Jose Guillermo Chacon

Jose Guillermo Chacon

Email: jgchacon@ncsu.edu
Degree Program: Ph.D. Horticultural Science - Plant Breeding
Previous Degrees: B.S. Biology, University of Costa Rica 
M.S. Agronomy and Crop Science, University of Costa Rica
Advisor: Dr. Gina Fernandez
Completion Date: Summer, 2019



Nicole Choquette

Nicole Choquette

Email: nchoque@ncsu.edu
Degree Program: Ph.D., Crop Science
Previous Degrees: M.S. Plant Biology, University of Illinois. B.S. Earth, Society, and Environmental Sustainability, University of Illinois.
Current Advisor: Dr. Jim Holland
Completion Date: May 2022

Research Descrioption: My research uses genomic selection to select for early flowering time in exotic maize germplasm — more details to come.


Lauren Deans

Lauren Deans

Email: ledeans@ncsu.edu
Degree Program: M.S. Horticultural Science - Plant Breeding
Previous degrees: B.S. Horticultural Science, North Carolina State University
Advisor: Dr. Tom Ranney
Completion Date: Fall 2019

Research Description: Ploidy manipulation and interspecific hybridization in Hydrangea. 


Noah DeWitt

Noah DeWitt

Email: nddewitt@ncsu.edu
Degree Program: PhD Crop Science, minor in Genetics
Previous Degrees: B.S. Plant Genetics, University of Florida
Advisors: Dr. Gina Brown-Guedira, Dr. J Paul Murphy
Completion Date: January 2023

Research Description: The USDA Eastern Regional Small Grains Genotyping Lab assists public small grains breeding programs in the Eastern US with marker and whole-genome genotyping, coordinating cooperative variety trails and genomic selection through the SunGrains program alongside the NC Small grains breeding program led by Dr. J Paul Murphy. To help improve these services, I'm working on using molecular and quantitative approaches to better understand the genetic architecture of wheat yield and developmental traits. My research focuses on characterizing variants impacting plant growth and development (including the B1 awn suppressor), studying their impact on yield in combination with weather data, and using them to help improve genomic selection models.


Katelyn Renee Fritz

Katelyn Renee Fritz

Email: krfritz@ncsu.edu
Degree Program: M. S., Crop and Soil Science, NC State University
Previous degree: B.S., Agronomy and Global Resource Systems, Iowa State University
Advisor: Dr. Jeff Dunne
Completion Date: May 2021

Research Description: My projects are on increasing folate content in peanuts for human nutritional benefits and improving flavor quality in peanuts.


Xingyue Gong

Xingyue Gong

Email: xgong5@ncsu.edu
Degree Program: M.S. Horticultural Science
Previous degrees: B.S. Horticultural Science, Nanjing Agricultural University
Advisor: Dr. Dilip R. Panthee
Completion Date: Jun. 2019



Sydney Graham

Sydney Graham

Email: Segraha3@ncsu.edu
Degree Program: M.S. in Crop Science
Previous Degree: B.S. in Genetics from University of Wisconsin-Madison
Advisor: Dr. Susana Milla-Lewis
Completion Date: Fall 2020

Research Description: My research is focused on identifying putative genes that impact freeze tolerance in St. Augustinegrass through validation of previously identified QTL. Further identification through transcriptomics will follow linkage validation of associated genomic regions. I will also be investigating the effects of de-acclimation to cold temperatures in relation to its impact on freezing tolerance. The ultimate goal of my project is to identify genes to be used in marker assisted selection and develop freeze tolerant turfgrass varieties.


Eddie Lauer

Eddie Lauer

Email: elauer@ncsu.edu
Previous Degree: MS Plant Breeding, NC State University
Current Adviser: Fikret Isik
Expected Degree Completion Date: 2022

Research Description: Design of the Pita50K affy chip, development of genomic selection models for loblolly pine, mapping of broad-spectrum fusiform rust resistance genes, quantitative genetic analysis of multi-environmental trials for conifers


Su Liu

Su Liu

Email: sliu44@ncsu.edu
Degree Program: M.S. Horticulture Science
Previous degree: BAgr. Ornamental Horticulture, Beijing Forestry University
Advisor: Dr. Massimo Iorizzo
Completion Date: Summer, 2019

Research Description: 1) Use sequencing technology for genome assembly and transcriptome analysis to study pineapple genome. 2) Improve nutritional value of pineapples via studying genetics and genes of bromelain.


Lais Bastos Martins

Lais Bastos Martins

Email: lbastos@ncsu.edu
Degree Program: Ph.D, Crop Science
Previous degrees: Marketing Certificate at NC State Poole Business School; M.S., Crop Science, minor in Plant Pathology, NC State University; B.S. Agronomy, Londrina State University, Brazil
Advisor: Dr. Chris Reberg-Horton
Completion Date: Fall, 2021

Lais' projects aim to help understand Winter Peas breeding for cover crop use. They include GxE of the Advance line trials across the US, GWAS study for Ascochyta blight resistance, late freeze tolerance and how the semi-leafless trait affects biomass. She is current the Winter Pea lead for the multi-state Cover Crop Breeding project.


April Meeks

April Meeks

Email: allail@ncsu.edu
Degree Program: Ph.D - Tree Improvement Program - Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources
Previous degrees: MSc - Forestry - North Carolina State University, 2015
BS - Environmental Science - Appalachian State University, 2011
Advisor (s): Dr. Steve McKeand; Dr. Fikret Isik; Dr. Ross Whetten
Completion Date: 2020

Research Description: Coming soon! 


Nathan Maren

Nathan Maren

Email: namaren@ncsu.edu
https://www.linkedin.com/in/nathan-maren-56407612
Degree Program: PhD in Plant Breeding and Biotechnology Minor
Previous Degrees: MSc. Horticulture and Forestry 2016 North Dakota State University
BS Environmental Horticulture 2005 University of Minnesota
Advisors: Thomas Ranney & Hamid Ashrafi
Advisory Committee: Ralph Dewey, Ramsey Lewis, Sergei Krasnyanski
Completion Date: December 2019

Research Description: As global energy demands grow and fossil fuel reserves are depleted, the need for and importance of alternative energy sources becomes increasingly important. Bioenergy crops suitable as fuel for heat, electrical power generation, and for processing into cellulosic ethanol continue to gain increasing attention as alternative fuel sources. Members of the grass family Poaceae Subtribe Saccharinae, also known as the sugarcane complex, have gained attention for their broad adaptability, pest resistance, high biomass yields, and potential to perennially sequester large amounts of carbon with few inputs on marginal lands. Conventional breeding is well-suited to improve complex traits and has already made rapid progress enhancing biomass yield and regional adaptability in our bioenergy grass hybrids. Plant bioengineering has considerable potential for modifying bioprocessing characteristics, producing valuable co-products, and modifying reproductive processes to prevent reseeding and potential invasiveness. To facilitate these applications, our efforts have focused on the characterization of these new hybrids for various biomass yield and fertility parameters. To enable downstream genetic engineering strategies a high quality reference genomic assembly utilizing PacBio SMRT sequencing technology is being annotated with an experimentally derived reproductive development transcriptome analysis. Concurrently, an embryogenic regeneration system has been established and the development of a basic Agrobacterium mediated transformation system is near completion. Cumulatively, these strategies aim to provide the means for gene editing technologies in the development of next generation bioenergy grasses and potentially serve as a facile genetic platform for functional genomics characterization within the Saccharinae subtribe.


Gustavo Salgado Martins

Gustavo Salgado Martins

Email: gsmarti2@ncsu.edu
DPrevious Degrees: BS Forest Engineering - Federal University of Lavras/MG/Brazil
MS Genetics and Plant Breeding - Federal University of Lavras/MG/Brazil
Current Advisor: Dr. Gary Hodge
Completion Date: Fall 2023

Reearch Description: Quantitative Genetics of Trees.


Jennifer Myers

Jennifer Myers

Email: jamyers4@ncsu.edu
Degree Program: MS Horticultural Science - Tomato Breeding Program
Previous Degrees: BS Plant Biology- University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Advisor: Dr. Dilip Panthee
Completion Date: Spring 2020

Research Description: Identifying important genes in bacterial wilt resistant in tomatoes by comparing gene expression levels in different tomato line with varying bacterial wilt resistance.


Cassie Newman

Cassie Newman

Email: snewma2@ncsu.edu
Degree Program: M.S., Crop Science
Previous Degree: B.S., Plant Science with a specialization in Plant Genetics, University of Florida
Current Advisors: Dr. Dunne and Dr. Hulse-Kemp
Completion Date: May 2020

Reearch Description: I am assembling the first genome for Virginia-type peanut and creating a reduced representation genotyping method based on the newly assembled genome. This genotyping method will be implemented in our breeding program.


Lauren Redpath

Lauren Redpath

Email: leredpat@ncsu.edu
Degree Program: PhD in Horticulture
Previous degrees: MS in Horticulture (University of Georgia), BA in French (College of Charleston), BS in Biology (College of Charleston)
Advisor (s): Hamid Ashrafi
Completion Date: Fall 2020

Research Description. I work in the blueberry genetics lab. Research projects I am currently working on involve differential gene expression in tetraploid blueberry floral buds freeze treated to different temperatures at different developmental stages as the buds deacclimate. I am also looking at floral bud genes from bud initiation to budbreak in two diploid species.


Anna Rogers

Anna Rogers

Email: arroger4@ncsu.edu
Degree Program: PhD Genetics, MS Statistics
Previous Degrees: B.S. Genetics, Iowa State University, 2016
B.S. Statistics, Iowa State University, 2016
Advisor: Dr, Jim Holland
Completion Date: May 2021

Research Description: My research focuses on understanding the contribution Genotype-by-Environment interactions to the architecture of quantitative agronomic traits, environment-specific genomic prediction, and transcriptional responses to environmental factors in maize.


Mohammad Nasir Shalizi

Mohammad Nasir Shalizi

Email: mshaliz@ncsu.edu
Degree Program: Ph.D. Forestry - Tree Improvement Program
Previous Degrees: B.S. Forestry & Natural Resources, Kabul University, Afghanistan
M.S. Forestry, North Carolina State University
Advisor: Dr. Fikret Isik
Expected Completion Data: Spring 2020


Navin Shrestha

Navin Shretha

Email: nshrest2@ncsu.edu
Degree Program: PhD in Plant Breeding
Previous Degree: MS in Horticultural Science, NC State University
Advisor: Dr. Vasu Kuraparthy
Completion Date: Fall 2022

Research Description: I work in cotton genetics lab. My research project focuses on developing cotton (Gossypium hirsutum) germplasm with resistant to thrips (Frankliniella spp.). Thrips cause significant economic damage to cotton. Due to their pronounced negative effect on yield and maturity, control of thrips must be practiced annually. Pesticide use is the major control measure. Thus, the development of thrips resistant varieties will help reduce pesticide application and their toxic environmental effects.

In addition, bacterial leaf blight (BLB) is one of the major diseases in cotton. Upon developing recombinant inbred line (RIL) population, I am assessing quantitative trait loci (QTL) associated with this disease.


Emily Silverman

Emily Silverman

Email: ejsilver@ncsu.edu
Degree Program: Ph.D. Horticultural Science - Plant Breeding
Previous Degrees: B.S. Horticultural Science, NC State University
M.S. Plant Pathology, NC State University
Advisor: Dr. Todd Wehner
Completion Date:



Matthew Woore Smith

Matthew Woore Smith

Email: mwsmith6@ncsu.edu
Previous Degrees: BS, Design, Clemson University, 1999
MS, Crop Science, NC State University, 2019
Current Adviser: Dr James Holland
Degree completion: December 2021

Research Description: My research includes characterization of numerous Southern-adapted heirloom maize varieties, and selection for improvement of certain of those heirlooms for modern agronomic needs. I am also working on manipulation of kernel protein content in hybrid maize


Ashley Yow

Ashley Yow

Email: agyow@ncsu.edu
Degree Program: Horticultural Science
Previous degrees: B.S. in Plant Biology with minor in Biotechnology and M.S. in Horticultural Science
Advisor(s): Dr. Massimo Iorizzo
Completion Date: Dec. 2021

Research Description: I am currently working on genomics of pineapple flowering. Natural differentiated flowering (NDF) in pineapple is non-synchronous and induced by both environmental and biological factors. Currently, producing pineapple requires controlling flowering times through exogenous hormonal applications. My project involves using comparative approaches to study genomic differences between cultivars that are more susceptible and more tolerant to natural flowering. My project also involves divulging how floral growth induction in pineapple is regulated by small RNA and epigenetic modifications, and how different hormonal pathways interact to regulate each other during this process. This work will contribute to the understanding of the molecular processes that must occur in order to induce flowering in pineapple. The results we find can be used in modern genomic breeding programs to create tolerant and commercially desirable pineapple varieties.