Petri dishes with cultures

Graduate

Students extracting RNA
Students extracting RNA from plant tissue

Welcome to the Field of Plant Pathology & Plant-Microbe Biology, which is managed by the Department of Plant Pathology & Plant-Microbe Biology at Cornell University.

From our beginnings as one of the first departments of plant pathology in the country, our tradition of excellence has centered on training graduate students for leadership in the field.  As a graduate student in our Department, you will be part of this extraordinary legacy.

We invite you to explore our three program concentrations

Or browse our faculty profiles to see where you would fit into our team.

Graduate Student Research Spotlight

Katherine Wilkins

Katherine Wilkins

Katherine Wilkins

The plant pathogenic bacteria Xanthomonas oryzae causes bacterial blight of rice, a process facilitated by injection of Type III effectors into host cells. These effectors include Transcript Activator-Like (TAL) effectors which activate host gene transcription by binding to gene promoters. TALs recognize specific promoter regions through a repeated motif, with each repeat “encoding” a preference for binding to a particular nucleotide. I am currently working on machine learning methods to improve our predictions of TAL effector binding sites. I am also very interested in TAL effector related resistance mechanisms of rice. Rice and other host plants can be engineered to prevent TALs from binding to particular targets or to cause them to activate resistance genes. Some of these methods of conferring resistance are more durable than others. I believe the way a TAL effector population changes after introduction of an R gene will help us determine what makes for durable, TAL related resistance.