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Alumni Profiles


Megan Biango-Daniels


Megan Biango-Daniels, Ph.D.

Washington Da Silva

Washington Da Silva completed the requirements for a Ph.D. degree in plant pathology from Cornell University in 2018. His research was supervised by Stewart Gray and was on Potato virus Y with a focus on population diversity, virus evolution, and the genetics of host resistance. Before coming to Cornell, Washington earned his M.S. degree in Plant Health from Louisiana State University in 2015 and a B.S. degree from Universidade Federal De Vicosa (Brazil) in Agronomy Engineering in 2010. Washington is currently an Assistant Agricultural Scientist in the Department of Plant Pathology and Ecology, The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, with research responsibilities for virus diseases of grapes and other fruit and vegetable crops.

Max Fishman

Max Fishman, Ph.D.

Megan Hall

Megan Hall completed the requirements for a Ph.D. in plant pathology from Cornell University in 2017. Her research was supervised by Wayne Wilcox and was focused on determining the etiology and developing management programs for the grape disease, sour rot. Before coming to Cornell, Megan earned her B.S. degree in Far Eastern Studies and M.S. in Sociology from the University of Toronto. She subsequently worked in elective politics for a New York City councilperson before deciding upon a career change and returning to her native Oregon. There, she interned at a well know vineyard and winery while buttressing her science background at a local community college and state university before matriculating in the graduate program at Cornell. During the course of her study here, Megan was honored with two Best Student Presentation awards from the American Society of Enology and Viticulture (ASEV) and one from the American Phytopathological Society at national and regional conferences. She was also awarded the Andrew Dreer Fellowship from the (then) Department of Horticultural Science to allow her to move her study abroad to Tasmania, Australia for 5 months, in addition to receiving the prestigious President’s Scholarship from ASEV. Upon completing her degree requirement, Megan was immediately hired as an Assistant Professor of Viticulture at the University of Missouri in Columbia.


Jose Vargas Asencio

Jose Vargas Asencio completed the requirements for a Ph.D. degree in plant pathology from Cornell University in 2017. His research, supervised by Keith Perry, focused on two topics: 1) Virus detection and characterization, 2) identification of small RNA-mediated regulatory network in A. thaliana. Before coming to Cornell, Jose earned his B.S. degree in Biology in 2008, and an M.Sc. degree in Genetics and Molecular Biology in 2011 from Universidad de Costa Rica. As a graduate student, Jose co-founded and presided over the zymology club. Currently, Jose continues as a postdoctoral scientist in the Perry Lab investigating the effect of virus infection on hose small RNA-mediated regulation.


Carly Summers

Carly Summers completed the requirements for a Ph.D. degree in plant pathology from Cornell University in 2015. Her research was supervised by Christine Smart and focused on detection of Pseudoperonospora cubensis and assessing the effects of mixed-species cover crops on populations of soilborne pathogens of tomato. In addition to her research, she enjoyed being part of the elementary science outreach program in Geneva, collaborating with an IPM extension team in Tanzania, and instructing a first year writing course titled “Symbiotic Associations in Nature.” Prior to her graduate work, Carly served in El Salvador with the Peace Corps with projects in agroecology and environmental education. She attended New College of Florida for her B.A. in Biochemistry. Carly is currently travelling and looks forward to pursuing her interests in agriculture and outreach.

Elizabeth Brauer

Elizabeth Brauer completed the requirements for a Ph.D. degree in the Department of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology at Cornell University in August 2015. She conducted her Ph.D. research in Sorina Popescu’s lab at the Boyce Thompson Institute, with a focus on kinase signaling networks in immunity. Liz developed large-scale methods to identify protein-protein interactions, and used these interaction networks to identify kinases with a role in immunity. By comparing the immune function of multiple kinases, Liz discovered a new form of basal immunity which is dependent on the presence of pathogen effectors. Liz also identified a link between ion homeostasis and basal immunity through her work on the Integrin-linked kinase 1 in Arabidopsis. While at Cornell, Liz received several awards including the Postgraduate Scholarship from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Barbara McClintock Award. Liz is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Ottawa where she is conducting research on the role of wheat receptor kinases in producing resistance to the devastating fungal pathogen, Fusarium graminearum.

Giovanna Danies Turano

Giovanna Danies Turano completed the requirements for a PhD degree in the Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology section of the School of Integrative Plant Science from Cornell University in May 2015. Her research was supervised by William E. Fry and was on population genetics of Phytophthora infestans in the United States. Before coming to Cornell Giovanna received a BSc degree in Biology and a BSc degree in Microbiology from Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia in 2009. Also from Universidad de los Andes, Giovanna earned her MSc degree in Biological Sciences in 2011. Giovanna is currently a postdoctoral researcher at Universidad de los Andes where she has a role of mentorship and research as well as teaching responsibilities. Furthermore, Giovanna is working on the creation of a center for the improvement of teaching and learning in STEM areas in Colombia.

Ellen Crocker

Ellen Crocker completed her PhD in Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology from Cornell University in 2015.  She was mentored by Eric Nelson and researched the potential roles of soil pathogens in the success of various native and invasive wetland plant species.  Affect graduating she joined the Forest Health Center for Research and Education, based at the University of Kentucky. Her current work focuses on education and outreach related to eastern forest health issues and she is continuing research on soil pathogens and invasives.  


Amara (Camp) Dunn

Amara DunnAmara (Camp) Dunn completed her Ph.D. in Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology in May 2014. Her research was conducted in the laboratory of Dr. Chris Smart, and focused on the biology and management of Phytophthora capsici, an important pathogen of many vegetable crops. While working on her Ph.D., Amara was also active in extension to vegetable growers (participating in the annual Empire State Producers Expo, among other grower meetings) and outreach to the public (assisting with the Elementary Science Outreach Program at the Geneva City School District and the Boys and Girls Club of Geneva). Prior to completing her Ph.D., Amara earned a M.S. in Plant Pathology from Cornell University (2009), conducting research in the labs of Drs. Helene Dillard and Chris Smart, and a B.S. in Biology from Juniata College (2005). She is currently the Instructor/Assistant Director of Introductory Biology Laboratories at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, NY.

Lisa Jones

Lisa JonesLisa A. Jones completed the requirements for a Ph.D. degree in plant pathology from Cornell University in May 2014.   Her research on microbial pathogens in irrigation water and pathogen detection were conducted at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, NY and supervised by Christine D. Smart, Magdalen Lindeberg, and Randy W. Worobo.  While living in Geneva Lisa was a member of the Student Association of the Geneva Experiment Station (SAGES) where she was involved with activities such as the student garden, the pumpkin growing contest, and on the SAGES scholarship committee.  Lisa is currently a postdoctoral scientist at Oregon State University studying small fruit diseases in the Pacific Northwest.  

Tiffany Jamann

Tiffany Jamann fulfilled the requirements for her Ph.D. degree in 2014. Her research was supervised by Rebecca Nelson. She focused on the genetics of disease resistance in maize, specifically on mapping host resistance to foliar pathogens. Before coming to Cornell Tiffany earned a BS degree in Biology and a BA in German from Moravian College. After completing her degree Tiffany was a postdoctoral scholar at North Carolina State University under the direction of Jim Holland where she examined adaptation in maize landraces. She joined the faculty at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in August 2015 where her program focuses on disease resistance in maize.

Hanh Ngoc Lam

Hanh LamHan Ngoc Lam completed the requirements for a Ph.D. degree in Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology from Cornell University in 2014. Her research was supervised by Dr. Samuel W. Cartinhour and was on Pseudomonas syringae pv. DC3000 with a focus on regulation of the Type III secretion system, which is the bacterial virulence factor. Before coming to Cornell, Hanh earned her B.S. degree in Biotechnology from Nong Lam University in Hochiminh city, in Vietnam. Then she worked at Nong Lam university for 2 years as an apprentice lecturer. Awarded the Vietnam Education Foundation fellowship, Hanh came to Cornell, where she was equipped with research skills in both experimental and computational analysis. Hanh is currently a postdoctoral scientist in Microbiology and Environmental Toxicology, working on developing a method for high throughput screen of antimicrobial compounds.

Christine Layton

Christine Layton

Christine Layton completed the requirements for a Ph.D. in plant pathology from Cornell University in January 2014. Her research on the biology and management of switchgrass head smut, caused by the fungus Tilletia maclaganii, was supervised by Gary Bergstrom, and her committee members were Kathie Hodge and Don Viands.  Before coming to Cornell, Christine earned her B.A. in biology from Hood College.  Christine served as president of the department’s Graduate Student Assembly and was recipient of a CALS Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Assistant Award.  Christine is currently employed at Monsanto Company in St. Louis, MO as a scientific liaison and technical consultant within the Technology Pipeline Solutions branch of their Information Technology organization

Samuel Mutiga

Samuel MutigaSamuel Kilonzo Mutiga completed the requirements for a PhD in the Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology section of the School of Integrative Plant Science in 2014. His research was supervised by Rebecca J. Nelson and focused on the genetic and environmental drivers for mycotoxin contamination in Kenyan maize. While at Cornell University, Samuel served as a treasurer in the Wananchi Association of students from East Africa. Before joining Cornell University, Samuel held B.Sc. in Horticulture and M.Sc. Plant Protection degrees both from Moi University in Kenya, and had also served as a part time lecturer for the  same institution. Samuel is currently a postdoctoral research associate in the Plant Pathology department of the University of Arkansas where he is working with Dr. James Correll on genetic and phenotypic characterization isolates of Magnaporthe oryzae from across Africa. On the same position, Samuel is also working with Dr. Jagger Harvey in establishment of a biobank of the collections of M. oryzae at Biosciences eastern and central Africa -International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI) Hub, Nairobi, Kenya.

2013 Alumni

Julia Crane

Julia Crane

Julia Crane completed the requirements for a Ph.D. degree in plant pathology from Cornell University in 2013. Her research was supervised by Dr. Gary Bergstrom and she collaborated closely with Drs. Donna Gibson of the USDA-ARS and Michael Frodyma of Novozymes Biologicals, Inc. For her PhD project, Julia used a combination of greenhouse, field, and laboratory techniques to investigate the ecology of a Bacillus biological control agent being developed to combat the wheat and barley fungal disease Fusarium head blight. She identified several major obstacles to successful disease control in field settings, which included the limited temporal longevity of a critical Bacillus-produced secondary metabolite on wheat surfaces, and the inadequate coverage of wheat surfaces by biocontrol spray applications. Following her PhD, Julia worked in a Temporary Service Technician position with the Cornell Plant Disease Diagnostic Clinic to develop molecular methods for oak wilt diagnosis and Phytophthora species identification. She also continued on in Gary Bergstrom’s lab in a Postdoctoral Associate position, for which she assisted in field assessments of small grains diseases, and the development of a real-time PCR protocol for quantification of myoctoxin-producing Fusarium chemotypes from grain samples. In August 2014 Julia will join Dr. Amanda Gevens’ lab at UW-Madison as a postdoctoral associate investigating the ecology and management of Helminthosporium solani, causal agent of silver scurf of potatoes.

Stephen Mondo

Stephen Mondo Stephen Mondo received his Ph.D. degree in 2013. He conducted his Ph.D. work under guidance of Teresa Pawlowska. His project was devoted to understanding factors that stabilize symbiotic associations in two focal systems: the Glomeromycota-Giomeribacter symbiosis, and the Rhizopus-Burkholderia symbiosis. Over the course of his work, Stephen determined that the Glomeromycota-Giomeribacter symbiosis is at least 400 million years old, yet remains non-essential to host survival. Through investigating patterns of endosymbiont adaptation, he discovered that endosymbiont genome reduction in this system is adaptive rather than degenerative as in other endosymbioses. While characterizing the Rhizopus-Burkholderia endosymbiosis, Stephen found that R. microsporus has been forced into dependence on its bacterial endosymbiont through bacterial control over expression of genes essential for host sexual and asexual reproduction. Currently, Stephen is continuing as a post-doc in the Pawlowska lab, where he is studying vegetative interactions in Mucoromycotina as well as following up on several of his Ph.D. projects. He anticipates to apply for academic positions in the near future.

Susan Scheufele

Susan Scheufele completed the requirements for an M.S. degree in plant pathology from Cornell University in 2013.  Her research was supervised by Helene Dillard and was on sustainable disease management of Alternaria leaf spot on cruciferous crops.  Before coming to Cornell, Sue earned her B.A. degree in 2006 in Forest Ecology and Geology, at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts.  While in Ithaca, Sue was a frequent shopper at the Ithaca Farmer’s Market, and enjoyed visiting organic farms and CSAs.  Her hobbies include pottery, cooking, gardening, bicycling, reading, sewing and knitting.  Sue is currently conducting agricultural research and working with vegetable growers as part of the University of Massachusetts Cooperative Extension vegetable team in Amherst, MA.

Zachary Frederick

Zachary Frederick (Zack) completed the requirements for a M.S. degree in plant pathology from Cornell University in 2013. His research was supervised by Kerik Cox and was concerned with practical fungicide resistance in the apple scab pathogen Venturia inaequalis. Before coming to Cornell, Zack earned his B.S. degree in agricultural biotechnology at SUNY Cobleskill in 2011. While at Cornell, Zack regularly participated in the apple extension talk circuit and wrote a disease column for the New York Berry News. Zack has now accepted an offer to pursue a Ph.D. degree at Washington State University working with Dr. Dennis Johnson on Verticillium wilt of mint and potato.

2012 Alumni

André VelásquezAndré Velásquez

André Velásquez completed the requirements for a Ph.D. degree in plant pathology and plant-microbe biology from Cornell University in 2012. His research was on the molecular basis of plant immunity using the interaction of tomato with the bacterial pathogen, Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato. André was supervised by Greg Martin and his committee members were Alan Collmer and Dan Klessig. He was supported, in part, by a Cornell Presidential Life Sciences Fellowship. Before coming to Cornell, André earned his B.S. from the National Agrarian University in Lima, Peru and a professional degree in biology based on his research at the International Potato Center. André is currently a postdoctoral scientist at the Department of Energy Plant Research Laboratory at Michigan State University.

Eric CarrEric Carr

Eric Carr completed the requirements for a MS degree in plant pathology from Cornell University in 2012. His research was supervised by Eric Nelson and was on the developmental responses of Pythium aphanidermatum zoosporangia to vermicompost-induced disease suppression. Prior to his MS work, Eric served as a research technician in the Department of Plant Pathology & Plant-Microbe Biology. Eric earned his BS degree at Millersville University. Millersville, Pennsylvania and he is currently in charge of composting research at a large farm near Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Daniel Mobius-CluneDaniel Moebius-Clune

Daniel Mobius-Clune completed the requirements for a Ph.D. degree in plant pathology from Cornell University in 2012. His research was supervised by Teresa Pawlowska and was on arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal agroecology with a focus on community structure and common mycorrhizal network functions. Before coming to Cornell, Dan earned his B.S. degree in Environmental and Forest Biology from SUNY ESF in 2003. At Cornell, Dan earned his M.S. degree in Soil Science in 2007. While in Ithaca, Dan sat on the board of a non-profit Project Growing Hope (the Ithaca community gardens). Dan is currently a postdoctoral scientist in Soil Science measuring fluxes of C and N from soil organic matter.

Allison JackAllison Jack

Allison Jack completed the requirements for a Ph.D. degree in plant pathology from Cornell University in 2012. Her research was supervised by Eric Nelson and was on the mechanisms of vermicompost-induced suppression of Pythium aphanidermatum. Prior to her Ph.D. work, Allison earned an MS degree in soil science at Cornell in the Department of Crop and Soil Science with Janice Thies, and a BA at Reed College in Portland Oregon. Allison has had a longstanding interest in composting and agricultural sustainability and has become nationally recognized for her compost-related outreach activities. Allison is currently the agroecology faculty member at t Prescott College in Prescott, Arizona where she directs the college's 20 acre research and teaching farm. Allison will also be spending one year as an NSF post doctoral fellow at Wageningen University in the Netherlands working with Jos Raaijmakers on a project entitled, "Harnessing biodiversity for sustainable agriculture: The metagenomics of disease suppressive soils". 

Brian KingBrian King

Brian King completed the requirements for a Ph.D. degree in the Department of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology at Cornell University in March 2012.  He conducted his Ph.D. research in Donna Gibson's program, with assistance from Gary Bergstrom, with a focus on evaluating the potential of plant pathogenic fungi and their enzyme complement for use in biofuel production using lignocellulosic digestion. His results showed that many plant pathogenic fungi are highly competent producers of lignocellulolytic enzymes and that their enzyme systems are uniquely geared toward preferred biomass sources depending on their pathogenic lifestyle.  The large-scale study is listed as the 13th highest accessioned article in Biotechnology for Biofuels 4:4 (2011) since its publication last year, indicating great interest among the scientific and industrial community, and providing the largest statistical analysis confirming host selectivity of lignocellulases in plant pathogens. He is currently at the Department of Plant Biology and Biotechnology at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, as a postdoctoral associate.  His project is focused on developing the moss Physcomitrella patens as a model system for characterization and optimization of terpenoid biosynthetic pathways for high value medicinal metabolites as well as biofuel intermediates.