- Fall 2014 - present, PhD student, Fungal and Oomycete Biology, Plant Pathology & Plant-Microbe Biology Section, School of Integrative Plant Science, Cornell University
- 2014, MSc, Biology, University of Vermont
- 2013, BSc, Integrated Biological Sciences, University of Vermont
Current Graduate Advisor: Gillian Turgeon
Cochliobolus heterostrophus and Setosphaeria turcica, closely related fungal pathogens of maize, differ in their nutritional interactions with their host. C. heterostrophus is a necrotroph, while S. turcica is a hemibiotroph, although they cause similar disease symptoms. This contrast provides an opportunity to explore virulence mechanisms of closely related pathogens differing in nutritional lifestyles. To this end, I am currently helping to resolve the origin and evolution of the genetically complex suite of C. heterostrophus genes responsible for biosynthesis of T-toxin, a small molecule that functions as a host-selective toxin. In the future, I will work to identify effectors involved in virulence of S. turcica.
Links to Recent and Current Projects
Turgeon Lab website: http://www.plantpath.cornell.edu/labs/turgeon/index.html
During my undergraduate and master’s degree programs (2009-2014), I investigated local adaptation of mycorrhizal fungi by exploring the effect of large herbivore grazing on mycorrhizal-mediated plant responses to simulated herbivory under the mentorship of Dr. Alison K. Brody, of the University of Vermont. I also worked under the guidance of Dr. Jeanne M. Harris of the University of Vermont Plant Biology Department through a McNair Fellowship. I gained invaluable experience in genetics, molecular biology, and general laboratory techniques while working to amplifying the DNA sequence of a bHLH transcription factor regulated by both the plant hormone abscisic acid and the Medicago truncatula gene LATD. I also interned under Dr. Brody as part of a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) summer internship award from the National Science Foundation through the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (RMBL) in Gothic, Colorado. I investigated host-specific interactions between mycorrhizal fungi and the sex morphs of the gynodioecious perennial herb Polemonium foliosissimum (Polemoniaceae) in the field.
I am currently using phylogenetic tools to help resolve the origin and evolution of the C. heterostrophus Tox1 genes responsible for biosynthesis of T-toxin, the molecule responsible for the devastating 1970 Southern Corn Leaf Blight epidemic in the US. I will also be taking advantage of a wealth of genomic and transcriptomic resources to identify candidate virulence effectors in the maize pathogen Setosphaeria turcica, to determine their function by comparing wild type and mutant strains deleted for candidate genes in virulence assays.
Awards and Honors
- 2015 – NSF Graduate Research Fellowship
- 2014 – State University of NY Diversity Fellowship
- 2014 – UVM Opportunity Fellowship
- 2013 – Kurt Milton Picket Award, UVM
- 2012 – Ronald E. McNair Scholar
- 2011 – NSF REU, Gothic CO
- 2011 – Osher Foundation Reentry Scholarship
- 2010 – American Society for Horticulture Science Collegiate Scholars Award
Elected and Appointed Offices
- 2015 – Present Graduate Student Mentor, McNair Scholars Program, Cornell University
- 2013 Teaching Assistant, Introductory Biology, University of Vermont
- 2010 Teaching Assistant, Information Technology, University of Vermont
- 2009 Teaching Assistant, Communication Methods, University of Vermont
Professional Societies and Working Groups
2015 – Present Faculty Advisory Board, McNair Scholars Program, Cornell University
González, J.B., G.L. Clarke, and A.K. Brody. 2015. Lack of sex-specific differences in mycorrhizal associations and response to herbivory in the gynodioecious herb, Polemonium foliosissimum. Plant Ecol 216:951-962
- Determining the function of an abscisic acid-regulated bHLH transcription factor in the plant root tip. McNair Undergraduate Research Conference. July 21, 2012, Niagara Falls, NY.
- The influence of ungulate grazing history and soil biota on plant tolerance to simulated herbivory. Poster presented at the University of Vermont Student Research Conference, April 19, 2012. Burlington VT.
- Plant size influences mycorrhizal colonization of Polemonium foliosissimum. RMBL Student Symposium. August 15, 2011. Gothic, CO.
- Grazing history impacts mycorrhizal communities and plant tolerance to simulated herbivore damage. Poster presented at the University of Vermont Student Research Conference, April 26, 2011, Burlington VT.
- The influence of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi from areas of differing grazing histories on plant growth and response to simulated herbivory. Cornell University Symbiosis and Cooperation Group, PPPMB, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, November 7, 2014.
- The influence of ungulate grazing history and soil biota on plant tolerance to simulated herbivory: an update. University of Vermont Biology Department Eco-Lunch Seminar, Burlington Vermont, October 11, 2013.
- Mycorrhizal associations of Polemonium foliosissimum. University of Vermont Biology Department Eco-Lunch Seminar, Burlington Vermont, March 15, 2013.
- The influence of ungulate grazing history and soil biota on plant tolerance to simulated herbivory. University of Vermont Biology Department Undergraduate Research Seminar, April 27, 2012. Burlington VT.
- Gonzalez, J. B. and Petipas, R. H. The role of mycorrhizal fungi in mitigating plant stress in a savanna ecosystem. University of Vermont Biology Department Eco-Lunch Seminar, Burlington Vermont, December 3, 2010.