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Mickey Drott


  • Fall 2012 – present, PhD student; Plant-Microbe Biology, Plant Pathology & Plant-Microbe Biology Section, School of Integrative Plant Science, Cornell University
  • 2011, BA, Biology, Franklin and Marshall College

Current Graduate Advisor: Michael Milgroom

Research Focus

Aflatoxin is the most potent mycotoxin known—it is the most tightly regulated mycotoxin by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Aflatoxin is produced by a few species in the genus Aspergillus (section Flavi), and contaminates maize, peanuts, cottonseed, tree nuts, and other seed crops. The long-term goal of my research is to reduce aflatoxin contamination in food by understanding the significance of aflatoxin in the ecology of Aspergillus flavus, the most common aflatoxin-producing species. My overarching hypothesis is that aflatoxin confers a fitness advantage to A. flavus under some conditions, but not others. More specifically, variation in selection for or against aflatoxin under different conditions maintains polymorphism in aflatoxin production in A. flavus, and explains the prevalence of naturally occurring A. flavus individuals that do not produce aflatoxin (referred to hereafter as nontoxigenic isolates). My goal, therefore, is to understand the ecological factors that select for and against aflatoxin production in agricultural systems. Ultimately I hope to get a better understanding of the ecological significance of A. flavus secondary metabolism in general, and may contribute to the improvement of biological control  efforts for reducing aflatoxin contamination of agricultural products.

Links to Recent and Current Projects

Professional Experience

  • Laboratory instructor BioG1500, Cornell University. Fall 2013-Fall 2015
  • Laboratory Technician, Drexel University, Fall 2012-Spring 2013

Awards and Honors

  • Fall 2014 TA Professional Development Travel Grant, Cornell University. Investigative Biology Lab Course
  • Fall 2015, USDA NIFA Fellowship  (declined)


Milgroom M.G., Jimenez-Gasco MM., Garcia C.O., Drott M.T., Jimenez-Diaz R.M.. 2014. Recombination between Clonal Lineages of the Asexual Fungus Verticillium dahlia Detected by Genotyping by Sequencing. PLoS ONE 9: e106740. [Contributed to conducting experiments, analyzing data and manuscript writing]

Drott M.T., Sarvary M.A.. Why did the snake cross the road: a case study of population subdivision using Hardy Weinberg Equilibrium. BioG1500 Laboratory Manual Chapter 4. [also to be submitted to National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science for peer review]