USDA-ARS Cereal Disease Laboratory


I worked part-time as an Undergraduate Research Assistant in the Kianian Lab at the USDA-ARS Cereal Disease Laboratory starting my first week as a freshman at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in September 2015 and continuing until December 2018, and I also worked there full-time summer 2016. I assisted with various research projects involving the development of alloplasmic wheat lines and crop assessment for salt tolerance and increased biomass, oat crown rust resistance, and Fusarium head blight resistance. I characterized yield related traits in two unique wheat mapping populations, and took a leading role in phenotyping these populations. I also facilitated data collection for over a dozen traits across hundreds of lines. My work took place in the lab, growth chambers, greenhouses and fields, and I completed five lab and field safety courses. I assisted with molecular biology techniques, plant phenotyping, data collection, recordkeeping in Docollab electronic notebooks, and data analysis. I also worked on developing a method for virus-induced gene silencing (VIGS) to study nuclear cytoplasmic interactions in Brachypodium distachyon, a model organism for wheat, and shared results in poster presentations. The VIGS project was conducted with the support of an Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) scholarship. 


The Ohio State University Evolution of Fungal Ecology Lab

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In summer 2017 I interned at The Ohio State University Evolution of Fungal Ecology Lab (Slot Lab) through the Summer Research Internship in Plant Pathology (SRIPP) program. I conducted research on the function and evolution of nitrate transporters in mycorrhizal fungi and assisted with viral discovery in RNA collected from Pseudogymnoascus destructans, the fungus responsible for White Nose Syndrome in bats. In addition to culturing and performing genomic extractions and PCR on various Amanita species in the lab, I also utilized supercomputing resources and created Python and R scripts to accomplish a wide variety of tasks, including database development, sequence alignment and trimming, phyologeny construction and bootstrap testing, ancestral state reconstruction, principal component analysis, and transcriptome assembly. My internship culminated with a 20-minute PowerPoint presentation to the Department of Plant Pathology.


University of Minnesota-Twin Cities Plant Metabolomics Lab

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I completed a research project as an Undergraduate Research Scholar and Apprentice with the Plant Metabolomics Lab (Hegeman Lab) at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities from March 2016 to May 2017, and I became one of only two undergraduates to receive a New Student Member Award from the UMN Chapter of Sigma Xi: The Scientific Research Honor Society. This research project examined the metabolic flux of nitrogen in Spirodela polyrhiza, a rapid-growing species of duckweed, in fully autotrophic (light grown without sucrose), mixed autotrophic/heterotrophic (light grown with sucrose) and heterotrophic (dark grown) conditions. Mass spectrometry, k-means clustering and kinetic flux profiling were used to measure the incorporation of the stable isotope 15N into various amino acids and quantify significant differences in nitrogen metabolism under each condition. I presented the results from the first two conditions in a poster at the UMN 2017 Undergraduate Research Symposium, and was second author on a poster presented at the 2017 ASPB Annual Meeting. I was also co-author of a research journal article in Frontiers in Chemistry. The research project was supported by an Undergraduate Research Scholarship and was conducted in connection with a CFANS Research Apprenticeship Program I was invited to participate in.


USDA-ARS NCGRP Plant Germplasm Preservation Research Unit

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I interned as a USDA Wallace-Carver Fellow and Biological Science Aid at the Plant Germplasm Preservation Research Unit of the USDA-ARS National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation in Fort Collins, Colorado during summer 2014 after my junior year of high school. I was one of only four high school students selected nationally as a USDA Wallace-Carver Fellow along with 29 undergraduates, and I was the only intern at this location. The PGPRU focuses on developing new storage techniques and strategies to keep germplasm alive and healthy, improving existing storage techniques, and developing improved methods of determining seed and germplasm quality over time. I conducted over 100 germination tests to study seed longevity in several wild California species stored 65 years and to measure the effectiveness of various storage methods for recalcitrant seeds. I also entered data in Excel, assisted with RNA extraction and gas chromatography, observed cryopreservation techniques and collected seeds in the wild. Fellows attended a four-day USDA Washington Leadership Symposium and the World Food Prize Laureate Announcement Ceremony in Washington, D.C. prior to commencing their internships.