Research Interests

My research interests include plants, microbes and big data. I love both science and computers, so I especially enjoy areas of research that rely on using computational methods, such as plant and fungal genomics, metabolomics, bioinformatics and complexity science.

 
 
Photo by hansenn/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by hansenn/iStock / Getty Images

Fungal Symbiosis of Trees in Relation to Nitrogen Uptake

As a Summer Research Intern in Plant Pathology (SRIPP Intern) at The Ohio State University in Summer 2017, I am conducting research on fungal symbiosis of trees in relation to nitrogen uptake, and I am also building a database. The work will involve using primers, a supercomputer and Protein BLAST (BLASTp).  The research project is to culminate in a 25-minute presentation to the Evolution of Fungal Ecology Lab (Slot Lab). 

Computational methods: UNIX, Linux, BLASTp
Lab skills: Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR)


Metabolic Flux of Nitrogen in Spirodela polyrhiza

As an Undergraduate Research Scholar and Apprentice at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in 2016-2017, I participated in a study on nitrogen uptake and metabolic differences in Spirodela polyrhiza, a species of duckweed, in both autotrophic (light grown) and heterotrophic (dark grown) conditions, and also compared nitrogen metabolism with and without sucrose. Methods included using stable isotope labeling to measure dynamic metabolic flux in intact plants. There are commercial interests in duckweed for biofuel production, animal feed and wastewater treatment in bioremediation. I presented part of the research in a poster at the 2017 Undergraduate Research Symposium, and received a Sigma Xi New Student Member Award for superior accomplishments and demonstrated potential in scientific research. Full results of the study are being prepared for presentation at a conference and for submission to a peer-reviewed journal.

Computational methods: Kinetic Flux Profiling (KFP) technique, R, Chromeleon, Xcalibur
Lab skills: Liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry (LC-MS), stable isotope labeling, seed germination

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Photo by ZoneCreative/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by ZoneCreative/iStock / Getty Images

Wheat Genomics, Stress and Phenotyping

During my first week as a freshman at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, I started working as an Undergraduate Research Assistant in the Kianian lab at the USDA-ARS Cereal Disease Laboratory and Department of Plant Pathology. I have worked there part-time during two academic years and full-time Summer 2016 supporting research on wheat genomics and the biotic and abiotic stress tolerance of wheat. Research projects include the development of alloplasmic wheat lines and their assessment for salt tolerance and increased biomass, oat crown rust resistance and Fusarium head blight resistance. I have also assisted with a project to develop new precision phenotyping techniques for disease screening. My work takes place in the lab, growth chambers, greenhouses and fields.

Computational methods: R, Excel, Docollab
Lab skills: DNA extraction, phenotyping, wheat threshing, plant care


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Seed Viability

When I was a junior in high school, I was selected as a USDA Wallace-Carver Fellow along with three other high school students and 29 undergraduates. Fellows attended a USDA Washington Leadership Symposium in Washington, DC and then conducted a paid summer internship at a USDA facility. I was accepted at my top-choice location -- the Plant Germplasm Preservation Research Unit (PGPRU) in Fort Collins, CO, at the largest genebank in the United States. PGPRU is charged with improving genebanking operations, developing techniques to keep germplasm alive and healthy, conserving genetic diversity of plant populations, and inventing new ways to predict and detect changes in preserved germplasm. As a Biological Science Aid, I conducted over 100 germination tests to study seed longevity, wild species and recalcitrant seeds. I also entered data in Excel, assisted with RNA extraction and gas chromatography, observed cryopreservation techniques and collected seeds in the wild. 

Computational methods: Excel
Lab skills: seed germination, RNA extraction


Photo by dk_photos/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by dk_photos/iStock / Getty Images

Predicting Leptospirosis in Sri Lanka

As part of a group project for an Honors Seminar on Complexity Science, I helped develop a predictive model for future Leptospirosis outbreaks in human populations in Sri Lanka. This model is useful to forecast when outbreaks will occur and also determine which factors have the greatest influence on Leptospirosis incidence. To investigate and model Leptospirosis, we used data collected from the National Epidemiological Unit in Sri Lanka. We analyzed the data using R to find the average values of our variables, the skewness and kurtosis of our data set, and the estimated standard deviation. We used these variables to develop a model to forecast future incidence levels and trends of Leptospirosis. Plans are to work with the professor to expand the study and prepare a research paper for submission to a peer-reviewed journal.

Computational methods: R, VOSviewer, GLEAMviz


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Canine Behavioral Study

I founded the Potcake Evaluation and Research Study (Potcake EARS) when I was 14 to study the behavior of stray potcake dogs rescued from the Bahamas and adopted as pets, with the hypothesis that they would share traits due to isolated gene pools on the islands. I began collecting survey data as a freshman in high school and submitted the project to science fairs. The project won 1st place at school and county science fairs and 3rd place at the Georgia science fair. I was also featured in Abaco Life magazine and received my school's Steven C. Fowler Emerging Scientist Award. I continued collecting data for more than four years, until I had thousands of pages of data from 547 participants from across the United States, Canada, the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos and Germany. I got the idea for researching potcakes after volunteering two years with a potcake rescue organization and discovering that owners lacked information on potcake behavior. I published results of the study for their use at www.potcakeears.com, and received many thanks and commendations from potcake owners. 

Computational methods: online survey, Facebook Groups, Excel, website development, Photoshop