Margaret Frank is pursuing her PhD in Professor Mike Scanlon's lab. Her thesis project is to compare gene expression patterns across structurally and evolutionarily diverse shoot meristems. The shoot meristem is a pluripotent population of cells that gives rise to the entire above ground portion of plants. Shoot meristems vary tremendously in their size and structure across land plant lineages. Margaret is using a technique called laser microdissection to isolate the RNA and generate transcriptomes for individual meristem cells from structurally diverse model plants. The end goal of her project is to identify gene families that are widely used in meristem development across diverse species as well as genes that are uniquely expressed within each of the individual species. She is currently working on cross species comparisons of her meristem specific transcriptomes.
Margaret graduated from Barnard College with a Bachelors of Arts in Biology and worked for a year as a research assistant at the Arnold Arboretum before starting her PhD at Cornell in 2008.
Holly Summers is pursuing a PhD in Plant Biology under the guidance of Dr. Robert Raguso. She is taking a broadly interdisciplinary approach to investigate the mechanisms of floral display and mating system evolution in Oenothera flava, the Yellow Evening Primrose (Onagraceae). This hawkmoth-pollinated plant displays extreme variation in floral phenotype within a mixed mating system. It produces strongly scented, predominantly outcrossing flowers with the longest hypanthia in North America (subsp. taraxacoides) as well as shorter, weakly scented flowers (subsp. flava) that frequently self pollinate.
Holly is comparing the mechanisms of floral display between the subspecies, concentrating on floral scent phenotypes and floral morphology. She is currently assembling complete transcriptomes from the petals of each subspecies, in order to explore scent biosynthetic pathways and regulation during the period of greatest scent production. Her thesis work will also tie in the developmental trajectories of each floral morph, the adaptive significance of these differences and the evolutionary history of mating system transitions between the subspecies.
Holly earned a B.S. in Botany and Plant Sciences from the University of California, Riverside, with a minor in Entomology.
Robert Bode has investigated the ecological and evolutionary consequences of natural selection by herbivores on Solidago (goldenrod). His research has utilized two main experimental approaches: (1) long-term herbivore exclusion plots to investigate whether there are changes in the growth rates and herbivore resistance of Solidago altissima (tall goldenrod), and (2) examination of S. macrophylla (large-leaved goldenrod) growing along an elevation gradient in the Adirondack mountains in New York, which provides a gradient in the level of herbivory, with the most herbivores at the bottom.
While at Cornell, Robert has had the opportunity to T.A. several courses. He was a laboratory instructor in introductory botany, plant physiology, and ecology and the environment. Most of his teaching experience comes from being a teaching assistant for three years in introductory biology, where he worked with a diverse group of students with many backgrounds and different career goals. Robert also worked in a pre-freshman summer program where he taught students study skills.
Janelle Burke pursued her Ph.D in Plant Biology in the area of systematics under the guidance of Dr. Melissa Luckow. She studied the Neotropical members of the Polygonaceae (buckwheat family). Through her doctoral research, she addressed questions regarding broad scale evolutionary relationships and species boundaries. At the family level, she reconstructied evolutionary relationships of oft- neglected tropical plants (Burke et al., 2010. Am. J. Bot 97: 1377). This work has led to a reexamination of the vegetative and floral structures within the family. At a lower taxonomic level, she studied the genus.Antigonon, which contains the invasive species A. leptopus (corallita, Mexican creeper). Her work has produced a key to accurately identify the invasive species from the other congeners. In addition, she has used data collected from herbarium labels to infer the native range of corallita, and its rate of introduction and spread. Her research has led her to Venezuela, Mexico and the Netherlands Antilles.
Hailing from Chicago, Janelle’s interest in tropical plants was sparked by a winter trip to Ecuador, while an undergraduate at Johns Hopkins University. After receiving her B.A. in behavioral biology, she worked for the City of Baltimore training volunteers how to identify and remove invasive species from the City parks. She continues to integrate outreach and invasion biology into her work while finishing her dissertation.
Jeremy Coate is a Post Doc Fellow at Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon. Coate studied the evolution of photosynthesis in polyploids in the laboratory of Dr. Jeffrey Doyle. His selected group of plants included several members that are closely related to soybean, Glycine max (L.) Merr. Fabaceae, and its wild relatives. Jeremy co-wrote a grant proposal with Jeff Doyle and Tom Owens titled "Physiology and molecular evolution of photoprotection in allopolyploids" that was funded by the Division of Integrative Organismal Systems of NSF.
The evolution of photosynthesis in polyploids is an important area of research because polyploidy is ubiquitous in the evolutionary history of plants, and can have pronounced effects on phenotype and functional traits such as photosynthesis. In addition, soybean, which is a paleopolyploid, is the third largest crop plant in the United States. Jeremy used chlorophyll fluorescence to compare photosynthetic phenotypes between neopolyploids and their diploid progenitors. At the same time, he used next-generation sequencing technology, as well as more targeted expression analyses (qRT-PCR) to profile and compare diploid and polyploid transcriptomes under various light conditions.
Jeremy is originally from Oregon, where he earned a B.A. in biology from Reed College and a M.S. in forest science from Oregon State University. He served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in The Gambia (West Africa) for two years, where he worked on agroforestry projects with local farmers.
Sarah Nell Davidson is currently a Research Associate in International Programs at Cornell University working with the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative.
Davidson pursued a novel writing-focused PhD program that fused her experience in plant biology research with science communication, under the guidance of Robert Turgeon. Her doctoral dissertation consisted of a collection of case studies, papers in peer-reviewed journals, and articles for mass media all of which stemmed from her in-depth research on the controversy around genetically modified papaya in developing countries.
Genetically engineered (GE), virus-resistant papaya was widely and rapidly adopted by Hawaiian growers in the late 1990s. Yet, other papaya-producing countries that are plagued with the virus, and that stand to benefit from this technology, have failed to approve it. This is despite the fact that GE papaya is close to an ideal ''pro-poor'' GE crop. Sarah spent extensive time researching this controversy in places such as Hawaii, Mexico, Bangladesh, and Thailand.
In an editorial published in the June issue of Plant Physiology, Sarah examines the political and social factors that have stymied the technology in Thailand. An understanding of these factors may help stakeholders devise better strategies for introducing the next generation of biotechnology crops. Read the article at: http://www.plantphysiol.org/cgi/reprint/147/2/487
Jimmy Ytterberg completed his BS and MSc degree in Chemistry at the University of Stockholm in 1999, including a six-month study as an exchange student in the Biochemistry department at Imperial College, London, England. In 2001, he came to Cornell where he developed his PhD thesis titled: Thylakoid proteome analysis of chloroplasts of Arabidopsis thaliana; Elucidation of thylakoid functions and its biogenesis machinery in the Lab of Prof. Klaas J. vanWijk . In order to carry out his dissertation work, he spent 4 months in Odense (Denmark) learning advanced mass spectrometry analysis of proteins. During his time at Cornell, Jimmy collaborated with many projects within and outside Cornell identifying proteins by mass spectrometry. His skills with this technique earned him an invitation to speak at the 52nd American Society for Mass Spectrometry (ASMS) Conference in Nashville, TN in 2004. Today, as a post-doc, Jimmy continues his search for new methods for protein/proteome characterization by mass spectrometry and their application in answering biological questions at UCLA. Congratulations!!