Postdoctoral Research Scholar
Plant Sciences, 2326C
I classify my research expertise as Plant Biology specializing in novel methods of plant pathogen detection and plant-microbe-insect interactions. I have a M.S. in Biology from Belarusian State University, Minsk, and my thesis was in Plant Physiology. I received my Ph.D. in Environmental Health Science from the University of North Carolina Greensboro (UNCG) in May 2016. My dissertation title was “The effects of endophytic Epichloë species on host plant fitness of two native grasses, Poa alsodes and Achnatherum robustum”.
I performed my PhD project in Dr. Faeth’s lab exploring plant-microbe-insect interactions that are driven by biologically active alkaloids produced by endophytic fungi. Some of these alkaloids protect agronomic and native plants from pests and enhance their performance without pesticide applications or other disturbances. During my Ph.D. I sampled natural grass, Poa alsodes, populations and described two new fungal species (Epichloë alsodes and E. schardlii var pennsylvanica). I tested the effects of endophytically produced alkaloids on host-plant protection and on insect herbivore neurobiological responses. I found strong insecticidal effects from E. alsodes and strong insect repellent effects from E. schardlii var pennsylvanica. I studied the genetic potential of endophytes to produce alkaloids and supported my predictions with chemical analyses. I also worked on a new endophyte species, E. somnae, description from sleepygrass, Achnatherum robustum, host. I found insecticidal and deterrent effects from the two endophytic species hosted by this grass, and I tested their genetic markers for production of several alkaloids and confirmed this with chemical tests. Interestingly, I recently found that endophytic compounds in tall fescue can even affect insect dung decomposers, an idea that I conceived and managed independently.
I was involved in a collaborative project with endophytic bacteria from a medicinal plant, Echinacea purpurea. We identified bacteria and their effects on the medicinal properties of the extracts. We found out that Echinacea purpurea extracts possess dual properties: alkylamides produced by the plant have immunosuppressive effects and lipopolysaccharides produced by the bacterial endophytes have immunostimulant effects. This project showed that medicinal properties of Echinacea purpurea extracts depend on plant growing conditions, presence of natural endophytic bacteria, and may vary across farms.
During my time in Dr. Wasserberg’s lab (UNCG), I developed an interest in the field of Phlebotomine sand flies’ ecology. These pest flies are vectors of Leishmaniasis disease, which is widely distributed in the Old and New Worlds. Our project aim is to create an oviposition trap for the control and surveillance of natural populations. We identified how some visual and olfactory cues (emitted by microbes) interact with the natural diel cycle when driving female fly oviposition behavior.
My time as a postdoc in Dr. Kiss’ lab (UNCG) has provided me with an understanding of the gravitropic and phototropic responses in plants. We use Arabidopsis thaliana wild-type and mutant plants in space, space-simulated, and ground-based experiments to identify molecular mechanisms of these responses. We studied gravitropic stress responses from 150 wild populations distributed globally to identify genotypes resistant to gravitational stress.During my postdoc time in Dr. Wasserberg’s lab (UNCG), I improved my skills on insect behavioral and performance experiments. At Dr. Kiss’s lab (UNCG), I improved my knowledge in Plant Physiology including molecular mechanisms of plant phototrophic and gravitropic responses.
Currently I am a Postdoctoral Scholar in the Entomology and Plant Pathology Department, North Carolina State University (NCSU) working at Dr. Jean Ristaino’s lab on the Plant Science Initiative funded project. It is a collaborative project among several research groups of biologists, engineers, and economists at NCSU named the Global Food Security Cluster. Our goal is to develop a novel smartphone-based device for the early detection of four tomato plant pathogens: fungal, oomycete, bacterial, and viral. I am testing DNA/RNA extractions with a microneedle patch, developing colorimetric and fluorescent LAMP tests, and utilizing volatile organic compounds (VOC) analyses for our greenhouse inoculation assays and field tests. I also communicate our project to a broader audience via presentations at the NC Tomato Field Day, NCALS Foundation Board Research Completion, and the American Phytopathological Society annual meeting in 2022.
PhD, Environmental Health Science, University of North Carolina, Greensboro (2016)
Bachelor and Master of Science, Biology with Specialization in Plant Physiology, Belarusian State University, Minsk, Belarus (1994)