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Faculty and Staff

Department of Plant and Microbial Biology Newsletter – Fall 2021

Fall Leaves on campus

‘The Scoop’ from the Department Head

This fall, we find ourselves unable to hold our traditional ice cream social event due to concerns about the COVID delta variant. Instead, we have put together this newsletter to introduce you to the newest members of our department. It strikes me as I write this that an academic department, like many organizations, are in a constant state of renewal. Some individuals graduate, retire or move on, while all the time new students, staff and faculty arrive in the department, fresh with new ideas and new energy. I encourage you all to reach out to the newer individuals in the department and get to know them and help them to get settled into our department. With the currently reduced ability to gather and socialize, it takes a little extra effort to make these new connections that are important for our progress as a department. Perhaps ask them to join you for a scoop of ice cream?
-Bob Franks

Microbiology Graduate Program (MGP)

The Microbiology Graduate Program (MGP) is excited to welcome all the new Microbiology graduate students into the department and welcome back our current MB graduate students.
Our 9 new Microbiology graduate students this fall include:
Anna Farrell
Kalani Gast
Lydia Jordache
John Joyce
Samantha Kisthardt
Jesse Maier
Olivia Mathieson
Trenton Owens
Sarah Watson

Masters of Microbial Biotechnology (MMB)

This Fall, the MMB program has 13 new graduate students and is partnering with the following companies: ThermoFisherBecton Dickinson, ZenBio, Covance and FujiFilm Diosynth. MMB students will work with these partner companies over the course of the semester to complete their Fall practicum projects. Thank you to all of our MMB partners for their continued support in providing meaningful industry-related experiences to our students through guest lectures and practicum projects!

The MMB program and PMB department wishes Paul Hamilton a fond farewell with his retirement July 1st, and we are excited to have Meaghan Nappo now serving as interim director.

The MMB program also unveiled its new website at the start of the semester – be sure to check it out!

The short video highlights the new MB and MMB students who have shared a little bit about themselves, so we can get to know them!

Plant Biology Graduate Program

Welcome to all our new PB Graduate Students and welcome back to all our current students!
The new students include:
Asa Budnick
Merry Conlin
Bri Edwards 
Kaleb Goff
Melina Keighron
Bethany Mostert
Catie Sherry
Ali Wrobleski

Consider joining the PB Graduate Student Association which is a great way to meet fellow graduate students.

The short video highlights the new students who have shared a little bit about themselves.

Plant Biology Undergraduate Program

We are pleased to welcome Laura Tuning, who has joined the department as the Plant Biology Undergraduate Program Assistant!

The Botany Club, which is open to all NC State students, has resumed bi-weekly outdoor meetings this fall on Mondays at 6:00-7:00pm. This year’s club is led by a terrific officer team that is organizing activities and speakers:

President – Morgan Cantrell
Vice President – Sydney Buck
Secretary/Treasurer – Seline Pons
Agri-Life Council Representatives – Sallie Taylor-Parker and Helen Nocito

Be on the lookout for more information about the club’s activities!

If you are interested in purchasing a Botany Club T-shirt, please contact Chad Jordan ( for more information. T-shirts feature the Botany Club’s “We’re Frond of Plants” design and cost $10.

Faculty Additions to Our Department

The Department of Plant and Microbial Biology welcomes new additions to the faculty!

  • Will Petry joined our Department on January 1, 2021 as an Assistant Professor. His research focuses on biodiversity, population dynamics, species interactions.
  • Orlando Arguello-Miranda will start on January 1, 2022 as an Assistant Professor and is part of the “Modeling the living embryo” Chancellor’s Faculty Excellence Program faculty cluster.
  • Adrian Percy will be joining the department on November 1st as a Professor and the Director of the NC Plant Sciences Initiative (PSI).
  • NC State ECE Professor Cranos Williams now has a joint appointment with our department and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE).

Staff Additions to Our Department

We are also excited about our new PMB staff members!

Headshot of Laura Tuning
  •  Laura Tuning recently joined the department staff in July as the Plant Biology Undergraduate Program Assistant. She is a NCSU alumni and is very excited to be working at her alma mater! After graduating NCSU, Laura worked in research at UNC and at the Vet School before taking time off to raise her 3 children. Upon starting back to work, she was a travel agent, organizing safaris to southern Africa. She describes herself as a very outdoorsy person and can often be found hiking around Umstead with her dogs or working in her garden. She also loves keeping freshwater tropical fish and has several aquariums set up around the house. She is married and has 3 kids, two daughters who have graduated from college and a son who is a sophomore on the swim team at the University of Louisville. Please drop by her office in 2115 Gardner to say hello whenever you get a chance! 
  • Alexandra “Alyx” Goodnight  joined us in April and has been working remotely as our Social Media assistant. She has been the source of PMB Twitter posts, newsletters, several news posts, and website updates. She worked on the new MMB website that was recently launched. Please email her ( if you have research announcements, activities or programs of interest that you would like to share on our social media or through a news post. Alyx’s background includes a Ph.D. in Genetics and Molecular Biology from Emory University and more recent work with wolves.

Lab Announcements and Publications

Alonso-Stepanova Lab

Please join the Alonso-Stepanova Lab in Congratulating Anna Yaschenko for getting an NIH Molecular Biotechnology Training Program Pre-doctoral Fellowship and for winning the 2021 Genetics & Genomics Initiative flash talk contest with her catchy entry on deciphering the language of DNA.

Congrats to David Bullock in the Alonso-Stepanova lab for being awarded a Dissertation Completion Fellowship from NC State!

Franks Lab

The Franks Lab would like to welcome its newest member, Albert Tucci, a Ph.D. student in the Bioinformatics program. Albert shared a bit about himself:

Albert Tucci Headshot

“I am originally from Greenville, NC. I did my undergrad at UNC-CH in quantitative biology. Then I got my masters under Drs. John Stiller and Carol Goodwillie at ECU, where my thesis project involved analyzing the stigma transcriptome of the flower Leptosiphon jepsonii – which was of interest because L. jepsonii has a rare transient mechanism for preventing self-fertilization. I am currently a bioinformatics Ph.D. student in the Franks lab where I am studying hybrid seed inviability in the Mimulus genus. Outside of the lab I enjoy kayaking, hiking, and trivia!”

Kleiner Lab

The Kleiner Lab is welcoming several new members.

Jacob Parnell
Dr. Jacob Parnell, Research Scholar
Lisa David Headshot
Dr. Lisa David, Postdoc within the InROOT project
Jessie Maier Headshot
Jessie Maier, Ph.D. Student
Grace D'Angelo Headshot
Grace D’Angelo, visiting Ph.D. student (Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology) for six months
Alissa Meyerhoffer headshot
Alissa Meyerhoffer, Undergraduate Researcher

Additionally, Andrea Ward is also joining the Kleiner Lab as undergraduate researcher.

Congratulations to Jessie Maier, former undergraduate student, who received the “Excellence In Research” Award from the Microbiology Undergraduate Program for her 4 years of research in the Kleiner Lab.

Congratulations to Angie Mordant for successfully defending her Master’s Thesis!

The Kleiner Lab has one new publication to share:

Long Lab

The Long Lab would like to welcome their new undergraduate student, Alienor Hedlund! Also, Congratulations to Dr. Terri Long and her lab on their new ERC Planning Grant: ERC for Green and Climate Resilient Built Environments (Green CRiBs)!

Miller Lab

The Miller Lab would like to welcome Microbiology graduate student and GGI Scholar, John Joyce in the department, as he rotates in the Miller and Hyman labs.

Congratulations to doctoral student Xiaohe “Jessie” Jin, who defended and was awarded a Ph.D. (Chemistry; J.S. Lindsey primary advisor). Jessie, now employed locally at Atom Bioworks, recently added to her list of publications.

BeeMORE Program

BeeMORE with Eric-Miller 2021

In late May, the buzz about campus was that we were heading into more normal sessions of classes, research and other on-campus activities. Thus, our USDA NIFA-funded Research and Extension Experience for Undergraduates (REEU) program, BeeMORE: Bees and Microbes in Organized Research and Extension, got off to a great start. After a COVID-19 cancelled program last summer, a cohort of 10 (+1 remote) students arrived on campus from locales across the country – Alabama, Colorado, Wisconsin, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Puerto Rico to engage with NC State faculty. Projects involved honey bee pathogens, bumble bee microbes, plant products affecting bees, and yeast metabolic products, to name a few. In addition to trips visiting local biotech company AgBiome, attending a WNC beekeepers meeting, engaging with campus extension personnel, presenting at the Summer Science and Creativity Symposium, BeeMORE students found ways to enjoy Raleigh and the geography of North Carolina. One could hear students chatting about glamping, surfing, food halls and movie nights. What’s not to like? Bees, Microbes and more! The program has been re-funded for the next five years, with new discoveries and adventures yet to come. Learn more

Here is a short video from Rebecca Ginzburg, summarizing her 2021 summer BeeMORE lab experience.

Petry Lab

The Petry Lab welcomes Melina Keighron as their new Ph.D. student in Plant Biology.

Sheth Lab

The Sheth Lab would like to welcome their new Ph.D. student, Kaleb Goff, and new undergraduate researchers, Emily Powell and Emma Wilson.

Also, Congratulations to Emma Vtipil, who received a Graduate Research Excellence Grant (GREG) R.C. Lewontin Award from the Society for the Study of Evolution ($2,500), and a Bill Dahl Graduate Student Research Award from the Botanical Society of America ($1,500)!

Sozzani Lab

We have new students working in the Sozzani lab:

Maimouna Abderamane Tahir Headshot
Maimouna Abderamane Tahir, Graduate Student (Mechanical Engineering)
Aitch Hunt
Aitch Hunt, Undergraduate Student (Plant Biology and Art + Design)
Atiyya Muhammad Headshot
Atiyya Muhammad, Undergraduate Student (Genetics)
Matt Murray Headshot
Matt Murray, Undergraduate Student (Applied Mathematics and Electrical Engineering)

The Sozzani Lab would like to share one new publication:

Xiang Lab

Wenbin Zhou's Defense on Zoom
Wenbin Zhou’s Defense on Zoom!

Please join the Xiang Lab in wishing Congratulations to Wenbin (Bean) Zhou for a successful defense of his Ph.D. thesis and bidding a fond farewell to the new Dr. Zhou as he begins his postdoc in comparative genomics at UNC Chapel Hill this October!

The Xiang Lab is also welcoming two new research assistants: Rageeni Sah and Jonathan Falso! They will be helping with bioinformatics and data collecting for a project studying biodiversity in eastern Asia and eastern North America disjunct plants.

The Xiang Lab has several new published or submitted manuscripts to share:

Spring botanizing excursion 3.27
The Xiang Lab’s spring “botanizing” excursion!

Xie Lab

The Xie Lab welcomes two new undergraduate researchers, Jackson Cooper and Nathalie Mea, who will be helping research CBD production in hemp. Additionally, congratulations to Yue Zhu for completing his Ph.D.!

The Xie Lab has several publications to share:

Faculty Awards and Announcements

Need a shirt? PMB logo Tee and Polo style shirts available for purchase. The cost is $17 for the Polos and $7.55 for the T-shirts. Please email Catherine Freeman ( to check for sizes available and to order.

Despite the difficulties brought the COVID pandemic, PMB continues to move forward. We all look forward to resuming a normal life and schedule; but until we are able to, please stay safe and have a wonderful semester! Thank you to all who contributed to our Fall Newsletter!From the PMB Social Committee: Dr. Chad Jordan, Ms. Anne-Marie Noblitt, Ms. Rachel Clark, Dr. Alex Goodnight, and Committee Co-Chairs, Ms. Catherine Freeman and Dr. Tom Wentworth

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