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Department of Plant and Microbial Biology Newsletter – Fall 2022

Howling cow ice cream in front of Talley wolves

‘The Scoop’ from the Department Head

It was great to hold our PMB Fall Ice Cream social in person and in our traditional location, on the edge of the Brickyard next to Bostian Hall. We gathered to introduce new members, to catch up with colleagues and to have some cookies and ice cream. The weather was great; sunny and warm. However, fall has arrived with the cooler temperatures setting in!

In this fall newsletter, we provide some updates on our recent efforts within the department in the areas of research, teaching, extension and community engagement. We look forward to a great year with many activities being planned by our graduate students and undergraduates and a lot more in-person events for us to socialize as a department.

-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 7 new Microbiology graduate students this fall include:

  • Lauren Anderson
  • John Beckley
  • Cheyanne Hellard
  • Andrew Hopkins
  • Emma Jager
  • Taylor Kennedy
  • Molly Vanhoy

Plant Biology Graduate Program

Welcome to all our new PB Graduate Students and welcome back to all our current students!

The new students include:

  • Kennedy Brinson
  • Harry Ervin
  • Caitlin Kestel
  • Alden Sears
  • Ariel Tarrand
  • Katie Vollen

This short video highlights new Plant Biology and Microbiology students who have shared a little bit about themselves.

Masters of Microbial Biotechnology (MMB)

The MMB program welcomed 14 new students this fall. They represent eight different universities, including NCSU. Student teams are working with four different companies on five projects. Throughout the semester, students will work with Alura, BASF, Gore, and Novozymes.

The projects include:

  • Team Alura is assessing the canine food market including treats and premium dog food to determine Alura’s marketability of their immune boosting, anti-cancer, and antioxidant additive, a Chinese mushroom called Ganoderma lucidum. Their main goal is to deliver high quality products to animal protein producers to allow for better efficiency during production and have observed successful results in humans and canines in clinical trials.
  • In order for BASF to be carbon neutral by 2050, the team is tasked with determining the feasibility of how seed treatments will improve carbon sequestration by maintaining crop biomass. They will create a business case for this technology with a focus on public relations, ultimately increasing profitability.
  • Gore is interested in using their advanced materials for use in algae cleanup and to collect useful biomaterials in zones negatively affected by excessive algal blooms. The team is looking for how to best use their advanced materials in the sustainability space, and are looking for an opportunity analysis using market data and information from key opinion leaders.
  • Novozymes seeks an outside perspective on their current portfolio of microbial and enzymatic technologies and how it may be expanded into new markets. The team will review their current technologies to identify markets Novozymes is not playing in, assess whether these markets have high growth potential and are suited for Novozymes’ capabilities, and make strategy recommendations accordingly.

Sue Carson has been appointed as the MMB Program Director!

Meagan Nappo is now the MMB Associate Director!

Plant Biology Undergraduate Program

The Botany Club, which is open to all NC State students, meets every other Monday, 6:00-7:00pm in 2212 Gardner Hall. Remaining meeting dates this fall are 10/17, 10/31, 11/14, and 11/28. 

This year’s club is led by a terrific officer team that is organizing activities and speakers:

  • President: Jackson Cooper
  • Vice President: Sydney Buck
  • Secretary/Treasurer: Seline Pons
  • Agri-Life Council Representatives: Helen Nocito and Zoe Curtis

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.

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

Faculty Additions to Our Department

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

  • Mallory Choudoir joined our department as an Assistant Professor & Extension Specialist, specializing in Agricultural Microbiomes.

Staff Additions to Our Department

  • Lauren Gore recently joined the department staff as the Social Media Coordinator. Lauren will be the source of PMB Twitter and LinkedIn posts, the newsletters, and website updates. 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.

Lab Announcements and Publications

Alonso-Stepanova Lab

The Alonso-Stepanova Lab’s educational outreach program, Plants4Kids, had a table at BugFest at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences!

Plants4Kids table at BugFest.

Arguello-Miranda Lab

Kleiner Lab

  • Tariq Shah joined the Kleiner Lab as a visiting student working on protein exudates of plant roots in response to microbes.
  • Benoit Kunath joined the Kleiner lab as a visiting postdoc to work on statistical approaches for metaproteomics.
  • Molly DuBois joined the Kleiner lab as a research technician.
  • Aisha Mahmood and Porter Richardson joined the Kleiner lab as undergraduate research support students.
  • Erick Da Silva Motta, has just joined the Kleiner Lab as a new Postdoc..

Photos of the team can be seen here!

Petry Lab

Rodrigo Granjel has joined the Petry Lab as a Fulbright Predoctoral Fellow. Rodrigo is a Ph.D. candidate at the Universidad de Cádiz (Spain) and will be working on a project to understand the processes that stabilize species diversity and function in microbial food webs.

Alden Sears has joined the Petry Lab as a Ph.D. student.

Rojas-Pierce Lab

The Rojas-Pierce lab welcomes undergraduate students to the lab: Seline Ponz, Grace Herring, Ta’Kia Lucas and Kyla Jenkins!

The Rojas-Pierce lab would like to share a new publication of their results from the Space Station experiment.

Sederoff Lab

  • Brianne Edwards, Eli Hornstein, and Nathan Wilson published their work on  “High-throughput detection of T-DNA insertion sites for multiple transgenes in complex genomes” in BMC genomics. 
  • Melodi Charles successfully defended her PhD thesis and graduated. She remains in the Sederoff lab as a postdoctoral scholar. 
  • Nathan Wilson successfully defended his PhD thesis and graduated. He now works as a Plant Physiologist at BASF in the Triangle.
  • Eli Hornstein has his successfully defended his Ph.D. dissertation!

Sheth Lab

  • PhD student Kaleb Goff was awarded the Bill Dahl Graduate Student Research Award from the Botanical Society of America ($1500).
  • PhD student Kaleb Goff was awarded Northern California Botanists Research Scholarship ($1000).
  • We welcome new undergrads Sophie Meng and Mataeus Funderburk to the lab.

Sozzani Lab

  • Congratulations to Imani Madison, who defended her thesis this past year and has moved on to a postdoc position in Ross Sozzani’s lab!
  • Dr. Dipali Srivastava joined the lab this past July as a postdoctoral scholar.
  • Flavio Gabrieli joined the Sozzani Lab as a Visiting Research Scholar.

Departmental Announcements

  • Thanks to the generous support of PMB Alumnus H. Wilson Cunningham, the department recently was able to purchase a porometer for our undergraduate teaching lab! Mr. Wilson’s $3500 donation in support of the equipment purchase was made in honor of Dr. Jim Troyer, with whom Mr. Cunningham took a course in Plant Physiology when he was an undergraduate student here in the 1970’s. Mr. Cunningham recalls Dr. Troyer as a “phenomenal teacher”. He acknowledged that the efforts of and recommendations from Dr. Troyer and Dr. Noggle were instrumental in his continuing his education at Michigan State University and the Kellogg Biological Station. Mr. Cunningham also recalls Dr. Udo Blum’s Advanced Ecology course and Dr. Gus Witherspoon as his research advisor and mentor during those years. This generous contribution to our department will make a huge difference for our undergraduate teaching and research experience. Thank you, Mr. Cunningham!
  • We regret to inform that Dr. Gerald H. Elkan, Professor Emeritus, who had a 40-year career as a microbiology professor at NC State, has recently passed away September 28th. Our sympathies to his family.
The Belltower provides a backdrop for colorful fall leaves. Photo by Becky Kirkland.

Want some PMB swag? PMB logo Tee, Polo style shirts, and mugs available for purchase. The cost is $17 for the Polos, $7.55 for the T-shirts, and $5 for the mugs. Please email Catherine Freeman ( to check for sizes available and to order.

We are so excited to see what this year holds for our PMB Department! Thank you to all those who contributed to our fall newsletter.

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