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Department of Plant & Microbial Biology Newsletter – Fall 2023

Photo by Catherine :)

‘The Scoop’ from the Department Head

Hello and welcome to the autumn edition of our departmental Ice Cream Social newsletter! We recently kicked off the new school year with some delicious ice cream and extended a warm welcome to the newest members of our department. It was a perfect day to come together, build friendships, and celebrate the vibrant spirit of our department. Here’s to a fantastic year ahead!

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.

We have 15 new students to introduce to the department.

  • Nayma Bechara
  • Adam Breister
  • Sarah Dejarnette
  • Nicole Esch
  • Jeremy Faircloth
  • Patrick Gallagher
  • Samuel Hamacher
  • Christian Lopezguerra
  • Diego Rendon
  • Carla Sanchez
  • Jiyong (Tim) Shin
  • Caroline Stott
  • Kairi Tanaka
  • Amanda Taylor
  • Shiva Thapa

Plant Biology Graduate Program

Welcome to all our new PB Graduate Students and welcome back to all our current students! We have three new PB Graduate Students.

  • Lemor Carlton
  • Erin Emott
  • Jennifer Tapia

Masters of Microbial Biotechnology (MMB)

The MMB program welcomed 11 new students this fall. We are working on six projects with four companies: Thermo Fisher (x2), FujiFilm Diosynth (x2), LabCorp, and Latham Biopharm Group. 

Student teams will be working on market analyses, customer relationship strategies, competitive landscape assessments, business case development, and Key Opinion Leader outreach.

Plant Biology Undergraduate Program

The Botany Club, which is open to all NC State students, meets every other Monday, 5:30-6:30pm in 2212 Gardner Hall. For this fall, the remaining meeting dates are: October 2nd, 16th, 30th, November 6th & 20th, and December 4th (tentatively).

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

  • President: Jackson Cooper
  • Vice President: Jake Thompson
  • Secretary/Treasurer: Zoe Curtis
  • Agri-Life Council Representatives: Giuliana Mendoza and Shriya Reddy

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

Lab Announcements and Publications

Alonso-Stepanova lab

New undergrads in the Alonso-Stepanova lab:

  • Adam Nawar, Provost’s Professional Experience Program intern (NCSU), 2023 – present
  • Breyton Hill, Provost’s Professional Experience Program intern (NCSU), 2023 – present
  • Hannah Davis, Provost’s Professional Experience Program intern (NCSU), 2023 – present

We also had two new undergrads working with us in the summer:

  • Janaia Jackson, summer REU student (Fayetteville State University), summer 2023
  • Megan Phung, summer undergraduate student intern (Methodist University), summer 2023

We hired a new research assistant in the Alonso-Stepanova lab, Brianne Edwards, who is a recent M.S. graduate of Dr. Heike Sederoff.

The Alonso-Stepanova lab organized a week-long teacher training workshop in Synthetic Biology and Recombinant DNA for 17 high school teachers (July 24-28, 2023)

Awards by Alonso-Stepanova lab students and postdocs:

  • Best Flash Talk Award, 2nd place, Genetics and Genomics Academy flash talk competition, 2023: Katie Vollen (graduate student)
  • NCSU Global One Health Academy Fellowship, 2023: Jade Lyons (graduate student)
  • Plant Biology Graduate Student Travel Award, Plant Biology 2023, Savannah, GA, 2023: Anna Yaschenko (graduate student)
  • USDA Early Career Researcher Travel Award, Ethylene Conference, Toulouse, France, 2023: Anna Yaschenko
  • Predoctoral Fellowship, NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program, 2023: Katie Vollen
  • Early Career Researcher Travel Grant Award, American Society of Plant Biologists meeting, Savannah, GA, 2023: Mario Fenech (postdoctoral fellow)
  • Early Career Researcher Travel Grant Award, North American Arabidopsis Steering Committee, International Conference on Arabidopsis Research, Chiba, Japan, 2023: Mario Fenech (postdoctoral fellow)

The Alonso-Stepanova lab organized a week-long teacher training workshop in Synthetic Biology and Recombinant DNA for 17 high school teachers (July 24-28, 2023) (photo 2)

The Alonso-Stepanova lab participated in the BugFest demo at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences on September 16th with their Plants4Kids program.

Choudoir Lab

  • The Choudoir Lab welcomes undergraduate Akieliah Robinson to the lab!
  • New Investigator CSP Award from Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute
Lab technician Madaris Serrano Perez and MB rotation student Adam Breister sampling soils out at CEFS Cherry Research Farm.

Kleiner Lab

  • Rachel Moser from Novozymes, joined the Kleiner Lab as a research technician who will be working on plant-microbe interactions and soil microbiomes.

Long Lab

  • We welcomed new PMB grad student Lemor Carlton, who was awarded an SREB Fellowship. We also welcomed rotating GGA Scholar, Jenifer Tapia.

Lyu Lab

Lyu Lab photo.
  • Abigail O’Brien joined the Lyu Lab as a research technician.
  • Carla Sanchez joined the Lyu Lab as a microbiology PhD student.
  • Kairi Tanaka joined the Lyu Lab as a co-major PhD student co-chaired by Drs. Fellner (animal science) and Lyu (microbiology).
  • Emily Sontag joined the Lyu Lab as an undergraduate researcher.

Departmental Announcements

  • We regret to inform that Dr. Walter Dobrogosz, Professor Emeritus of microbiology at NC State, passed away on August 4th. Our sympathies to his family.
  • 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.
  • Join the Social Committee and get free swag! No contract!  
    Are you interested in supporting the Department of Plant & Microbial Biology through event organizing, planning and more? Then the PMB Social Committee is for you! This awesome group of individuals works to ensure that our events go on without a hitch and we are searching for some new members. There are around two meetings a semester, all very brief and it will not be a huge time commitment. Please contact Catherine for more information.
  • Please join us for our Spring Ice Cream Social on April 23rd!

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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