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Graduate Students

Kathryn Bolding

At Washington State University, Kathryn Bolding focused on business and economics of agriculture commodities where she learned that the production of commodities was more interesting. After completing her degree, she moved on to learn more about potatoes and developed an interest in the agronomy and production side of potatoes.

Degree sought: MS

Area of interest: Potato production

Educational background: BS, Agriculture, Food, and Business Economics, Washington State University

Faculty advisor: Mark Pavek

Email: Email Kathryn


Joelle Bou Harb

Joelle Bou Harb is a Lebanese student. Her scientific path started in chemistry. Wanting to incorporate both theoretical analysis and practical approaches, she shifted her interest to agriculture. For her Master’s thesis, she researched different irrigation strategies that could be applied to wine grapes in a Mediterranean environment. She joined Dr. Markus Keller’s group in fall 2014 at the IAREC in Prosser, WA.

Joelle’s current work concerns the water stress response of wine grapes, focusing on different types of responses from different varieties within the same species. Her thesis explores different water relations on variable scales within the vine. The goal of her research is an optimized and more efficient irrigation management for different wine grape varieties. She also is interested in exploring different wine styles and understanding what vineyard factors can affect the wine’s final character. Joelle would like to explore more of the Washington state wine grape and production industry since it is quite different from the Mediterranean one she grew up with.

Degree sought:  PhD

Areas of interest: Water stress physiology, vine management, exploring different wine styles

Educational background:  MS, Agricultural Sciences; BS, Chemistry; BS, Agricultural Sciences

Faculty advisor:  Markus Keller

Email: Email Joelle


Fairuz Buajaila

Fairuz Buajaila was born and raised in Al Beida, Libya. She received her B.S. in 2003 from the Horticulture Department at Omar AL Mukhtar University in Al Beida. She obtained her M.S. in 2008 from the same university, and her project was Effect of Organic and Inorganic Nitrogen Fertilizer on Growth, Yield and Quality of Eggplant (Solanum melongena L.). Her Ph.D. project will focus on tomato production under high tunnels and will test application rates and timing of different types of fertilizer.

Degree sought: PhD

Area of interest: Tomato production under high tunnels

Educational background: MS, Horticulture; BS, Agricultural Sciences – Omar AL Mukhtar University, Libya

Faculty advisor: Carol Miles

Email: Email Fairuz


Ben-Min Chang

After finishing his MS degree with the topic of developing a table grape carbon balance model, Ben-Min Chang served in a park and worked in the agricultural experiment station in Taiwan for a short period. He began his graduate work at WSU in fall 2013 with Dr. Markus Keller to focus on the issue and mechanism of grape berry cracking.

Degree sought: PhD

Area of interest: Grape berry cracking or splitting

Educational background: MS, Horticultural Sciences, National Taiwan University, Taiwan; BS, Horticultural Sciences, National Taiwan University, Taiwan

Faculty advisor: Markus Keller

Email: Email Ben-Ming


Ryan Christian

Ryan Christian joined the Molecular Plant Sciences program in fall 2013 after graduating from the Honors College at WSU with a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Biotechnology. His research in Dr. Amit Dhingra’s lab focuses on characterizing a set of putative plastid-targeted proteins that are predicted to be involved in energy transduction and nucleic acid binding and are unique to apple (Malus x domestica).

Degree sought: PhD (Molecular Plant Sciences)

Areas of interest: Apple genetics, transcriptomics

Educational background: BS, Integrated Plant Sciences, Agricultural Biotechnology, WSU

Faculty advisor: Amit Dhingra

Email: Email Ryan


Cody Dean

Cody Dean began his college experience by enrolling at WSU during the fall of 2012, as a general Biology major. However, Agricultural Biotechnology would soon be recognized as the major that would satisfy Cody’s passions of Horticulture and Botany. While earning his bachelor’s degree, Cody had the pleasure of having many valuable job experiences. An internship under Scot Hulbert was found to be his most influential college experience. Working in a lab became familiar to Cody as he used gene cloning to identify genes utilized by wheat rust to suppress plant defenses. This experience also made it clear to Cody that a deep involvement with horticulture is a vital aspect of his future career. Planning on becoming a plant variety evaluator, Cody is pursuing a PhD in Horticulture with a focus in potato physiology and biochemistry. Other than academia, Cody enjoys hiking, photography, and the art of Bonsai.

Degree sought: PhD

Area of interest: Plant physiology and biochemistry, variety testing

Educational background: BS, Agricultural Biotechnology, Minor in Horticulture, WSU

Faculty advisor: Rick Knowles

Email: Email Cody


Pinki Devi

I was born and raised in Sibsagar district of Assam state in Northeast India. I completed my B.S (2008) in Life science from University of Delhi, India. I obtained my M.S (2010) in Biotechnology from Bangalore University, India.  I joined Washington State University in Spring, 2017 with advisor Dr. Carol Miles. My doctorate work will focus on investigating propagation methods to increase the grafting success of watermelon, which will include screening potential rootstocks for watermelon grafting, and grafted plants will be evaluated in the field to measure impact of grafting on fruit yield and quality.

Degree sought: PhD

Area of interest: Watermelon grafting

Educational background: MS, Biotechnology, Bangalore University; BS, Life science, University of Delhi, India

Faculty advisor: Carol Miles

Email: Email Pinki


Chandler Dolezal

Chandler Dolezal entered Washington State University as an undergrad in 2009. Upon graduation in 2013, he immediately embarked on his pursuit for a PhD in horticulture; specifically, potato agronomy. He is currently researching the impact of phosphorus placement in potato production on yield and other tuber quality factors. He enjoys the hands-on factor that his research provides, especially the fabrication of small scale equipment used in his experiments.

Degree sought: PhD

Area of interest: Potato agronomy

Educational background: BS, Crop and Soil Science, Field Crop Management, Minor in Soil Science, WSU

Faculty advisor: Mark Pavek

Email: Email Chandler


Graham Ellis

Graham Ellis transferred to Washington State University in the fall of 2011. Although he started as a biochemist he soon found his place in agricultural biotechnology with CAHNRS. He also minored in anthropology because of a strong desire to learn and know more about what makes humans the cultural individuals that we are. He has research experience with spring wheat predominantly, identifying genes of durable resistance to Puccinia graminis and striiformis. Aside from his career aspirations to improve the efficiency and quality of agricultural production via genetic means of selection, introgression and manipulation he also loves all sports related to the outdoors.

As of summer semester 2015, he has joined Dr. N. Richard Knowles’s potato agronomy, physiology and variety development research team.

Degree sought: PhD

Area of Interest:

Educational Background: BS, Agricultural Biotechnology, Minor in Anthropology, WSU

Faculty Advisor: Rick Knowles

Email: Email Graham


Francisco “Paco” Gonzalez-Tapia

Francisco “Paco” Gonzalez began his college career in 2008 at Columbia Basin College and completed an Associate of Applied Science with a focus in Agribusiness in 2011. In the Fall of 2014 he transferred to Washington State University (WSU), where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural and Food Systems with a major in Agricultural Technology and Production Management (AgTM) and a minor in Horticulture. Prior to graduation at WSU Dr. Mark J. Pavek accepted Paco as his pupil. Francisco was raised in the Columbia Basin, where potatoes are king, sparking Paco’s interest in potato research. Paco is interested in researching potato agronomy, irrigation, and the use of unmanned aerial vehicles in potatoes.

Degree sought: PhD

Area of interest: Potato agronomy, irrigation management, and potato management with Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

Educational background: BS, Agricultural Food Systems – Ag Production and Technology Managment, Minor in Horticulture, WSU

Faculty advisor: Mark Pavek

Email: Email Paco


Edgard Jauregui

Edgard Jauregui grew up in Lima, Peru and studied for three years at San Marcos’ University (Peru) in Medical Technology. He immigrated to the US in 2008, and loves to play soccer, watch movies, play the saxophone and spend time with his loved ones.
Edgard is currently working with Dr. B.W. Poovaiah. The Poovaiah lab has been studying Calcium/calmodulin-mediated signaling in plants, and has cloned a Calcium/calmodulin–dependent protein kinase (CCaMK). Edgard will be working with this kinase to understand its role in bacterial and fungal symbiosis in legumes.

Degree sought: PhD (Molecular Plant Science)

Areas of interest: Plant genetics, symbiosis interactions, molecular biology

Educational background: BS, Molecular Bioscience and Biotechnology, Arizona State University

Faculty advisor: B.W. Poovaiah

Email: Email Edgard


Sarah Kostick

Sarah Kostick is from Minnesota and until arriving in Wenatchee, WA had spent very little time in the Pacific Northwest. In 2014, Sarah received her BS in biological sciences from Michigan Technological University. In 2016, she received her MS in applied plant sciences from the University of Minnesota. Sarah joined Kate Evan’s pome fruit breeding program as a PhD student in 2016. Her project focuses on the development of DNA based tools for the selection of fire blight resistant apple germplasm.

Degree sought: PhD

Area of interest: Tree fruit breeding and genetics, fire blight, and pomology 

Educational background: BS in Biological Sciences, Michigan Technological University

Faculty advisor: Kate Evans

Email: Email Sarah


Feixiong Luo

Feixiong Luo was born and raised in Hunan Province, China. He received his Bachelor’s degree from Hainan University focusing on selecting salt-resistant banana seedlings, and developed an interest in horticulture. He continued to deepen his understanding of pomology through taking part in an apple rootstock breeding project at China Agricultural University while his concentration was on the root systems of apple trees grafted on different rootstocks. He began his graduate work in horticulture at WSU in fall 2014. He is working with Dr. Cameron Peace on tree fruit breeding. His research focus is on red fleshed apples.

Degree Sought: PhD

Areas of interest: Tree fruit breeding and genetics (focus on red fleshed apple), bioinformatics

Educational background: MS, Pomology, China Agricultural University, Beijing; BS, Horticulture, Hainan University, China

Faculty advisor: Cameron Peace

Email: Email Fei


Rachel Rudolph

Rachel joined WSU in the summer of 2014.  She is from a little bit of everywhere, but grew up primarily in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Shortly after receiving her BS, she joined the Peace Corps and spent the next three years in Paraguay doing environmental education in elementary schools and working with farm families. After coming back from South America, she decided to go to graduate school for horticulture in part because of the gardening work she did while in Paraguay. Her MS research focused on biofumigation performance of Brassicas in a green chile pepper rotation system. It was while doing her MS work that she became interested in fumigation alternatives. She is now interested in exploring those alternative options in Washington with red raspberries.

Degree sought: PhD

Areas of interest: Sustainable crop production, chemical fumigant alternatives, integrated pest management (IPM)

Educational background: MS, Plant & Environmental Science, New Mexico State University; BS, Environmental Studies, University of Nebraska

Faculty advisor: Lisa Wasko DeVetter

Email: Email Rachel


Corina Serban

Corina Serban comes from Cluj Napoca – “The heart of Transylvania”, Romania. After she graduated with her B.S. in Landscape Architecture from the University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine (2013) from Cluj Napoca, she became a member of the editorial board of the University research journals.

In 2014 she started an 18 month internship with the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission, under general supervision of Dr. Ines Hanrahan, in Yakima, WA. During her internship she was involved in different research projects in applied horticulture in areas such as: fruit quality, storage of fruit and postharvest handling, testing of new agricultural technologies, and food safety.

After her internship in tree fruit research in WA, Corina went to South Germany, where she took a work experience at the Competence Center for Fruit Growing at the Lake of Constance “Kompetenzzentrum Obstbau Bodensee” (KOB), for a period of two months. Corina worked primarily on a research study with “Fuji” apples and the fruit disorder watercore.

Corina joined WSU as a graduate student on January 2016 and her research will focus on calcium uptake and distribution in apple.

Degree sought: MS

Area of interest: Tree Fruit Physiology, Calcium uptake and distribution in apple

Educational backgrough: BS, Landscape Architecture, University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine, Romania

Faculty Advisor: Lee Kalcsits

Email: Email Corina


Nataliya Shcherbatyuk

Nataliya Shcherbatyuk was born in Russia and raised in Ukraine. She worked in several private companies in Ukraine from 2009-11. During 2012-2013, she was an intern with the Washington Tree Fruit Commission in Wenatchee, Washington. She began her graduate work at WSU in spring 2014 with Dr. Markus Keller. Her project will be focused on the details of grape berry development and ripening.

Degree sought: PhD

Area of interest: Grape berry development and ripening

Educational background: MS, Agricultural Science, Lviv National Agrarian University, Ukraine; MS, Horticulture Science, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany; BS, Agronomy, Lviv National Agrarian University, Ukraine

Faculty advisor: Markus Keller

Email: Email Nataliya


Bruce Williamson

Bruce Williamson  was born in Costa Rica, where he earned his BS in Biology from the University of Costa Rica. He has lab experience in plant transformation and genomics. His research focuses in pea genomics, specifically using SNP’s.

Degree Sought: MS

Area of interest: Plant genomics and genetic engineering

Educational Background: BS, Biology, University of Costa Rica

Faculty Advisor: Amit Dhingra

Email: Email Bruce


Peiguo Yuan

Peiguo Yuan has been working with Dr. Poovaiah since fall 2013. His research focuses on the regulation of plant immunity through calcium signaling (Ca2+/calmodulin-AtSR1/CAMTA3). AtSR1 has been reported as a suppressor of defense responses in plants and is involved in the regulation of the SA synthesis gene. We want to find whether AtSR1 is able to regulate expression of other genes related to plant immunity.

Degree sought: PhD

Areas of interest: Stress physiology, plant pathology

Educational background: MS, Horticulture, Beijing University of Agriculture, China; BS, Food Science, Jimei University, China

Faculty advisor: B.W. Poovaiah

Email: Email Peiguo