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Graduate Students

Noorani Barkat

Noorani is from a small town in Gilgit, Pakistan. She has chosen agriculture because she wants to contribute her services in this field to decrease deaths caused by hunger and to empower people affiliated with agriculture especially in rural areas. She completed a bachelors from Agriculture University Faisalabad Pakistan and a masters in Horticulture from Texas A&M University College Station USA that actually motivated her to think about doing a PhD. She joined WSU spring semester 2018 in PhD program in Horticulture. It’s her pleasure to be working under supervision of Dr. Markus Keller on improving grapes, its productivity and quality.

She likes singing, reading books and cooking. Doing social work to empower youth especially girls is her passion, and she loves interacting with people from different countries and backgrounds, that actually helps her in understanding real meaning and beauty of diversity.

Degree sought: PhD

Area of interest: Grapes, improving production and quality

Educational backgrough: BS, Agricultural University Faisalabad Pakistan and MS in Horticulture Texas A&M University

Faculty Advisor: Markus Keller

Amit Bhasin

Amit comes from the ‘Agricultural Hub of India’, Punjab. He did his B.S. in Agriculture majoring in Horticulture (2017) from Punjab Agricultural University, INDIA. His inclination towards agriculture started at a young age while planting vegetables with his grandfather. His curiosity to explore and learn more about this arena led him to pursue M.S at WSU. In his free time, he loves to play Badminton. His research focuses on evaluating and optimizing fertilizer sources/rates in Organic Blueberry production. He is eager to begin his project in Spring 2018 at IAREC, Prosser, WA.

Degree sought: MS

Area of interest: Plant-soil interactions, nutrient management in horticultural crops, evaluating production strategies

Educational background: B.S. in Agriculture from Punjab Agricultural University, INDIA

Faculty advisor: Lisa Wasko DeVetter

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

Yixin Cai

Yixin Cai

Yixin is from Shanghai, China, a vibrant metropolis full of traditional and modern architecture. She received her BSs in Genetics and Plant Biology (GPB) and Nutritional Science – Toxicology from University of California, Berkeley. She worked in botanical garden and USDA laboratory in her senior year and found her interest in horticulture. She began her graduate study with Drs. Lisa DeVetter in the Spring of 2019. The focus of her research is to develop and test technologies and practices that allow for the mechanical harvest of fresh market blueberry with high fruit quality and high harvest efficiency.

Degree sought: MS

Area of interest: mechanical harvest of fresh market blueberry with high fruit quality and high harvest efficiency

Educational background: B.S. in Genetics and Plant Biology and B.S. in Nutritional Science – Toxicology, UC Berkeley                                              

Faculty advisor: Lisa Wasko DeVetter

Email: Email Yixin

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

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

Weixin Gan

Weixin comes from Fujian,China, a place with green hills and clear waters and is famous for tea. She finished her B.S in landscape architecture from Beijing Forestry University. Her undergraduate thesis was about the growth conditions and cultivation management of the tissue culture seedings of crabapple. Having a strong interest in horticulture, she decided to study on horticulture deeply at WSU. She will begin her graduate work at WSU with Dr. Lisa Wasko DeVetter in the fall of 2017. Weixin Gan will keep optimistic and studious in the furture.

Degree sought: MS

Area of interest: ornamental plantings, blueberry, tissue culture

Educational background:  B.S. in Landscape Architecture at Beijing Forestry University

Faculty advisor: Lisa Wasko Devetter

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

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

Yao Mu

Yao was born and raised in Henan, China. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in Horticulture from Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University in 2016; during this time he spent two semesters at the University of Florida as a transfer student. He has done some research on rosemary tissue culture, focused on improving the carnosic acid yield extracted from the rosemary tissue by changing the conditions of cultivating the tissue. He began his MS work in horticulture at WSU in summer 2017. He is working with Dr. Carol Miles on testing new crops for production potential in Northwest Washington.

Degree sought: MS

Areas of interest: Fennel production

Educational background: BS, Horticulture, Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University, China

Faculty advisor: Carol Miles

Alexander Schaller

Alexander was born and raised in Arizona. He attended The University of Arizona for his undergraduate degree, where he worked in various labs expanding his knowledge of plant science. In addition to working in labs, he was a member and president of the Undergraduate Horticulture Club at the University of Arizona. He began his graduate work at WSU in January 2018 under Dr. Cameron Peace. His research will focus on tree fruit genetics and breeding using DNA based tools. Outside of school he enjoys hiking and photography.

Degree sought: MS

Areas of interest: Tree fruit genetics and breeding

Educational background: BS in Sustainable Plant Systems and Agriculture Economics and Management from University of Arizona

Faculty advisor: Cameron Peace

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

Joe Townsend

Joe Townsend

Joe grew up on his family’s ranch in Okanogan, Washington where they raised cattle, wheat, and hay. After high school, Joe followed his passion for agriculture and 26 relatives, attending Washington State University from 2012 to 2016. He obtained a B.S. in Agricultural Food Systems (AFS) majoring in Ag Technologies and Management (AGTM). Following WSU, Joe worked for the Wilbur-Ellis Company in Colfax, Washington as an agronomy sales rep. After two seasons at Wilbur-Ellis, Joe made the decision to return to WSU in pursuit of his Masters in Horticulture degree. He will be joining Dr. Mark Pavek in the fall of 2018 focusing on potato agronomy.

Degree Sought:  MS

Area(s) of research interest:  Potato agronomy, plant nutrient.

Educational background: B.S. Agricultural Food Systems:  Agricultural Technologies and Management, WSU

Faculty advisor Dr. Mark Pavek 

Email: Joe

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