Plant Breeding Students

Roshan K Acharya

Roshan K Acharya

Email: rkachary@ncsu.edu
Degree Program: PhD Crop Science - Small Grain Breeding Program
Previous degrees: MS in Plant Science - Wheat Breeding and genetics, Montana state University
Advisors : Dr. Paul Murphy, Dr. Gina Brown-Guedira
Completion Date: 2019

Description of research project: Genomic selection for resistance to scab disease in Wheat, QTL mapping for partial resistance to Stagonospora nodorum using wheat double haploid population, QTL mapping for partial resistance to hessian fly using wheat recombinant inbreed line population.


Samuel Acheampong

Samuel Acheampong

Email: sacheam@ncsu.edu 
Degree Program: Ph.D. Horticultural Science - Plant Breeding
Previous Degrees: B.S. Biotechnology, University of Cape Coast, Ghana
M.S. Biotechnology, University of Cape Coast, Ghana
Advisor: Dr. Craig Yencho
Completion Date: Summer, 2020



Pragya Adhikari

Pragya Adhikari

Email: padhika2@ncsu.edu
Degree Program: Ph.D in Horticulture Science-Tomato Breeding Program 
Minor: Plant Pathology
Previous degrees: MS in Plant Science-Molecular Grape Breeding; Missouri State University
Advisor (s): Dr. Dilip R. Panthee; Dr. Frank J. Louws
Completion Date: December 2018j

Description of research project: My research is mainly focused on breeding tomatoes to improve resistance against a bacterial spot disease, a major problem experienced by tomato growers every year, but remained unsolved. Specific projects include:

  • Characterization of pathogen phenotypes, genetic diversity, and race causing bacterial spot of tomato in North Carolina.
  • Mapping QTL Derived from S. pimpinellifolium LA3707 for bacterial spot resistance in tomato.
  • Mapping QTL Derived from S. pimpinellifolium LA3707 for fruit quality traits in tomato using Tomato Analyzer.

Victor A. Amankwaah

Victor A. Amankwaah

Email: vamankw@ncsu.edu
Degree Program: PhD Horticultural Science
BSc Agriculture-KNUST (Ghana)
MSc. Agronomy (Plant Breeding)-KNUST (Ghana)
Advisor: Dr. Craig Yencho
Completion Date: Summer 2018

Description of Research: My research topic is “Multilocation phenotyping, genotyping and QTL analysis of sweetpotato. It involves phenotyping at different locations with emphasis on quality traits and genotyping-by-sequencing, a modern technology which offers good opportunity for identification of high number of SNPs. This will be followed by construction of high density linkage map and subsequent association of SNP markers and phenotypes in the two reciprocal mapping populations namely Beauregard X Tanzania as well as Tanzania and Beauregard. Additionally, this study aims at investigating the activities of α-and β-amylase in the reciprocal mapping populations. 


Jessica Brown

Jessica Brown

Email: jmbrow19@ncsu.edu 
Degree Program: M.S., Crop Science
Previous degrees: B.S. Genetics and B.S. Plant Biology, University of Georgia
Advisor: Dr. Milla-Lewis
Completion Date: Fall 2019

Description of research project: My project is focused on improving selection methods for the development of freeze tolerant Zoysiagrass cultivars. I am conducting controlled freeze trials to study the mechanisms that control freeze tolerance, as well as identifying markers linked to the genes controlling freeze tolerance for use in a marker assisted selection program, and investigating proteomic response to cold acclimation. Ultimately, our goal is to be able to apply our findings into other species of grasses, as well as to develop Zoysia germplasm with improved cold tolerance, which would allow expansion of Zoysia cultivars into markets north of the transition zone.


Adam M. Canal

Adam M. Canal

Email: amcanal@ncsu.edu 
Degree Program: MS Horticultural Science - Plant Breeding and Genetics
Previous Degrees: BS Horticultural Science - North Carolina State University
BS Plant Biology - North Carolina State University
BS Plant and Soil Sciences: Crop Biotechnology - North Carolina State University
Advisor: Dr. Craig Yencho
Completion Date: Fall 2018

Description of Research Projects:

  1. Using single sequence repeat markers to understand relatedness amongst sweetpotato clones from major sweetpotato production areas across the globe.
  2. Build a QTL map to understand how anthocyanin pigments are inherited in potato.
  3. Identify genetic markers that infer resistance to internal heat necrosis in potato by comparing QTLs from an existing mapping population with the genotypes of a national collaborator population.

Jose Guillermo Chacon

Jose Guillermo Chacon

Email: jgchacon@ncsu.edu 
Degree Program: Ph.D. Horticultural Science - Plant Breeding
Previous Degrees: B.S. Biology, University of Costa Rica 
M.S. Agronomy and Crop Science, University of Costa Rica
Advisor: Dr. Gina Fernandez
Completion Date: Summer, 2019



Niharika Nonavinakere Chandrakanth

Niharika Nonavinakere Chandrakanth

Email: nnonavi@ncsu.edu 
Degree Program: Master of Science in Crop Science 
Previous degrees: Bachelor of Engineering in Biotechnology, India
Advisor: Dr. Ralph Dewey 
Completion Date: December 2018

Description of research project: The aim of the project is to create an Artificial Positive Feedback Loop (APFL) for Maximizing Alkaloid Production in Nicotiana tabacum. For more information please visit http://niharika.me/


Lauren Deans

Lauren Deans

Email: ledeans@ncsu.edu
Degree Program: M.S. Horticultural Science - Plant Breeding
Previous degrees: B.S. Horticultural Science, North Carolina State University
Advisor: Dr. Tom Ranney
Completion Date: Fall 2019

Description of Research project: Ploidy manipulation and interspecific hybridization in Hydrangea. 


Xingyue Gong

Xingyue Gong

Email: xgong5@ncsu.edu
Degree Program: M.S. Horticultural Science
Previous degrees: B.S. Horticultural Science, Nanjing Agricultural University
Advisor: Dr. Dilip R. Panthee
Completion Date: Jun. 2019



Sydney Graham

Sydney Graham

Email: Segraha3@ncsu.edu
Degree Program: M.S. in Crop Science
Previous Degree: B.S. in Genetics from University of Wisconsin-Madison
Advisor: Dr. Susana Milla-Lewis
Completion Date: Fall 2020

Description of Research Project: My research is focused on identifying putative genes that impact freeze tolerance in St. Augustinegrass through validation of previously identified QTL. Further identification through transcriptomics will follow linkage validation of associated genomic regions. I will also be investigating the effects of de-acclimation to cold temperatures in relation to it's impact on freezing tolerance. The ultimate goal of my project is to identify genes to be used in marker assisted selection and develop freeze tolerant turfgrass varieties.


Austin Heine

Austin Heine

Email: ajheine@ncsu.edu
Degree Program: M.S. Forestry
Previous Degree: B.S. Forest Management, North Carolina State University minor in Business Administration
Advisor: Dr. Steve McKeand
Completion date: December 2016

Research: COMPARISON OF POLLINATION BAGS FOR MASS PRODUCTION OF CONTROL CROSS SEEDS IN LOBLOLLY PINE
Over the past 10 years, deployment of full-sib families has gained prominence relative to traditional improved loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.) seedling stock, such as open-pollinated families or seed orchard mixes. To produce control cross seed, a pollination bag must be used to isolate female strobili from outside pollen contamination, and a single, known pollen is applied at time of maximum female strobili receptivity. In the spring of 2014, the members and staff of the NCSU Cooperative Tree Improvement Program designed and installed a study to compare four pollination bag prototypes. Bags from PBS International were compared to the industry-standard Lawson pollination bag with and without a support wire. Open pollinated flowers were also added as control treatments to this study. The main objective of this study is to compare seed yields and seed efficiencies of cones produced from these bags to determine the optimal bag for maximizing production efficiency of control cross loblolly pine seed. 


William Hembree

William Hembree

Email: wghembre@ncsu.edu
Degree Program: M.S. Horticultural Science - Plant Breeding
Previous Degree: B.S. Horticulture, University of Georgia
Advisor: Dr. Tom Ranney
Completion Date: Fall, 2018

Research:"Breeding and Cytogenetics of Camellia and related genera; Cytogenetics and Taxonomy of Deutzia"


Jonathan Kinczyk

Jonathan Kinczyk

Email: jpkinczy@ncsu.edu
Degree Program: M.S. Horticultural Science - Plant Breeding
Previous Degree: B.S. Biology, Wheaton College
Advisor: Dr. Craig Yencho
Completion Date: Fall, 2018




Su Liu

Su Liu

Email: sliu44@ncsu.edu
Degree Program: M.S. Horticulture Science
Previous degree: BAgr. Ornamental Horticulture, Beijing Forestry University
Advisor: Dr. Massimo Iorizzo
Completion Date: Summer, 2019

Description of Research project: 1) Use sequencing technology for genome assembly and transcriptome analysis to study pineapple genome. 2) Improve nutritional value of pineapples via studying genetics and genes of bromelain.


Lais Bastos Martins

Lais Bastos Martins

Email: lbastos@ncsu.edu
Degree Program: M.S, Crop Science
Previous degrees: B.S Agronomy, Londrina State University, Brazil
Advisors: Dr. Jim Holland and Dr. Peter Balint-Kurti
Completion Date: December 2018

Description of research project: My main project consists of validation of multiple disease resistance loci in maze using families derived from segment substitution lines. The diseases I am working with are Southern leaf blight (Cochliobolus heterostrophus), northern leaf blight (Setosphaeria turcica), and gray leaf spot (Cercospora zeae-maydisand Cercospora zeina).


April Meeks

April Meeks

Email: allail@ncsu.edu
Degree Program: Ph.D - Tree Improvement Program - Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources
Previous degrees: MSc - Forestry - North Carolina State University, 2015
BS - Environmental Science - Appalachian State University, 2011
Advisor (s): Dr. Steve McKeand; Dr. Fikret Isik; Dr. Ross Whetten
Completion Date: 2020

Description of your research project: Coming soon! 


Nathan Maren

Nathan Maren

Email: namaren@ncsu.edu
https://www.linkedin.com/in/nathan-maren-56407612
Degree Program: PhD in Plant Breeding and Biotechnology Minor
Previous Degrees: MSc. Horticulture and Forestry 2016 North Dakota State University
BS Environmental Horticulture 2005 University of Minnesota
Advisors: Thomas Ranney & Hamid Ashrafi
Advisory Committee: Ralph Dewey, Ramsey Lewis, Sergei Krasnyanski
Completion Date: December 2019

Description of Research Project: As global energy demands grow and fossil fuel reserves are depleted, the need for and importance of alternative energy sources becomes increasingly important. Bioenergy crops suitable as fuel for heat, electrical power generation, and for processing into cellulosic ethanol continue to gain increasing attention as alternative fuel sources. Members of the grass family Poaceae Subtribe Saccharinae, also known as the sugarcane complex, have gained attention for their broad adaptability, pest resistance, high biomass yields, and potential to perennially sequester large amounts of carbon with few inputs on marginal lands. Conventional breeding is well-suited to improve complex traits and has already made rapid progress enhancing biomass yield and regional adaptability in our bioenergy grass hybrids. Plant bioengineering has considerable potential for modifying bioprocessing characteristics, producing valuable co-products, and modifying reproductive processes to prevent reseeding and potential invasiveness. To facilitate these applications, our efforts have focused on the characterization of these new hybrids for various biomass yield and fertility parameters. To enable downstream genetic engineering strategies a high quality reference genomic assembly utilizing PacBio SMRT sequencing technology is being annotated with an experimentally derived reproductive development transcriptome analysis. Concurrently, an embryogenic regeneration system has been established and the development of a basic Agrobacterium mediated transformation system is near completion. Cumulatively, these strategies aim to provide the means for gene editing technologies in the development of next generation bioenergy grasses and potentially serve as a facile genetic platform for functional genomics characterization within the Saccharinae subtribe.


Thiago Marino

Thiago Marino

Email: tpmarino@ncsu.edu
Degree Program: PhD Crop Science
Previous degrees:
M.S., Genetic and Molecular Biology, Londrina State University (Brazil)
B.S., Agronomy , Londrina State University (Brazil)
Advisor (s): Dr. Jim Holland
Completion Date: Fall 2018

Research: My research focus is applying genomic selection in a recurrent selection program for Fusarium ear rot and Fumonisin resistance in maize. I’m also using marker assisted selection to validate QTLs for Fusarium resistance in a practical plant breeding program.


Stella Nhanala

Stella Nhanala

Email: senhanal@ncsu.edu
Degree Program: Ph.D. Horticultural Science - Plant Breeding
Previous Degrees: B.S. Soil Science, University of Algarve, Portugal
M.S. Plant Breeding, Michigan State University
Advisor: Dr. Craig Yencho
Completion Date: Fall, 2019

Description of my research project: Drought and uneven rainfall negatively affect the yield of the storage roots of sweetpotatoes. My research project is focused on the targeted use of crop wild relatives for improved abiotic stress tolerance in sweetpotato (Ipomoea batatas (L.) Lam.) as one of the adaptation strategies to face the impacts of climate change. The abiotic stress that I will be studying is drought, since the intensification of water scarcity is one of the effects of climate change. To achieve this goal, I will: 1) Screen Ipomoea spp. for drought tolerance; 2) Identify wild species with valuable traits that can be introgressed into cultivated sweetpotato; 3) Screen for 2n (unreduced) gametes to identify a potential bridge species, and increase the understanding of the evolution of sweetpotato; 4) Characterize the species that will be identified with the potential to hybridize with sweetpotato; the approach to achieve this goal will be SNP genotyping.


Bonny Oloka

Bonny Oloka

Email: boloka@ncsu.edu
Degree Program: PhD, Horticulture Science (Plant Breeding)
Previous degrees: BS (Biochemistry), MS (Plant Breeding and Seed Systems), Makerere University Kampala, Uganda
Advisor: Craig Yencho
Completion Date: December 2018

Description of your research project: In the developing world, sweetpotato is a staple food crop providing important calorie and energy requirements particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia. Mainly local landraces are grown in sub-Saharan Africa in small plots, and these are cream or white-fleshed sweetpotato that have high dry-matter content (28-30%) and low sugars. However, the full potential of sweetpotato has not yet been recognized world over due to the crops complex genetics, limited genomic resources and a wide array of biotic and abiotic stresses. This project will contribute to the development of modern breeding tools for sweetpotato improvement and faster genetic gain in the crop. The specific objectives are to (1) identify single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and develop a genetic map using a New Kawogo x Beauregard (NKB) and Tanzania x Beauregard (TB) bi-parental mapping population, (2) identify quantitative trait loci (QTL) for SPVD and nematode resistance, and (3) validate the SNPs in an independent diverse population and test their reliability for marker assisted selection (MAS) and genomic selection (GS). 


Takshay Patel

Takshay Patel

Email: tkpatel@ncsu.edutakshaypatel8@gmail.com
Degree Program: PhD, Horticulture Science
B.Sc., Biotechnology, Pune University, India
B.Sc., Plant biotechnology, Pune University, India
M.S., Horticulture Science, NCSU
Advisor: Dr. Todd Wehner
Completion Date: Spring 2018

Research: My research is focused on Watermelon anthracnose. To screen the whole watermelon germplasm for resistance against anthracnose race 1 and 2, and develop SNPs using genotype-by-sequencing protocol. Then perform Genome-wide-association-study (GWAS) using the phenotypic and genotypic data. A population of the most resistant and susceptible accessions will be used to validate the SNPs. The phenotypic screening of watermelon germplasm is useful to find accessions with higher anthracnose resistance to be be used in breeding programs. Further, as there are no known watermelons with combined resistance to anthracnose race 1 and 2, while screening I expect to find accessions with combined race 1 and 2 resistance. If not then crosses will be made between race 1 and race 2 resistant accessions to create and study such population. Similarly, the genotypic data is generated from whole germplasm it can be used to find SNPs for any other trait. The genomic work will be a great aid for modernizing the watermelon breeding at NCSU. 


Casey Reagan

Casey Reagan

Email: cjreagan@ncsu.edu
Degree program: M.S., Plant Breeding
Previous Degree: B.S., Crop and Soil Sciences - Advanced Study, Michigan State University
Advisor: Dr. Tommy Carter
Completion date: Fall 2018

Current Research: My thesis research involves screening soybean cultivars and breeding material for genetic flood tolerance. Experimental plots are exposed to induced to chronic wet soil and flood conditions that North Carolina soybean producers face on a regular basis. Visual ratings, yield data and other metrics are used to evaluate that cultivar’s “tolerance” to saturated soil conditions. The end goal of my research is to highlight varieties that perform well and eventually breed this tolerance into high-yielding cultivars. 


Lauren Redpath

Lauren Redpath

Email: leredpat@ncsu.edu
Degree Program: PhD in Horticulture
Previous degrees: MS in Horticulture (University of Georgia), BA in French (College of Charleston), BS in Biology (College of Charleston)
Advisor (s): Hamid Ashrafi
Completion Date: Fall 2020

Description of your research project. I work in the blueberry genetics lab. Research projects I am currently working on involve differential gene expression in tetraploid blueberry floral buds freeze treated to different temperatures at different developmental stages as the buds deacclimate. I am also looking at floral bud genes from bud initiation to budbreak in two diploid species


Mohammad Nasir Shalizi

Mohammad Nasir Shalizi

Email: mshaliz@ncsu.edu
Degree Program: Ph.D. Forestry - Tree Improvement Program
Previous Degrees: B.S. Forestry & Natural Resources, Kabul University, Afghanistan
M.S. Forestry, North Carolina State University
Advisor: Dr. Fikret Isik
Expected Completion Data: Spring 2020


Navin Shretha

Navin Shretha

Email: nshrest2@ncsu.edu
Degree Program: M.S, Horticultural Science - Plant Breeding
Previous Degree: B.S in Agriculture Science from Institute of Agriculture and Animal Science (IAAS), Tribhuvan University, Nepal
Advisor: Dr. Dilip Raj Panthee
Completion Date: December 2018

Description of research project: I am working on Tomato Breeding and my research is focussed on (1) Mapping Quantitative Trait Loci (QTL) associated with Flavonoid in Tomato, (2) Effect of Flavonoid on Heat Stress Tolerance on Tomato, and (3) Early Blight (fungal disease) association with Flavonoid.


Emily Silverman

Emily Silverman

Email: ejsilver@ncsu.edu
Degree Program: Ph.D. Horticultural Science - Plant Breeding
Previous Degrees: B.S. Horticultural Science, NC State University
M.S. Plant Pathology, NC State University
Advisor: Dr. Todd Wehner
Completion Date:



Matthew Woore Smith

Matthew Woore Smith

Email: mwsmith6@ncsu.edu
Degree Program: Masters - Crop Science (maize breeding)
Previous Degree: B.S. Design, Clemson University, 1999
Advisor: Dr, Jim Holland
Completion Date: May 2018

Description of Research Program: I am working on two research areas in maize. In the first, we are searching unique germplasm for unusually low protein grain, with the goal of finding a variety that produces grain with a very low phenylalanine content. If this trait proves to be heritable, then we can identify a hybrid that could be grown and used as part of the diet for phenylketonuria patients (PKU is a metabolic disease where the patient is unable to process excess dietary phenylalanine, which is stored in the body and produces numerous side effects). In the second project we are examining the response of a wide selection of hybrid and inbred maize varieties to fungicide treatments in the absence of fungal infection. In other grass crops the use of fungicides as growth regulators has been demonstrated to result in delayed senescence and significant yield increase; this is the first large-scale attempt to demonstrate similar responses in maize. In particular we are looking for varieties with unusually large or small responses to the treatment, which may help us understand both the physiological basis of the response and whether directed breeding may lead to lines that maximize the response and produce significant yield gains. 


Carl VanGessel

Carl VanGessel

Email: cjvanges@ncsu.edu
Degree Program: M.S. Plant Pathology
Previous Degrees: B.A. Biology, Catholic University of America
Advisor: Dr. David Marshall
Expected Completion: Spring 2018




Ashley Yow

Ashley Yow

Email: agyow@ncsu.edu
Degree Program: Horticultural Science
Previous degrees: B.S. in Plant Biology with minor in Biotechnology and M.S. in Horticultural Science
Advisor(s): Dr. Massimo Iorizzo
Completion Date: Dec. 2021

Description of Research Project: I am currently working on genomics of pineapple flowering. Natural differentiated flowering (NDF) in pineapple is non-synchronous and induced by both environmental and biological factors. Currently, producing pineapple requires controlling flowering times through exogenous hormonal applications. My project involves using comparative approaches to study genomic differences between cultivars that are more susceptible and more tolerant to natural flowering. My project also involves divulging how floral growth induction in pineapple is regulated by small RNA and epigenetic modifications, and how different hormonal pathways interact to regulate each other during this process. This work will contribute to the understanding of the molecular processes that must occur in order to induce flowering in pineapple. The results we find can be used in modern genomic breeding programs to create tolerant and commercially desirable pineapple varieties.


Linglong Zhu

Linglong Zhu

Email: lzhu5@ncsu.edu and zlleagle@gmail.com
Degree Program: Ph.D., Crop Science
Previous degrees: M.S. Crop Science, North Caroline State University
B.S. Agronomy, Zhejiang University (China)
Advisor: Vasu Kuraparthy
Completion Date: Spring 2017

Description of your research project:

  1. Mapping and map based cloning photoperiod response gene in pima cotton using F2 population and association mapping population.
  2. GWAS study on cotton fiber quality. 3. Developing near isogenic lines (NILs) for photoperiod response in multiple species.