April Issue | 2019 | Subscribe

17th Annual PSGSRS Winners

A big thank you to everyone who participated in and volunteered for this years Plant Science Graduate Research Symposium on March 29! The symposium, organized by members of HOGS with help from ACRS and Plant Biology students, featured oral and poster presentations from a diverse range of plant science students. From using drones to monitor plant health in fields, to molecular techniques aimed at restructuring the very architecture of fruit trees, a glimpse into the expansive spectrum of research performed by plant science students at MSU was displayed.

Congratulations to our winners in each category:
Applied Oral Presentation:
1st place: Jianzhou He (PSM)
2nd place: Damon Abdi (HRT)
3rd place: Kellie Walters (HRT)

Basic Oral Presentation:
1st place: Roshni Kharadi (PSM)
2nd place: Christina Azodi (PB)
3rd place: Charity Goeckeritz (HRT)

Applied Poster Presentation:
1st place: John Schramski (PSM)
2nd place: Damon Abdi (HRT)
3rd place: Adam Constine (PSM)

Basic Poster Presentation:
1st place: Rebecca Shay (PB)
2nd place: Stephanie Rett (HRT)
3rd place: Andrew Curtright

Hort chili cook-off a delicious success

Faculty, staff, and graduate students gathered at the Baird residence on the evening of March 15th for the first-ever Department of Horticulture Chili Cook-off. A panel of distinguished judges put each entry through a rigorous examination and declared first, second, and third place winners as follows:
1st place: Zach Hayden
2nd place: Vance Baird
3rd place: Jim Kreuger & Bridget Behe

The Hort Report interviewed Zach Hayden about his chili-making strategy.
HR: What's your secret for delicious chili?
Hayden: Keep it simple. Also, let your infinitely more talented wife (Ashley Hayden) make the chili.
HR: What's one piece of advice you have for people trying to make chili as good as yours?
Hayden: Start early. By meeting someone who knows how to make really good chili.

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Rebecca Grumet

         Dr. Rebecca Grumet’s passion for plants began early on in high school when she developed an interest in food production as it relates to the ever-growing population. Her interest in food production led her to a B.S. degree from Cornell University where she specialized in vegetable crops and learned to love plant physiology and genetics. From there, she received a M.S. and Ph.D. from Michigan State University where she studied ripening of wild tomatoes and salt tolerance in barley, respectively. After completing her degrees, she was awarded a postdoctoral fellowship to work at Duke University. This experience allowed her to learn and develop her molecular biology techniques applicable towards plant genetics before searching for faculty positions.  
            Dr. Grumet was hired in the Department of Horticulture at Michigan State University in 1987. Early on in her faculty career as she was developing her program, she was approached by Michigan's cucumber industry, which ranks #1 in the nation for pickling cucumber production, to collaborate. In recent years her lab has focused on cucumber fruit development and resistance to diseases, especially Phytophthora fruit rot, using a combination of molecular genetics and genomics approaches. Dr. Grumet is also the lead PI for the USDA CucCAP project, which consists of 20 U.S. research groups. The objectives of CucCAP are to develop genomic and bioinformatic breeding information to accelerate crop improvement of cucurbits, as well as to integrate disease resistance into commercial cucurbit cultivars. Besides research, she is also involved in teaching biotechnology biosafety here are MSU as well as through international projects supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
            Through the rest of her career, she plans to continue researching and teaching the same topics she has been heavily involved in. Her advice to graduate students is to interact with as many people as you can, learn and read as much as possible, be involved in groups and programs, and to develop your leadership skills. 

Student Spotlight: Ben Mansfeld

            Ben Mansfeld grew up in Israel, where his family owns a small citrus orchard and papaya plantation. Originally, Ben wanted to be an industrial designer, but after not getting into any program had to rethink his career choices. After a late-night discussion about papaya male and female plants, a friend suggested he should look into plant science programs. Not aware that you could even get degrees in agricultural sciences, Ben then applied to get his B.S. in Plant Science in Agriculture from Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Faculty of Agriculture. After starting the program Ben fell in love with plant science and quickly realized he wanted to continue into a Ph.D. program. He began looking at Ph.D. plant science programs in the United States and ultimately decided to come to the Department of Horticulture at Michigan State University on a Plant Breeding, Genetics and Biotechnology fellowship. He had the opportunity to rotate between different laboratories to find the right fit but after starting his rotation in Dr. Rebecca Grumet’s lab he quickly decided to continue working in her group.
            His Ph.D. project focuses on a developmentally acquired disease resistance in cucumber to the pathogen Phytophthora capsici, which causes cucumber fruit rot. Fruit of some cultivars of cucumber become resistant to the disease as they age. He began to concentrate his research on what makes the peels of older fruit different than younger fruits and leads to resistance. Specifically, he used genetic, genomic and metabolomic approaches to study changes in gene expression and metabolite production in the cucumber peels. Ben also created and published an R package that can perform bulk segregant analysis. Besides research, Ben is also heavily involved in many other programs and groups such as being a PBGB student representative, a member of HOGS, on a faculty search committee and recently has become an ASPB Ambassador. 
            After graduating this spring, Ben will be starting as a Postdoctoral Associate at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, MO, where he will continue studying plant disease resistance mechanisms. After gaining more expertise as a postdoctoral research, Ben hopes to work in academia to continue research, or to work at a plant biotechnology startup company. Ben’s advice to current graduate students is to find a healthy work/life balance, learn R or another programming language, take ownership and pride in your work, and finally be on Science Twitter. Ben concluded his graduate career by earning the 2019 Judith and Martin Bukovac Outstanding Graduate Student Award. His Ph.D. dissertation defense will be on May 7th, 2019. 

SHA: Landscape team places 5th in nation

Over the past month students involved with the Student Horticulture Association have been involved with the Lansing Home and Garden Show and The National Collegiate Landscape Competition by the National Association of Landscape Professionals. A total of 18 students competed at NCLC in various events such as, arboriculture technique, construction cost estimating, irrigation, design, and plant identification. This years team placed 5th in the nation with multiple members placing in the top 3 of their events and Brad Koetje placing as one of the top 10 students. Michigan State is looking forward to hosting this event in 2020!

On March 14-17th members from SHA and HOGS handed out fliers to the locals from Lansing in preparation of The Spring Show and Plant Sale coming soon! Local landscaping companies also generously donated plant materials from their booths to the SHA. The Spring Show and Plant Sale is April 13th from 9am-6pm and April 14th 10am-4pm. There are lots of perennials, annuals, house plants, hanging baskets, herb bowls and lots more for sale! All of the proceeds support the Student Horticulture Association, which continues to positively impact students!

Spring Show and Plant Sale - 4/13-14

The annual Spring Show and Plant Sale will be held on April 13th and 14th! This fundraising event supports both the undergraduate and graduate student organizations in the horticulture department. In addition to providing an indoor garden show with the theme Up North Living, MSU Student Horticulture Association (SHA) will be selling various annuals, shrubs, herbs, and more while the Horticulture Organization of Graduate Students (HOGS) will sell a myriad of ornamental grass varieties. HOGS will also offer the following department apparel: t-shirts, crewneck sweatshirt, unisex tank tops, baseball hats, sun hats, and tote bags with new "Plant Lover" design. Additional information on location and parking can be found here                     

Upcoming Events

Plant Science Spring Formal
April 13th, 7-9 pm
MPS Atrium

MSU Science Festival
April 5-20th
Varies, see detailed schedule Here

  April 13-14th
Plant and Soil Science Building

MSU Horticulture Gardens Spring Plant Sale
May 17-18th
Plant and Soil Sciences Building


PSM/HRT Seminar Series
Thursdays 4:10 pm at A149 Plant and Soil Science Building
Apr   4th   Bridget Behe
                The Eyes Don’t Lie: Using Eye-tracking Technology to Understand
                Consumer Choice

Apr 11th   Juan Zalapa 
Apr 18th   Julie Tarara
                 I Wanted to be a Farmer When I Grew Up but Didn’t Have the Cash Flow,
                so I Meandered into Another Career

Apri 25th  Carl Sams

MPS Seminar Series
Mondays 4:00 pm at Room 101 Biochemistry Building
Apr   1st  Joyce Van Eck
               Application of gene editing to accelerate improvement of underutilized

Apr   8th  Christian Hardtke
               The phloem nexus of the plexus
Apr 15th  Ilka Axmann
               What time is it? How cyanobacteria prepare for day and night with a
               biochemical clock

Apr 22th  Jorge Dubcovsky
               Using a sequenced mutant population to dissect wheat spike development

PLB Seminar Series
Fridays 3:30 pm at Room 168 Plant Biology Building
Apr   5th  Robin Buell
Apr 15th  Memorial Service for Jonathan Walton -- Details will follow
Apr 19th  Laura Wayne
               A sneak peek into industry discovery research: creating healthier vegetable
               oil traits

Newsletter contributors: Ying-Chen Lin, Kathleen Rhoades, Annika Kohler, Songwen Zhang, Nathan Kelly, Abby Denning, Philip Engelgau, and Dr. Vance Baird

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