2017-18 ARCS Scholars
Brent Arnoldussen is a first-year Ph.D. student in the plant pathology department under the supervision of Dr. Mark Mazzola. His project will focus on the genotypic effects on the variation of exuduate composition of apple rootstocks, and their subsequent effects on recruiting beneficial microbes to the rhizosphere, which impart resistance to apple replant disease. Brent earned two BS degrees in horticulture and biology from The University of Wisconsin-River Falls. While there, he was highly involved in a variety of undergraduate research projects, most notably, his Ronald E. Mcnair Scholars project, looking at the effects of mycorrhizal helper bacteria on the colonization and growth of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. Brent also worked on the Northern Organic Vegetable Improvement Collaborative project for 3 years for Dr. Silva. In addition, he has done work with bioremediation, a project which was presented at the National Council on Undergraduate Research (NCUR), and two projects working with molecular genetics for a strawberry and ageratum breeding program on campus. At UWRF Brent served as president and treasurer of the Student Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture and served as the student liaison on the faculty sustainability working group. Coming from an agricultural background, Brent’s main interest is in growing much of his own food and working with community farms and organizations to teach people about food production, as well as outdoor activities like fishing and backpacking. Upon the completion of his degree, Brent hopes to hold a faculty position working in research and extension in fruit or vegetable crop pathology, working to make production more economically and environmentally sustainable.
Megan Asche is a first-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Entomology under the supervision of Dr. Richard Zack. She specializes in honeybee biology and agroecology. Over the next three years, Megan will be investigating the apiculturally significant predator/prey relationship between the family Vespidae and the species Apis mellifera (L.). Her master’s work was done at Washington State University where she studied the foraging and hygienic behavior of honeybee strains. Megan was awarded a B.A. in design from Western Washington University in 2007. She worked as a professional designer for over six years before beginning her career in science. Megan is an award-winning macro insect photographer and has contributed to many international scientific and outreach publications. After completing her Ph.D., Megan wishes to work within the commercial beekeeping industry before returning to academia.
Rachel M. Bone Relat is a veterinarian and first-year student in the Combined Residency in Anatomic Pathology PhD program. Rachel graduated with honors from the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in 2017. In addition to her anatomic pathology residency, she will also pursue a Ph.D. through the Department of Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology. Currently, her interests are in virology, aquatic medicine, and herd health disease outbreak prevention. While attending veterinary school, Rachel was sponsored by Winrock International and the USAID to work in Bangladesh with local researchers and farmers to develop molecular techniques used to diagnose shrimp diseases. Prior to veterinary school, Rachel attended the University of Rhode Island and completed a M.S. in biology, specializing in sustainable agriculture and food systems under the guidance of Dr. Marta Gomez-Chiarri. Rachel earned her B.S. in ecology, behavior, and evolutionary biology with a minor in conservation biology from UCLA. During her academic tenure, Rachel has studied aquatic parasites in Costa Rica, effects of plant-based diets in carnivorous fish, and herpes viruses in sturgeon. After completing her Ph.D., she hopes to pursue her love of aquatic diseases within academia. Rachel is a 3rd generation veterinarian whose father and grandfather graduated from the College of Veterinary Medicine at Washington State University. While at UCLA Rachel played club water polo, and was nominated as an All-American Honorable Mention for her role as goalie. Married this past June, Rachel and her husband are looking forward to new opportunities for outdoor adventuring, and for her to improve her fly casting while in Washington.
Cody Cockreham grew up in New Mexico playing basketball, wrestling rattlesnakes, and trying to avoid the scorching desert sun. After graduating with a B.S. in chemical and materials engineering from New Mexico State University, he is pursuing his Ph.D. in chemical engineering at Washington State University. His research prior to WSU includes working on synthesizing metal-organic frameworks for use in carbon capture technologies at New Mexico State University and developing electrospinning methods to control fiber diameter for in-situ vascular grafts at the University of Pittsburgh. For Cody, the most important thing in his current research and his career is to improve sustainability through new environmentally cleaner technologies because he is interested in preserving the natural beauty of the Earth. At New Mexico State University, Cody was the president of the Biomedical Engineering Society and a guest judge for the home brewing class. Cody has visited twenty countries in Europe and loves to travel.
Sedelia Dominguez earned a B.S. in biology with a minor in chemistry at St. John’s University in Queens, New York. While at St. John’s, she conducted research for two years with Dr. Rachel Zufferey of the Biology Department. Her research included the study of arthropod-born protozoan parasites that cause important diseases in humans and animals. Over the span of two years, she conducted a combination of genetic, molecular and cell biology, and biochemical approaches. Soon she will be receiving a publication for a review on lipidomics and anti-trypanosomal chemotherapy. She hopes to continue to conduct her research in disease prevention and treatment at the CDC. Over the course of the past two years, Sedelia traveled to Honduras and Ghana to provide health preventives, treatments and education for underdeveloped communities. Outside the lab, Sedelia enjoys working out and spending time with family and friends.
Amanda L. Foreman is a first-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology. She is a NIH Protein Biotechnology trainee, and will be completing rotations in laboratories in the Immunology and Infectious Disease program. Amanda earned B.S. and M.S. degrees in animal and nutritional sciences at West Virginia University. Her undergraduate and graduate work at West Virginia University examined the roles of nutrition on avian health and performance. This research lead to a publication on the effects of different diets on the health and well-being of cockatiels. She then completed a graduate certificate in infectious disease control at Thomas Jefferson University. At Thomas Jefferson University, Amanda’s research focused on developing a rabies virus based therapeutic colon cancer vaccine. Furthermore, she developed cell-based assays to show the success of the vaccine in vivo. This research lead to a publication on the effects of CD4+ T-cell help on antitumor immunity. While completing research at Thomas Jefferson University, Amanda also worked full-time at the biotechnology company Wuxi Apptec. She worked in the viral clearance department to determine the efficacy of drug purification processes in different pharmaceutical companies. Upon graduation from Washington State University, Amanda would like to become a principal investigator in academia focusing on preventative and therapeutic approaches to infectious diseases. When not engaging in scientific research, she spends her time outdoors with her dog, home brewing, and reading.
John A. Hadish is a first-year Ph.D. student who will be doing rotations in the Department of Molecular Plant Sciences. He is interested in applying the latest genetic techniques to agriculture in order to pursue a more sustainable and environmentally friendly world. John earned his B.S. degree in biology from Luther College where he was a part of several research projects and was a recipient of a McElroy Grant. He also was an NSF intern at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center where he performed research on developing a CRISPR Cas9 genome editing tool for Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. While at Luther John ran on both the varsity cross country and varsity track teams, and was involved in the schools chapter of Beta Beta Beta Biological Honor Society. He enjoys camping, gardening and reading science fiction books.
Ellis Hammond-Pereira will be a first-year Ph.D. student in the School of Chemical Engineering under the direction of Dr. Steve Saunders. He will begin research on the development of yolk-shell based nanocomposites to homogenize heterogeneous catalysts. Ellis earned his B.S. degree in chemical engineering from Oregon State University. During this program, he worked as a learning assistant, and helped pioneer the Engineering Learning Assistant program at Oregon State under Dr. Milo Koretsky. The program was successfully implemented and is still in use. After completing his Ph.D., Ellis aims to conduct research and development of semiconductors. He is driven by a love of taking in and sharing knowledge, which has led him to consider a career in higher education. In his spare time, he enjoys both writing and deconstructing music, graphic design, video games, and fencing.
Lee Opdahl is a first-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences under the supervision of Dr. Tarah Sullivan. The subject of his dissertation research will be in the area of metal and micronutrient transformations by the rhizosphere microbiome that enhance plant nutrition and crop productivity. Lee earned his M.S. degree in animal science, and his B.s. degree in biology, microbiology, and biotechnology with minors in chemistry and psychology at South Dakota State University. During his master’s degree, he worked to identify candidate cellulose-metabolizing bacteria in the rumen of beef cattle, resulting in two articles soon to be submitted for publication. After his Ph.D., Lee will work for Ralco Agriculture based out of southwest Minnesota, where he will conduct research on crop enhancing products such as micronutrient fertilizers and seed treatment. Lee enjoys many outdoor activities including hiking, fishing, and canoeing, and also enjoys global travel, which he plans to do more of once he has completed his Ph.D.
Gregory L. Pearson will be pursuing his Ph.D. in the Department of Veterinary Microbiology & Pathology at Washington State University starting fall 2017. His primary research interests are focused on rickettsial organisms, but he is generally interested in vector-borne disease. Gregory earned a B.S. in exercise science with a minor in biology and a M.S. in biology at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania. As a graduate student, Gregory completed a thesis under the supervision of Dr. Alison L. Fedrow, which was entitled “The surveillance of ticks and tickborne pathogens in the understudied region of southwestern Pennsylvania.” Also during this time, he was chosen as an intern for the Naval Research Enterprise Internship Program (Summer 2016, Summer 2017) and worked in Dr. Allen L. Richards rickettsial diseases laboratory at the Naval Medical Research Center in Silver Spring, Maryland. As an undergraduate at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania, Gregory competed on the track and field team as a discus, shot put, and hammer thrower. He is regularly involved in weightlifting, playing sports, and hiking or other adventurous outdoor activities.
Kelly M. Ramsay is a first-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Immunology and Infectious Disease at Washington State University. She is also pursuing a residency in veterinary anatomic pathology through the Department of Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology and College of Veterinary Medicine. Currently, Kelly is exploring various labs, but she ultimately hopes to investigate zoonotic diseases that could ultimately lead to the improvement of both human and animal health. Kelly earned her B.A. degree in English literature and creative writing, with a minor in chemistry, from California State University, Long Beach. She then went on to intern at a marine mammal rehabilitation facility, as well as an exotic feline breeding and research center. She earned her D.V.M. at the University of California, Davis. During this time, she developed an interest in pathology and research. Volunteering at clinics that practiced a “one health” approach (the concept that human, animal and environmental health are inextricably intertwined) further drove her interest in researching diseases that affect both humans and animals. During her clinical year, she was an extern with the Johns Hopkins University Department of Comparative Pathobiology, as well as the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health. After completing her residency and Ph.D., Kelly hopes to pursue a career in academia. This would allow her to pursue all her favorite aspects of pathology: diagnostics, teaching and research. In her free time, Kelly loves nature, traveling, weight lifting, dancing and discovering new craft breweries. Recent adventures include sledding down a volcano in Nicaragua, surfing in Kauai and hiking Half Dome in Yosemite National Park.
Matthew D. Romero is a first-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Biomedical Sciences under the supervision of Dr. Jean Celli. He is principally interested in host pathogen interactions, particularly the molecular mechanisms used to bolster immunity or evade immune detection. Matthew completed both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Texas Tech University in microbiology. While in Lubbock, Matthew conducted research on bacterial toxins derived from human pathogens and how host cells respond to intoxication. Additionally, Matthew has taught several laboratory courses in immunology and microbiology and appreciates the opportunity to educate and communicate with young scientists. Outside of the laboratory, Matthew enjoys a few rounds of bowling, a few games of racquetball and a couple pints of homebrewed beer. Cooking is something Matthew is passionate about, and loves shopping in farmer’s markets for new or fresh ingredients to try in a dish. He is hoping to pursue a career in the biomedical industry, and is fortunate for the many opportunities provided by Washington State University to meet this goal.
Jessa Thurman is a first-year P.hD. student entering the Department of Entomology under the supervision of Dr. William Snyder. She will investigate parasitoid-host interactions for natural pest control in agricultural systems. Jessa earned her B.S. in biology from Hendrix College, where she also completed two years of research on the seed dispersion of anachronistic fruits alongside independent research on new species of gall wasps from Costa Rica under the supervision of Dr. Matthew Moran. After finishing her undergraduate degree, Jessa embarked on a year-long Thomas J. Watson Fellowship to study different applications of entomology in Australia, Thailand, Malaysia, Peru, and the United Kingdom. The various projects within each country ranged from studying entomophagy, the consumption of insects, to using insects to control pests in tropical crop systems. While on the Watson Fellowship, Jessa was also awarded a William J. Fulbright to study the biological control of arthropod pests in macadamia nuts using parasitoid wasps for 2018. After completing her Ph.D., Jessa plans to further develop the methodology and social work required for using natural pest control. Jessa has worked as children’s librarian for six years and thoroughly enjoys teaching kids of all ages about the outdoors. She also organized TEDx events for her college and ran a local radio show on scientific research from Arkansas, her home state.
Joel A. Velasco is a first-year Ph.D. student in molecular plant sciences under the supervision of Dr. David Gang. His research seeks to elucidate the genomics of biosynthetic pathways that produce novel and important plant specialized metabolites. Joel earned his B.S. in biology with a botany emphasis from Boise State University. While there, he conducted two years of research into the effects of drought on the symbiotic association between arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and Artemisia tridentata (sagebrush) under the direction of Dr. Marcelo Serpe. Joel also participated in the NSF-CEPCEB REU Program in Next Generation Plant Biology at the University of California Riverside for two summers under the guidance of National Academy of Sciences member Dr. Julia Bailey-Serres, which resulted in a publication that is currently in the review process. After completing his PhD, Joel wishes to pursue a postdoctoral position at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Germany with the hopes of obtaining the experience necessary to secure a position at a biotechnology firm, and eventually returning to academia and continuing to broaden the knowledge about specialized plant secondary metabolite synthesis. Joel is one of nine children and is a first generation college graduate. While at Boise State, Joel was a McNair Scholar and a resident mentor for TRIO Upward Bound. He enjoys any activity that involves puzzles and critical thought. He is also an avid music listener and live-music enthusiast.
Halle Weimar is a first-year Ph.D. student in the Integrative Physiology and Neuroscience Department at Washington State University. Born and raised in Kennewick, Washington, she earned a B.S. in neuroscience from WSU in 2017. Continuing her studies at WSU, Halle is rotating in the laboratories of Dr. Jon Davis, who studies feeding behavior, and Dr. David Rossi, who investigates development of the cerebellum. After receiving her Ph.D., Halle plans to further refine her skills through a postdoctoral fellowship and eventually become a teaching faculty and researcher. Throughout her current and future endeavors, Halle will strive to provide high-quality research to the growing body of work surrounding the human brain and nervous system. In addition to neuroscience, Halle enjoys hiking, photography, and travel.