Former Graduate Students
Josue Duque (Fall 2019-Spring 2022)
Josue was an M.S. Biology student examining the population genetics of Palmer amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri) a weed of growing concern in the Californian agricultural community. He compared individuals found in agricultural and wild environments to better understand the underlying genetic difference between Palmer native to the southern regions of the state and the emerging populations in the San Joaquin Valley. As a Ph.D. student in the QSB program at UC Merced, he is continuing to study population genetics/phylogenetics and generating new bioinformatics data analysis tools and methods.
Alexander Lopez (Fall 2018-Spring 2022)
Alex worked on a M.S. Biology project on waterhemp (Amaranthus tuberculatus), an important Midwestern agricultural weed that has recently begun to show up in the Central Valley. He used genotyping-by-sequencing to investigate the California invasion of this species. He started a PhD in the Crop Science Department at the University of Illinois in Fall 2022. Post-PhD, his career goals are to obtain a job in the broad field of genetics and bioinformatics, possibly in an agricultural industry position.
Reece Riley (Fall 2018-Spring 2022)
Riley’s MS Biology project was a phylogeny of the genus Helianthella, the little sunflower, using genetic sequencing to assess the relations within the genus, which has been mostly ignored since the 1950s. They have also been working in the Fresno State Herbarium since they were an undergrad, first digitizing herbarium specimens, but more recently aiding in the transfer of entries and images to the new database and intake of new physical specimens, and georeferencing. They started the QSB PhD program at UC Merced in Fall 2022.
Christopher Bivins (Spring 2019-Spring 2021)
Chris studied the ecological interactions between plants and fungi in forest ecosystems using mycoheterotrophic (MH) plants as a model system. MH plants are plants that have evolved to completely lose the ability to photosynthesize. Instead, their roots are colonized by particular species of fungi that create a network of connections to other plant roots throughout the soil. Sugars produced by nearby photosynthetic plants travel through roots into the fungal network, and these sugars are then given to MH plants by their fungal symbiotic partners. His MS project (coadvised by Dr. Alija Mujic) specifically focused on whether MH plants are beneficial or detrimental to the species involved in forest fungal networks. Chris is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in QSB at UC Merced and continues to study ecological interactions between plants and fungi.
Romy Lum (Spring 2018-Fall 2020)
Romy tested populations of Palmer amaranth from the native range (southwestern U.S.) and the invaded Central California range for resistance to different chemical classes of herbicides, include glyphosate (RoundUp), acetolactate synthase (ALS) inhibitors, protoporphyrinogen oxidase (PPO) inhibitors, and glufosinate. His approach combined greenhouse assays with genetic PCR and qPCR assays and sequencing. His career ambition is to work in forensic research.
Adam Avila (Spring 2017-Fall 2019)
Adam worked on a project comparing the composition of endophytes between a parasitic plant (Cuscuta campestris) and one of its host plants (Helianthus annuus) in the Central Valley. This project was coadvised by Dr. John Constable. He received a B.S. in Biology from Fresno State in Spring 2017, and graduated with an M.S. in Biology in Fall 2019. Adam is currently working as a COVID-19 contract tracer for the Fresno County Department of Public Health, while he applies to medical schools.
Priyanka Chaudhari (Spring 2017-Fall 2018)
Priyanka conducted research on the genetic basis of glyphosate herbicide resistance in hairy fleabane (Erigeron bonariensis) for her M.S. in Biotechnology. She used techniques such as RNA extraction and gel electrophoresis, PCR, cDNA synthesis, and qPCR, to examine the possible upregulation of several candidate genes that may be involved in non-target site resistance to glyphosate in this species. Priyanka now works for MolecularMD as a Clinical Medical Technologist in Portland, OR.
Ankit Pathak (Fall 2015-Spring 2017)
Ankit was the first M.S. student in the Waselkov lab, in the Biotechnology program at Fresno State. His project was a greenhouse common garden experiment testing the fitness costs of glyphosate resistance in hairy fleabane, in well-watered vs. drought conditions. He worked very hard and collected a plethora of data, which awaits replication for publication. After graduation, he obtained a position in medical data analysis with the company Adaptimmune in Philadelphia, PA.
Former Undergraduate Students
Pawanpreet Gill (Summer 2018-Spring 2021)
Pawan, along with partner Savneesh Athwal, worked on a project regarding the native California species Phlox speciosa. They tested out microsatellite markers to better understand the genetics and taxonomy of this species. The purpose of this project is to analyze the different populations across a geographic range of Phlox speciosa and determine whether there are subspecies and genetic differences. Pawan also imaged Fresno State Herbarium specimens and learning how to process them to upload to the online database. She earned a B.S. in Biology from Fresno State in Spring 2021. Her career goal is to go to medical school to pursue a career in medicine.
Savneesh Athwal (Summer 2018-Spring 2021)
Sav worked alongside Pawanpreet Gill on their project regarding Phlox speciosa. She worked on PCR and gel electrophoresis for 3 different microsatellite markers which will help interpret the genetic differences in the populations of Phlox. She also worked on analyzing data we have completed and sent to the genomics company Laragen. She received her B.S. in Biology with a minor in Chemistry in Spring 2021, and plans on applying to medical school to eventually return to the Central Valley as a physician!
Monique Cantu (Spring 2019-Spring 2020)
Monique contributed to a project on Phlox population genetics by performing PCR and gel electrophoresis. She also entered data into the Fresno State Herbarium online database. In Spring 2020, she graduated with a B.S. in Biology with a minor in Physical Science. She plans on attending medical school and returning to the Valley as a physician with a specialty in skin cancer.
Harneet Kaur (Summer 2018-Spring 2020)
Harneet contributed specimen data from the Fresno State Herbarium to a large online database of herbarium records, the CCH2, as part of the California Phenology Thematic Collections Network (CAP-TCN) called Capturing California’s Flowers. She obtained her B.S. in Biology in Spring 2020, and plans to pursue a medical career in either pharmacy or physical therapy.
Diana Camarena (Spring 2017-Fall 2018)
Diana worked with Hairy Fleabane, a common summer Central Valley weed. She studied its germination rate and survival rate after being treated with glyphosate, a very commonly used herbicide. She had a 2017-18 research internship from USDA-NIFA-NLGCA, which allowed her to work on this project in the summers of 2017 and 2018. She currently has a full-time job at an undisclosed location.
Chyann Stiles (Summer 2018-Fall 2018)
Chyann undertook a large greenhouse experiment in Summer 2018, involving two replications of a drought experiment on glyphosateresistant and sensitive hairy fleabane, extending the research performed by Ankit Pathak in 2016. She is pursuing a B.S. degree in Plant Science, and she’s interested in pursuing a senior honors thesis focused on glyphosate resistance in weeds.
Estefania Aguilar-Gutierrez (Spring 2016-Spring 2018)
Estefania was the first student to work on the population genetics of Phlox speciosa. She collected plant samples and used flow cytometry, DNA extraction and microsatellite analysis to verify the ploidy level and genotypes of the species. She obtained her B.S. in Biology in Spring 2018, and her career goal is to attend medical school. She plans to practice as a medical doctor with a specialty in neurology.
May Yang (Fall 2017-Spring 2018)
May was involved with the field work on Palmer amaranth as an undergraduate, driving over 4000 miles in 9 days to collect 22 populations between Fresno and Marfa, TX. She also helped with DNA extractions and PCR testing of the collected samples, after graduating with a B.S. in Plant Science in Fall 2017. She is currently working at the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier, CA. In the future, she plans to continue her studies in weed science as an M.S. student in Plant Science at Fresno State.
Pa Lee (Fall 2017-Spring 2018)
Pa entered specimen label data and mounted new plant specimens for the Fresno State (FSC) Herbarium as a work-study student in her senior year as a business administration major at Fresno State. She is responsible for a large number of very accurately entered specimens in the database CollectionSpace, and she also proofed many previous entries. She graduated in Spring 2018 and plans to pursue a career in sustainable development planning.
Rigoberto Molina (Spring 2016-Fall 2017)
Rigo contributed greatly to the quest to uncover the mutations involved in conferring glyphosate resistance to Erigeron bonariensis. He utilized multiple techniques, including extensive bacterial cloning, to successfully amplify single copies of the target gene EPSPS for Sanger sequencing, and analyzed the results. His career aim is to combine his complementary interests in biology (especially genetics) and philosophy, in which he double-majored at Fresno State.
Emeline Pano (Summer 2016-Fall 2017)
Emeline helped enter data for the FSC Herbarium during Summer and Fall 2016, as a CSU LSAMP scholar. The next year, she learned DNA extraction, PCR, and microsatellite data analysis to contribute to the research on the population genetics of Phlox speciosa. She has also done research in the Ross lab at Fresno State (see here), and is currently a masters student in the Mujic lab at Fresno State (see here). She has been accepted to the University of Florida for a PhD program in Fall 2022, and her career ambition is to become a research scientist.