Featured Graduate Students

Katherine D’AmicoKatherine D'Amico

Advisor: Jonathan Fresnedo Ramirez

Research: Non-infectious bud-failure in almond (Prunus dulcis) as a model to study plant aging and its effects in perennial species

Katherine D’Amico is a PhD candidate in the Translational Plant Sciences (TPS) graduate program. She is currently working in the department of Horticulture and Crop Science in Wooster, OH. Katherine’s dissertation research goal is to better understand plant aging and its effects in perennial species. To accomplish this, she is using non-infectious bud-failure in almond (Prunus dulcis), hypothesized to be an age-related disorder, as a model system. Her research aims to identify epigenetic mechanisms associated with exhibition of bud-failure in different cultivars and clones of almond. Approaches include comparing telomere length, examining gene expression patterns and performing epi-genotyping-by-sequencing using important almond cultivars and clones exhibiting distinct degrees of bud-failure. This work will help us to better understand the deterioration of key biological processes that occurs as plants age, particularly in perennial species.

Katherine received her B.S. in biology with a minor in computer science from John Carroll University. She earned an M.S. in conservation biology from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry where her research focus was on the potential non-target impacts of a transgenic American chestnut with enhanced blight resistance. After completing her Masters, Katherine worked for the USDA Agricultural Research Service at Cornell University in a Pseudomonas systems biology lab where her research focus was on small RNAs and their impacts on pathogen virulence in both tomato and Arabiodopsis models. She is excited to return to her “roots” at Ohio State working on a tree nut crop and is grateful for the opportunities afforded by the TPS program, the HCS department and the Fresnedo Ramirez lab.

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Caleb orchardCaleb Orchard, PhD student

Advisor: Dr. David Francis

Research: Pre-breeding to combine resistances to multiple foliar diseases into processing and fresh-market tomato

Caleb Orchard's goal in the Francis lab is to find ways to efficiently combine resistances to multiple diseases with the fruit quality and horticultural traits required in fresh-market tomato markets. Foliar diseases of tomato are common in hot, humid growing environments and are major challenges to tomato growers. Mixed infections of these diseases require that tomato cultivars possess multiple resistances without sacrificing yield and fruit quality. Current cultivars lack resistance to many of the important foliar diseases such as bacterial spot (Xanthomonas spp.), early blight (Alternaria spp.), and target leaf spot (Corynespora cassiicola). Orchard's research takes advantage of genomic-assisted breeding methods, including genomic selection, to combine foliar resistance genes while balancing selection for commercial fresh-market tomato traits.

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Jack McCOYJack McCoy, PhD graduate student

Advisors: Drs. Leah McHale and Kristin Mercer

Research: Evaluating drought tolerance in Chile Pepper (Capsicum sp.) from the U.S. and Mexico

Jack McCoy is a PhD student in the Department of Horticulture and Crop Science. He earned an undergraduate degree in Horticulture from the University of Arkansas and a Master of Science in Horticulture from New Mexico State University before beginning his PhD at OSU in Fall 2018.

For his dissertation, Jack is exploring the genotypic and phenotypic responses to drought stress in diverse chile pepper germplasm. In Mexico, a center of domestication and diversity for chile pepper (Capsicum sp.), wild and landrace populations can be found across a wide environmental gradient. Local adaptation to specific environments could result in some chile pepper that possess unique qualities contributing to abiotic stress tolerance. Through greenhouse studies using chile pepper from Mexico, along with U.S. commercial cultivars, he is working to understand the varying phenotypic responses of chile pepper to drought stress. Jack is also conducting quantitative trait loci analyses in populations created from U.S. and Mexican chile peppers to identify significant genetic loci linked to drought tolerance. From his work, Jack will better understand drought response in chile pepper across an environmental and domestication gradient.

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