Former Lab Members


Dr. Soundarya Srirangan (2015): Stacking transgenes for yield maximization in Camelina sativa. Soundarya was a graduate student in my lab and is currently transitioning into an industry position.

Dr. Christophe LeHovary (2014-2017) Expression and functional analysis of a synthetic CO2 fixation cycle in Arabidopsis thaliana and Camelina sativa.

 Dr. Kamy Singer (2014-2016) Expression of extremophile industrial enzymes in marine microalgae.

Dr. Monica Borghi (2014-2015) Redirecting carbon flux in Camelina sativa by deregulating cell wall invertase inhibition using CRISPR-Cas9. Dr. Borghi received a Marie-Curie Fellowship from the European Union to carry out independent research at the University and Research Center in Wageningen, NL.

Dr. Luyan He (2013-2014): Characterization of the relationship between gene structure and expression levels in Camelina sativa. Dr. He has been employed at GenScript USA. Inc., (Piscataway, NJ) as a Technical Support Scientist since she left the lab in 2014.

Dr. Brian Howard (2012-2013): Integrated analysis model for genomic and metabolic regulation of carbon flux. Dr. Howard took a position as Bioinformatician at SCiome, INC. Durham, NC.

Dr. Mia Dvora (2011-2015): Redirecting carbon flux in Camelina sativa by suppressing phloem export control mediated via a cell wall invertase inhibitor. Dr Dvora took a position in 2015 with Abbott Global Health Care, Chicago, IL, as a Research Scientist in pharmaceutical diagnostics.

Dr. Roopa Yalamanchili (2010-2014):  Characterization of miRNA function in plant root development and tropic responses / Expression of extremophile enzymes in Camelina sativa to reduce oxidative damage. Dr. Yalamanchili took a position as a Research Scientist with Benson Hill Biosystems,  RTP, NC

Dr. Marie-Laure Sauer (2008-2013):  Synthetic biology to increase and modify fatty acid production in strains of the marine microalga Dunaliella.  Dr. Sauer is now a Research Scientist at Bayer Crop Science, Research Triangle Park, NC.

Dr. Sandeep Kumar (2008-2009):  Identification of miRNA from root tissue in response to abiotic stress.  Dr. Kumar left to assume a Research Group Leader position in the Trait Product Development with Dow AgroSciences, Indianapolis, IN.

Dr. Mariya Khodakovskaya (2005-2008):  Role of calcium and inositol phosphates in transcriptional regulation in crop plants. Dr. Khodakovskaya is now an Associate Professor at the University of Arkansas, Little Rock.

Dr. Raul Salinas Mondragon (2003-2008):  Role of inositol phosphate in gravity and light induced gene expression changes, and regulation of translation efficiency by miRNA in corn.   Dr. Mondragon secured a position in February 2008 as a laboratory manager at the NCSU School of Veterinary Sciences. He is currently a researcher at Duke University.

Dr. Cassi Myburg-Nichols (2004-2007): Transcriptional and translational regulation of gravitropism in the maize pulvinus. Dr. Myburg-Nichols left our group in summer 2008 to raise her daughter, but retained a part-time position at the biotechnology company ExpressionAnalysis, Raleigh.


Colin Murphree (2012-2018): Cell cycle and lipid metabolism under nitrogen autotrophism and mixotropism in Dunaliella viridis. Colin passed his qualifying exam in 2014. Colin is very creative and contributed original ideas to a recent invention disclosure that is currently prepared for a provisional patent application.

Jacob Dums (2011-2018): Regulation of reproduction in Dunaliella salina in response to environmental stress. Jacob received a MBTP fellowship from NCSU and passed his qualifying exam in 2013.

Siddharta Jain (2013-2015): BTEC; Regulation of N- uptake and metabolism in the marine microalgae Dunaliella viridis. He has successfully defended his thesis and is currently revising his thesis. Sidd is currently working as KBI Biopharma, Durham as an Upstream Process Development Associate.

Soundarya Srirangan (2010-2015): Genomics of lipid biosynthesis in the marine algae Dunaliella salina. Soundarya defended her thesis in March 2015 and is currently a postdoc in my lab to establish a new transformation methods in collaboration with faculty from Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering (COE). She has contributed to a new idea that is currently prepared as an invention for a provisional patent application.

Qian Wu (2008-2013):  Regulation of phosphate sensing via the inositol phosphate pathway in tomato plants. Dr. Wu is currently a postdoctoral scholar in Prof. Ralph Dewey’s lab (Crop Science.

Luyan He (2007-2013):  Translational regulation in corn (chair, Dr. Rebecca Boston). Dr. He is currently employed by Genetech, Inc. NJ.

Jyoti Kajla Dalal (2006-2011):  Sterol-binding proteins and their function in plant growth and development. Dr. Dalal is currently a postdoctoral scholar working with Prof. Qu (Crop Science) and myself.

Laleh Shamey (2008-2012):  Regulation of senescence and drought tolerance by modification of the inositol phosphate and calcium binding capacity in tomato plants. Laleh is currently a graduate student (PhD) in Crop Science (NCSU).

Anna Brogan Mann (2005): Anna is a veteran of the Iraq war (2003-2005) and started her graduate work in my lab after her return from active duty. She is now an organic farmer in Mt Airy, NC.

Jeffery M. Kimbrough (2003-2007):  “Functional characterization of gravity-specific expressed genes”.  Jeff published a first-authored paper in Plant Physiology, and won 2nd place in the graduate student poster competition at a national conference. He is now employed as a Bioinformatician at CARIS Life Sciences Inc. in Phoenix, AZ.


Jessica Yester, Chemistry (2004-2006):  “Expression of gravity specific genes in Arabidopsis mutant lines.” Jesse was awarded the 1rst place for her poster presentation at a National conference of the American Society for Gravitational and Space Biology (Reno, NV, 2005), and won an undergraduate research fellowship from the NC Space Grant Consortium to work in my laboratory. She received her MD in 2013 and is now finishing her PhD.

Nicolas Ward, Biological Sciences (2004-2006): “Improving RNA stability in vitro for space flight experiments”.  Nick won 2nd place in the Undergraduate Research Poster Competition at the national conference of the American Society for Gravitational and Space Biology (New York, 2005).  Nicolas received several offers for professional employment from biotechnology companies before he finished his Bachelor of Science degree in 2006. He returned to NCSU where he enrolled  as a graduate student in the Department of Horticultural Science.

Courtney Sword, Biological Sciences (2006):  “Phenotypic and physiological characterization of transgenic tomato plants”, as an honors research project (BO 495H).  Courtney presented a poster at the national conference of the American Society for Gravitational and Space Biology (Washington, DC, 2006) and received a travel award.  She also presented her research at the North Carolina Undergraduate Research and Creativity Symposium (Raleigh, November 2006).  Her research resulted in co-authorship on one publication from my laboratory. Courtney is completed her OD (Doctor of Optometry) degree from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry.

Alyson Gillis, Biological Sciences (2006):  “Gravitropic responses in Arabidopsis knockout mutants.”

Rebecca Hammond, Biochemistry (2006-2007):  “Transcriptional and translational regulation in corn”.   Rebecca, a Native American, received an undergraduate fellowship award from the NC RNA biology group to work with me during Spring/Summer 2006, and an Undergraduate Research Award in spring 2007.  She presented a poster at the national conference of the American Society for Gravitational and Space Biology (Washington, DC, 2006), and won 2nd place in the Undergraduate Research Competition.  Rebecca also presented her research at the North Carolina Undergraduate Research and Creativity Symposium (Raleigh, 2006). Rebecca received a NIH National Research Service Award Predoctoral Fellowship and received her Ph.D. from the School of Pharmacology, University of Pittsburg, PA and is currently in Law school to add a JD to become a patent lawyer. She did an internship with the Office of Technology Transfer at NCSU in Summer 2013 and is now a Patent Lawyer at

Jennifer Huang, Biological Sciences (2007-present):  “Characterization of evolutionary conserved mechanisms of gravity induced transcription”.  For this project Jennifer was awarded a NC Space Grant Undergraduate Student Summer Fellowship ($4,000). Jennifer graduated in Veterinary Medicine at the University of Kentucky.

Jon Belton, Biochemistry (summer 2007):  “Role of specific miRNA in transcriptional and translational regulation of tropic responses in plants”.

Senior Design Project team:

Samuel C Hume, Electrical Engineering (ECE480, 4 credit hours, 2008)

Joy Marie Johnson, Computer Engineering (ECE481, 4 credit hours, 2008)

Michael Najm, Mechanical Engineering (ECE480, 4 credit hours, 2008)

I co-directed the senior design project (ECE 480/481) of these three Engineering students. They built a prototype for automatic time-resolved imaging and quantification of plant directional growth (3D) in response to changes in light quality and/or quantity, or orientation.

Marc Gracieux, Plant Biology and Biochemistry, Senior (2007-2008):  “Role of calcium: proton antiporter inhibitor protein in sensing of abiotic stress in plant roots”.  Marc graduated from NCSU in spring 2008, and already had been offered several professional positions.  He is a scientist at Gentris Clinical Genetics in Morrisville, NC.

Catherine Hammond Wright, Biochemistry and Genetics (2007-2009):  “Characterization of sugar sensing in Arabidopsis mutant lines”.  Catherine received a NC Space Grant Undergraduate Fellowship to work through the summer and fall semesters of 2008 in my laboratory.  In 2009 she was accepted into a Ph.D. program at UNC Chapel Hill and graduated in 2014. She is currently back at NCSU as a postdoctoral scholar at CVM.

Michelle Huang, Biological Sciences (2009-2010):  “Identification of thigmotropic mutants in an Arabidopsis thaliana mutant library”.  Michelle graduated from NCSU in May 2010, and has been accepted into the graduate program at NC State.

Erica Brown, Biological Sciences (2009-2011):  “Profiling root growth and density gradients in media impeding root penetration”.  Erica received a REU fellowship for Synthetic Biology from NCSU, and is working in my laboratory as an undergraduate researcher on the role of sterol binding proteins in plant stress responses.

Chandler Myers, Plant Biology (2009-present):  “Identification of growth inhibitors for Dunaliella strains. Chandler received a NCSU Undergraduate Research Fellowship for spring-summer 2010 to complete this undergraduate research project and presented her research at the NC State Undergraduate Research Symposium 2010.

Justin Watkins, Plant Biology (2010-2011): “Gravitropic and phototropic responses in roots of miRNA/target Arabidopsis knockout plants”. Justin was accepted into Grad school at Winston-Salem where he is currently working on his PhD in the lab of Prof. Gloria Muday.

Jacob Dums, University of Michigan, River Falls, WI, (REU summer 2010/grad student since 2011): “Expression of lipid biosynthesis genes in Dunaliella strains.” Jacob was an undergraduate with funding through a summer NSF-REU for Synthetic Biology Fellowship. He presented his research at the NC State Undergraduate Research Symposium in 2010 and will be a co-author on a peer-reviewed publication on algae transformation systems. He joined my lab as a graduate student in Fall 2011.

Emma Kovak, NSF-REU summer student in the Synthetic Biology Biotech Program; transforming Camelina sativa. She presented this research at the NC State Undergraduate Research Symposium in 2011. Emma is currently a graduate student at UC Berkeley.

Patrick Backmann, “Identification of lipid biosynthesis genes in Dunaliella strains.” Patrick received an Undergraduate Research grant from NCSU and presented his research at the NC State Undergraduate Research Symposium in 2011. He received an NSF-REU Synthetic Biology Fellowship from BIT at NCSU (summer 2012) and worked in my lab until he graduated in 2013. He is now a graduate student in Biological Sciences at Purdue University.

Kyle Kranz, NCSU Senior in Zoology (major)/Plant Biology (minor). Summer-Fall 2012. “Genotyping and phenotyping of transgenic Camelina sativa plants expressing the CO2-transporter AQP1.”

Neelam Patel (Summer 2012) NCSU Freshman in Biology. Genotyping and phenotyping of transgenic Camelina sativa expressing an archeal Superoxide Reductase.

David Gracieux, (4 month Spring 2013), NCSU Biochemistry. Physiological characterization of Camelina sativa plants expressing the CO2 transporter AQP1.

Hannah Berry, NCSU (Environmental Technology, CNR): Hannah was an undergraduate researcher working on the yield evaluation of CWII repressor lines with Dr. Mia Dvora. (8/2013-12/2014) She presented at the NCSU Undergraduate Research Symposium. She graduated in 2014 and is currently working in my lab as a research assistant analyzing the phenotypic and physiological consequences of trait integration from stacked Camelina sativa lines. She was accepted into the Graduate Program (PhD) at Colorado State University starting Fall 2015.

Danielle Young (UNC-CH/NCSU) worked throughout the summer of 2013 in the algae lab learning basic molecular techniques. She transferred from UNC-Chapel Hill to NCSU PMB to continue her work on algae biofuel during 2014. She presented at the NCSU Undergraduate Research Symposium and received the Mary-Dell Chilton Award (2014) and the Whitford award for academic excellence (2015).

Haley MacDonald (UNC Willmington). Summer internship (2014) to work on Camelina sativa genotyping. Haley will transfer to NCSU in Fall 2015.

Sara Riley, NCSU Biomedical engineering, Summer internship (2014). “Algae biofuel development”.

Michaela Hincks, (Sophomore, Stanford University) Summer internship 2014.  “Synthetic CO2 fixation cycle in a C3 plant – characterization of primary transformants. Her lab experience played a major role in receiving the Stanford Undergraduate STEM Fellowship award in 2015.

Kenyetta Iyevbele, (Senior in Biochemistry, NCSU) Fall 2014-Summer 2015. Kenyetta worked on the transformation systems for marine algae. She graduated in Spring 2015 and was hired as a Laboratory Technician by Quintilles, RTP due to her lab skills in Summer 2015.


Nicole Khoshnoodi, (Research Triangle High School, 12th grade) worked with us during the Summer 2015 as part of the NSF EFRI summer internships. Presented her research on “Nucleotides as an Alternate Nitrogen Source for Algae Biofuels.” at the NC SNURCS July 2015.

Gauri Joshi (Enloe High School, 12th grade) worked with us during summer and fall 2013 and 2014. (>400 hrs). Presented a poster of her research on increasing yield in Camelina sativa for bioenergy production at the NC Undergraduate Research Symposium. She was offered a Goodnight Fellowship in 2015 to join NCSU Biological Sciences and accepted the Chancellors Science Scholarship at UNC-CH where she will study Biomedical Engineering.

Nadia Cohen (Holly Springs High School, 12th grade) worked with us during Fall 2014 and Spring 2015 (>600 hrs). She presented a poster at the NC Undergraduate Research Symposium Spring 2014 on her lab research. Her lab research was highlighted in the Kenan Institute news and she appeared on UNC TV (07/2015) to discuss her experience in my research lab as a High School Student. She was accepted into UNC-CH and will focus her study on physics.

Nicole Eng (Cary High School, 12th grade) has worked with us from July 2013-June 2014. (>600 hrs). Nicole was involved with the evaluation of transgenic plants. She is currently and undergraduate student at UNC School of the Arts, Winston-Salem.

Brian Masters, Research Triangle High School, (Summer 2014) NSF- EFRI summer intern. Presented at NC SNURCS 2014 “Effect of Different Nitrogen Sources on the Growth of Four Species of Dunaliella.”

Jasmine Jarvis (2007-2008), in collaboration with the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE – Drs. Edmonson and Escuti) – Jasmine designed and build containers with different LEDs with adjustable photon flux intensity. These units enabled us to study gravity responses in plants under different light environments.



The Kenan Fellows Program is a competitive fellowship offered to K-12 public school teachers from across disciplines. Fellows partner with scientists to learn about important developments and to gain an understanding of the significance of current research practice for students. The Kenan Fellows Program is an initiative of the Kenan Institute for Engineering, Technology & Science at NCSU

Benjamin Downing (2004-2006):  “Development of curricular material for high schools – plant responses to environmental changes”.

Katie Gooden (2005-2007):  “Adventures of the Agronauts”, a web-based Space Biology curriculum that offers resources for middle school teachers and their students.

Mark Townley (2012-2014): “Biofuels for Jets”. Developing integrated curricular materials for High Schools (AP Environmental Science, Chemistry, and Biology) and models to teach “Sustainable Bioenergy”. Mark is a finalist in for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (2013/’14). Mark’s High school Student Nadia Cohen was selected by the Kenan Institute as the first Kenan Intern at NCSU in Summer/Fall 2014.