Organizers

Cintia Helena Duarte Sagawa

I am a second year PhD student in the Plant Biology Graduate Group and a biologist interested in understanding genotype-phenotype interactions in plants as well as immune and virulence factors of plant pathogens. I graduated from Sao Paulo State University (UNESP) in Brazil, where I also received my master’s degree in Genetics with a focus on genetic and QTL (Quantitative Trait Loci) mapping. I am currently working on walnut and grape diseases in Dr. Abhaya Dandekar’s lab in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis.

Contact: chdsagawa (at) ucdavis (dot) edu



Gitanshu Munjal

I am a graduate student researcher working towards a Ph.D. under the guidance of Dr. E. Charles Brummer. The overall goal of my graduate work is to assess the genetic control of autumn dormancy, an adaptive trait employed by many perennial plants in response to seasonal changes, using Medicago sativa as my experimental system. Currently, I am using selection mapping approaches in combination with genome-wide polymorphism data to identify useful markers across multiple genetic backgrounds. I received my B.S. in Plant Sciences here at UC Davis and gained experience working in the labs of Dr. Ross-Ibarra and Dr. Zakharov as well as the Tomato Genetics Resource Center. Beyond current work, my academic interests include developing and applying cost-effective tools for breeding. I hope to return home (India) following my graduate studies and start a progressive breeding program there.

Contact: gmunjal (at) ucdavis (dot) edu

Ian Thompson

My name is Ian Thompson, and I’m a second year MS student working with Dr. E. Charles Brummer. I’m interested in all things plant breeding and plant genetics, but am especially interested in the techniques and technologies that make the plant breeding process more effective and efficient. I hope to continue my graduate education as PhD student and subsequently become a member of the seed industry. Before coming to UC Davis, I was a crop science major at Cal Poly SLO and a melon breeding intern at HM Clause.

Contact: ipthompson (at) ucdavis (dot) edu


Karla Huerta

I am a 2nd year Ph.D. Student in Horticulture and Agronomy in Dr. Andrew Walker´s Lab. I am part of the Pierce´s Disease (PD) resistant wine grape breeding program. I come from Ciudad Juárez, México, where I got my B.S. in Chemistry. Apart from plant breeding, evolution and plant genetics, my interests lay in science communication and education.

Contact: kahuerta (at) ucdavis (dot) edu






Kelsey Wood

I study comparative and functional genomics of downy mildew pathgoens in the Michelmore lab at UC Davis. Our lab has recently sequenced the genomes of several downy mildews, including those infecting lettuce, spinach, tobacco, and chard and my research is focused on using bioinformatics to predict candidate effector genes and testing those candidates the lab to identify functional pathogenicity proteins. In addition to contributing to our understanding of the mechanisms of pathogenesis, the study of effectors will be useful for breeding disease resistance in lettuce. My experience in the biotech industry has taught me that scientific progress can be achieved by bridging the gap between basic and applied science. I believe that collaborations between industry and academia are vital to increase crop productivity and work towards improving plant stress resilience in the face of a changing global climate.

Contact: klsywd (at) ucdavis (dot) edu

Mengyuan Xiao

I am a second-year PhD student in UC Davis Horticulture & Agronomy Graduate Group. I am interested in crop genetics and breeding. After finishing my undergraduate study as an agronomy major student in China Agricultural University, I came to UC Davis as a PhD student. Currently, I am working with Dr. Jan Dvorak on wheat evolutional genetics.

Contact: myxiao@ucdavis.edu (at) ucdavis (dot) edu






Susan Moenga

I am a Ph.D. student in the Plant Biology Graduate Group and a member of Doug Cook’s Chickpea Innovation lab at UC Davis. My work focuses on drought stress tolerance related traits and genes in wild chickpea populations that can be useful in breeding for climate resilience. Before UC Davis, I received my master’s degree in Plant Biotechnology from Wageningen University, in the Netherlands. While in Wageningen, I was affiliated with Ton Bisselling’s group, where I investigated the genetic underpinning of nitrogen fixation traits in Parasponia. I received my bachelor’s degree from Kenyatta University, Kenya and have previously worked with Monsanto, with the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) project, developing drought tolerant maize varieties.

Contact: smmoenga (at) ucdavis (dot) edu


Jeffrey Ross-Ibarra

Jeff is an Associate Professor and Section Chair in the Department of Plant Sciences. He also holds affiliations with The Center for Population Biology and The Genome Center at UC Davis. His lab works on the evolutionary genetics of maize and teosinte. He has served as the faculty advisor to the UC Davis Plant Breeding Symposium since its inception 5 years ago.

Contact: rossibarra (at) ucdavis (dot) edu