Tania Kurbessoian PhD Candidate, University of California, Riverside

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My previous experience in school or organization affiliated volunteering has been occurring for the past 8 years. As an undergraduate and Masters student at Cal State Northridge I’ve worked with the local chapter of ASM (on my campus was called MSA too, Microbiology Students Association) as the Secretary, Treasurer then President for 4 years (2012-2016). I’ve organized, planned and executed many microbiology related events (Beer Brewing, Wine Making, Networking, CLS). For the past 8 years I have also been involved with my local mycological organization (Los Angeles Mycological Society- LAMS), setting up events at the OC Fair and the Natural History Museums to better engage with everyday folk and to get them interested in fungi! Coming to UC Riverside I began involving myself in the local Micro-GSA (Graduate Student Association) as an outreach coordinator, Vice President and President. I was the Social Outreach coordinator at another organization called AWIS (Association for Women in Science), and am now the Co-President where we are interested in fostering stronger bonds for women in all parts of science, connecting them to proper mentors who can take them to the right places, and just being an overall support system. With MSA SPS, 2019-2020 I was the Communications Chair, and 2020-2021 the Vice Chair and loved my experience working with the folks in this organization and would love to continue to do so. I believe organizations like yours only help enrich the experience of being an early scientist and help garner other skills that may not be available as just a student. Currently I am a PhD candidate in the Stajich lab, studying the role of melanized fungi in biological crust systems through Microbiology, Computational Biology and Mycological techniques. Follow me @BYUnleashed on Twitter for updates!


María- José Romero-JiménezPhD Student, Oregon State University


Hello! My name is Maria-Jose Romero-Jimenez. I use she/her/hers pronouns and I am from Liberia, Costa Rica. I am a PhD student in Posy Busby’s lab at Oregon State University. For the past two years I have served as the MSA SPS Webmaster updating job positions, newsletters, student spotlights, resources, and the Mycology Colloquiums on the student website! I am interested in continuing to work with students to highlight the amazing work we do, provide opportunities to share our stories, and make more resources and MSA more accessible. in addition to my MSA SPS duties as a webmaster, I have participated in several outreach activities including: Harry Potter camp, virtual Science Camp, helped Girl Scouts earn their science badges, and virtually co-mentored high school, students from Guanacaste on the design of an app prototype for National Parks in Costa Rica. As vice-president of WIU’s BGSA and with the collaboration of a great team we organized and hosted the Midwest Ecology and Evolution Conference in 2020 with the attendance of ~150 students, post-docs and faculty members. At the Botany and Plant Pathology Department at OSU, I am  part of the Extension and Outreach Committee and recently started to help tweeting at BPP’s GSA Twitter (@osu_bpp_grads) account. As Vice-Chair I would like to help with off-season activities including the Student’s Mycology Colloquiums. 


Claudia Bashian-Victoroff – PhD Student, Case Western Reserve University 

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I am a PhD student in biology at Case Western Reserve University and the Holden Arboretum. My position as a student researcher in David Burke’s lab is based out of the arboretum, which provides me a unique perspective into both the academic and the academic adjacent worlds of ecology and mycology. My research primarily focuses on ectomycorrhizal diversity and function. Prior to joining CWRU and Holden I received a Master’s in mycology and forest pathology from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in the Horton lab. My interest in mycology was sparked the first time I heard the words “mycorrhizal fungi”, and I have followed that curiosity throughout my time as a graduate student. I currently serve on the CWRU Community Concern Reporting System response team as the Graduate Student Council representative. There, it is my responsibility to voice student concerns regarding university responses to incidents of bias. Additionally, I am a founding member of the International Congress of Armenian Mycologists. Through these responsibilities I uplift my peers and advocate for community well-being and academic progress. I found my voice as a scientist through the encouragement of my fellow MSA students. I hope to serve on the MSA executive board to contribute to the fantastic work they do of amplifying student work and highlighting the student experience. I am nominating myself for the secretary position. I feel excited for the opportunity to contribute to the MSA Student Section. You can follow my updates on twitter @Mycolojan!


Abbey Neat – PhD Student, Oregon State University

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My name is Abbey Neat and I am a first year PhD student in the Busby Lab at Oregon State University. I am nominating myself for the Treasurer Position on the MSA Student Society Executive Board. Although I do not have any formal experiences as a treasurer, I have had a lifelong interest in managing finances. I minored in Economics as an undergraduate student, and in doing so had the opportunity to enroll in multiple business and personal finance classes. My most recent experience with budgeting has been through creating (then sticking to!) a proposed grant application budget. This perspective allowed me to see the importance of clearly defining and tracking finances when planning research projects. I believe that these tools will translate well to managing the MSA Student Society expenses. Lastly, this experience of budgeting a research project showed me the important role that funding and scholarships can play in driving science forward. If I were to serve on the MSA endowment committee, I hope to contribute a thoughtful perspective to the decision-making.

Merchandise Chair

Madeline Lueck – Master Student, Washington State University


Madeline makes an excellent candidate for the Secretary position of the MSA student and post-doc section. She is fascinated by the symbiotic relationship between plants, fungi, and decomposition in forest pathology. Her passion for mycology and botany are very apparent and have been budding since she was a young kiddo, and she loves sharing these passions with others. She has a bachelor’s degree from Humboldt State University in Botany with Honors and will be beginning her graduate career as a master’s student in Biology at Washington State University with Dr. Tanya Cheeke in the Soil Microbial Ecology Lab. She has a research background in forest pathology and will be studying the interactions of mycorrhizal fungi and wine grapes for her master’s research. Madeline is highly organized, responsive, and attentive to emails and communication. She is a perfect fit for this position, please vote for her!

Communication Chair

Xiomy-Janiria Pinchi-Dávila – PhD Student, University of Georgia

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My name is Xiomy and I am from Peru. Currently, I’m a first-year PhD student working under the supervision of Dr. Anny Chung in the Plant Pathology Department at the University of Georgia. My project focuses on understanding the mechanisms of sorghum microbiome assembly under different abiotic stresses. Previous to my PhD, I received a Master’s degree from Western Illinois University, where I worked with Dr. Andrea Porras-Alfaro describing a new fungal species. During my master’s degree, I volunteered in some outreach activities like Girl Scout STEM and Biology Day. Since last year, I have participated in several colloquium and journal club activities with peruvian students. These activities focused on career development (how to make a CV, how to connect with researchers, how to use social media to find your dream job) and science in general. I also created and still manage a facebook page called “Hongos Peru” where I often share scientific information, conferences or any other activity related with fungi. I would like to be the Communication Chair because I think I can introduce MSA to more people outside the US network, especially to latin-american researchers.  I aim to make science more accessible to non-english speakers and post announcements in english and spanish.  I hope I can have the opportunity to serve in the student section and bring more diversity into MSA!


Alden Dirks – PhD Candidate, University of Michigan

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I have been fascinated by fungi for about six years now, beginning my mycological journey foraging for tasty edibles during college. Currently, I am a PhD candidate in the lab of Professor Tim James at University of Michigan studying the evolution of gyromitrin in false morel mushrooms. In my journey, the mycological community itself has been an important component of my positive experiences, especially events and interactions through MSA. I am now excited to contribute to the functioning of that community by serving as Webmaster on the MSA Student Section Executive Board. Previous experience related to this position include my work founding and serving as president of Madison Mycological Society for two years (2018-2019) and my work establishing and running various websites (e.g.,,,, Through this work, I’ve gained familiarity with a number of platforms used in web development and digital newsletters such as WordPress, Weebly, and Mailchimp. I am also familiar with backend website maintenance and operations such as domain name registration and renewal, website servicing, website markup and coding languages, and design and construction principles. With these skills, I feel confident that I could serve MSA well as webmaster distributing the MSA student section newsletter and maintaining and updating the website. 

Post-doc Representative

Cassie EttingerPostdoctoral Scholar, University of California, Riverside

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Cassie Ettinger is currently a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Microbiology & Plant Pathology at UC Riverside advised by Dr. Jason Stajich. With Dr. Stajich, she is working on a variety of genomic, metagenomic and phylogenomic projects at the interface of both host (insect, amphibian, seaweed and seagrass) and microbe (bacteria, fungi) interactions. Additionally, she is working on methods development related to fungal metagenomics and reproducible workflows. Previously, she received her Ph.D. in Integrative Genetics and Genomics at UC Davis in Dr. Jonathan Eisen’s laboratory where she studied the seagrass microbiome and seagrass mycobiome. She received her B. A. in Molecular and Cell Biology with a Genetics, Genomics and Development emphasis from UC Berkeley in the spring of 2013. While at UC Berkeley she did research in Dr. Ellen Simms’ lab on multiple projects involving rhizobia-legume symbiosis. Her current research interests range from sea to summit and encompass questions related to host-microbiome interactions, host-microbiome coevolution and marine fungi. During her Ph.D., Cassie served for two years as the graduate representative on her department’s admissions committee and also for two years as co-chair of the Coastal and Marine Science Institute’s Graduate Student Affairs committee. Cassie is passionate about open and reproducible science practices and is currently a National Microbiome Data Collective Champion and 2021 ASAPbio fellow. As a budding marine mycologist and established microbial ecologist, Cassie is interested in bringing her unique viewpoint to the committee as well as finding and building a relationship with the larger #MycoFam community.