Executives for 2019–2020 Student Board


Rebecca Shay – PhD Candidate, Michigan State University

Rebecca Shay

Hello! My name is Rebecca Shay, and I’m a grad student at Michigan State University. I work in the Trail lab on Fusarium graminearum-host interactions, specifically the defense response to F. graminearum in barley trichomes. I’m running for the Vice-chair position for the student section. In the past, I have been outreach chair for the Mid-Michigan chapter of Graduate Women in Science, involved in running many organizations as an undergraduate, as well as Communication chair for the Student Section for the 2017-2018 year.  I learned a lot in my past year of being involved with MSA and the Student Section, and I look forward to expanding my involvement. I think with the experience and connections I made during my past year of serving on the Student Section board I can help to continue building the community the Student Section has created within MSA.


Rob Powers – PhD Candidate, University of Michigan


I am a PhD candidate at the University of Michigan working in Tim James’ lab. My research is primarily focused on understanding the genetic, epigenetic and gene regulatory mechanisms during mating and heterokaryosis in the mushroom-forming members of the Agaricomycotina. Prior to my PhD studies, I received my Master’s degree from the University of Michigan, also in Tim James’ lab, studying both sexual selection and biogeography in the Coprinellus disseminatus species complex.  My passion for mycology bloomed later in life – my undergraduate training was in computer science and ethnomusicology. I worked for ten years in the information technology sector in San Francisco before deciding that my true calling was mycology. I am running for secretary of the MSA Student Section because the Society and the Student Section were instrumental in helping me transition into mycology, and I would like to help bring my enthusiasm and passion for fungi to other students as well. My previous experience on an executive board was as a member of the Tech-Underground technology co-operative, a group that provides technology services to non-profit, community, and arts groups – a co-operative of which I was also a founding member.


Sara Getson – Master’s student, Michigan State University 

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My name is Sara Getson and I am currently a master’s student at Michigan State University in plant pathology. Growing up in an Eastern European household, I went out hunting mushrooms with my dad ever since I was a kid. Then, in college, my love for mushrooms really blossomed as I minored in plant pathology and mushroom science and technology at Penn State and worked on research projects under five different professors there. Now in my graduate work, I have the privilege of continuing my mycology work as I focus on the identification of Fusarium species in asparagus, ginseng, and celery through genetic and morphological characteristics. Along with my research, I have had the opportunity to help with, lead, and present at many mycologically oriented activities and workshops at Penn State, Michigan State, and in the wider communities. Some include lecturing for the Midwest Mycology Information (MAMI) mushroom expert certification workshop for the state of Michigan, running hands-on mushroom identification activities for a Girl Scout troop in Pennsylvania, as well as the Graduate Women in Science ‘Girls in Math and Science day’.

Previously, at Penn State, I served as secretary for both the Blooms and Shrooms plant pathology club and for the ballroom dance club, as well as the webmaster for the campus Newman club. Because of these opportunities, I have gained valuable experience in and understanding of this type of position and given my passion for fungi, I would be honored at the opportunity to serve as the MSA student section secretary for the 2019-2020 year.


Austin N. Frewert – Graduate Student, Washington State University

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My name is Austin Frewert and I am from upstate New York and there are three interests that have always been in my life… fungi, plants and mountain biking!  I am studying soil-microbe interactions in the Cheeke Lab at Washington State University Tri-Cities in Richland, WA. My master’s research is focused on synergistic plant responses to co-amendments of mycorrhizal fungi and biochar when grown in contaminated mine soil. I am also interested in the ecological aspects of mycorrhizal helper bacteria, bacterial and fungal siderophores, and the affect of our changing environment on belowground interactions. I am running for treasurer to contribute to the MSA community and to encourage interest and involvement in mycology. I think it is important to be involved the community, to encourage your peers and support them as they grow. I currently volunteer at my local bicycle repair co-op where I can share what I know as well as learn something new. I am eager to share my passion for mycology by contributing to the community through Inoculum as well as social media outlets, while broadening my volunteer experience. Thank you, I look forward to meeting you at MSA 2019.

Merchandise Chair

Savannah Gentry – University of Wisconsin Madison

Savannah Gentry

My name is Savannah Gentry and I am Ph.D. student in the Botany Department at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Originally from California, I did my undergraduate in Oregon State University, obtaining a bachelor’s in Zoology. Why the switch of disciplines? I took a mycology course at my first university once I had graduated because it had been suggested by a professor whilst I was trying to decide what next steps to take; that class ignited a passion for mycology I never knew existed.  Fungi are amazing and in discovering the fungal world, I not only found another passion but a way to include my background knowledge in zoology, thus developing my P.h.D in fungal disease ecology. My research is focused on fungal pathogens of animals. In general, I am more focused on the fungal pathogen and interactions it has with its host and within the environment it inhabits. Currently, I am looking at two fungal pathogens that are known to cause skin infections in reptiles, specifically in snakes and lizards. Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola (O.ophiodiicola) is the primary cause for the infectious disease in snakes known as snake fungal disease (SFD) and Nannizziopsis guarro has been seen in various lizards, causing a skin infection referred to as yellow fungus. From this, I wanted to see if it the likelihood of these fungal pathogens having a wider host range than what has been previously documented, prompting me to develop an infection trial using cornsnakes and bearded dragons. My other research involves looking at the ecology and habitat range of the fungal pathogen that causes SFD. Much of the available data is limited by field observational in association with the snake host, leaving a large amount of unsampled areas. What I intend to do is use an established probe of the ITS region specific to O. ophiodiicola and BLAST it against documented sequences within databases as well as go through unsubmitted or undescribed sequences within R. Nora Duncritts (formerly Dunkirk) spoke with me about the student group within MSA and previous events held during the conference, which got my attention. I am an advocate for student inclusion and love any chance to expose people to the world of fungi in various forms. My experience stems from outreach that I have been apart of during both my graduate and undergraduate career. I was a peer mentor and spoke about STEM with the general public. Currently, I am on a course committee which involves overseeing and approving any changes to curriculum within the Botany Department at University of Wisconsin-Madison. Overall, the bulk of my experience has been with public speaking.

Communication Chair

Tania Kurbessoian – Graduate Student, 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 5 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 now President. I was the Social Outreach coordinator at another organization called AWIS (Association for Women in Science), and am now the Co-President. AWIS fosters 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 for women in science. I believe organizations like these and the MSA Student Section only helps enrich the experience of being an early scientist and helps garner other skills that may not be available as just a student. Currently I am in the Stajich lab, studying the role of melanized fungi in biological crust systems through Microbiology, Computational Biology and Mycological techniques. Follow me on @BlackYeastUnleashed on Instagram and @BYUnleashed on Twitter for updates!


María-José Romero-Jiménez – Graduate Student, Western Illinois University

image_123986672.JPG Hello, my name is María-José Romero-Jiménez and I am a graduate student at Western Illinois University. I do research at Dr. Andrea Porras-Alfaro Fungal Ecology laboratory on the description of Darksidea species and the effect they have on grasses. My first MSA meeting was in 2017. The conference was a beautiful experience where I met new people that were passionate about fungi. Since then, I have been interested in getting a little bit more involved with the mycology community and sharing it with everyone. Because of this I am interested in the Communication Chair position at the Student Section. I think that the position will allow me to meet and work with exciting people I don’t know and learn new things. I believe that it will push me out of my comfort zone and it will allow me to share with many others why fungi and mycologists are awesome. At WIU I am the vice-president of the Biology Graduate Student Association and we participate in several outreach activities like Biology Day, Discover Western and Girl Scout STEM. If we are aware of a conference, we send emails with deadlines for registrations and abstract submission. As a member of the Fungal Ecology Lab, I co-coordinated the botany section of Harry Potter Summer Camp and helped in other outreach activities. One of the things I like is sharing with everyone our work and outreach activities we do on the Facebook page of the lab.

Post-doc Representative

Lotus Lofgren – PhD/postdoc, University of Minnesota

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I’m a finishing PhD student (Defending May 15th) in University of Minnesota’s Dep. of Plant and Microbial Biology, working with Dr. Peter Kennedy on mechanistic fungal ecology, genomics and bioinformatics. I’m a founding member of Fungal Garden, a living laboratory, gourmet mushroom farm and outreach initiative, housed on the U of MNs St. Paul campus since 2011. I just stepped down from the leadership board of Mycology Club at the University of Minnesota, where I have served since 2014 as secretary (1 year), outreach coordinator (1 year) vice president (2 years), and president (1 year). The club hosts numerous science outreach events, as well as public forays, mushroom ID classes and cultivation workshops, hosts speakers and organizes a mycology journal club. I’m interested in serving as a post-doctoral representative on the MSA student board to help as needed, gain experience on national leadership panels, and advocate for the inclusion of issues and perspectives relevant to post doctoral scholars.