Rebecca Shay – Michigan State University
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 – 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.
Cedric Ndinga Muniania – University of Minnesota
Savannah Gentry – University of Wisconsin Madison
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.
Lindsey Becker – North Carolina State University
I am a PhD student in the Cubeta lab at North Carolina State University, and my research primarily focuses on plant growth promoting fungi and how fungi can alter plant physiology. I would like to run for communication chair for an opportunity to gain more experience with science communication and outreach. I also really enjoyed the MSA student spotlights, and would like to be involved with showcasing MSA student achievements. I recently served as president of my program’s graduate school association, and would like to be more involved with the mycological community.
Derreck Carter-House – University of California Riverside
I love watching microbial wars! I study the interactions between Serratia marcescens, a mycophagous bacteria, and early diverging fungi from Mucoromycota and Zoopagomycota. I’m currently a PhD candidate in Jason Stajich’s lab in the department of Microbiology and Plant Pathology at the University of California, Riverside (UCR). Not only are the mechanism of trans-kingdom communication fascinating but the findings could help develop ways of discouraging fungal colonization of crops or humans. We are using several different methods to learn more about this communication such as metabolomics, genomics, and microscopy. At UCR I have served in several executive positions, currently I am president of the Plant Pathology Graduate Student Association and a graduate representative in the Student Fee Advisory Committee for the University. Several years ago I developed a Plant Pathology Outreach Program that connects grad students in our department with community members through events like free diagnostics stands and school visits. Recently, we received the Mathre Education Endowment Award from the American Phytopathological Society to bring local high school students to the UCR campus for a “Plant Pathology Day” to encourage them to see science and research as a career path. I’m interested in the Webmaster Position with the hopes of increasing traffic/use of the website and creating more collaboration between members. One of the duties I’m looking forward to is the newsletter. The newsletter will provide an opportunity to showcase our members and hopefully facilitate more collaborations between our student members. My main motivation is to encourage interaction and create an environment where our members can feel comfortable reaching out and making those essential connections with the community.
Rachel Koch – Purdue University
My name is Rachel Koch and I am running to be your Postdoctoral Representative. I grew up in Minnesota and attended the University of Notre Dame for college, where I graduated in 2011 with a degree in Biology. I did not know much about fungi until I started in the lab of Dr. Cathie Aime as a PhD student later that same year. I finally received my PhD in 2017, and transitioned into a Postdoc with Cathie right after graduation. In the seven years I have been with Cathie, my research has focused on the systematics and ecology of tropical fungi. Currently, I am working on a project studying the evolution of tropical ectomycorrhizal fungi. This work focuses on documenting the diversity of EM fungi from Guyana and Cameroon in similar forest types, and testing biogeographic hypotheses for EM clades of varying age. I am excited to run for this position as I have benefitted greatly from the support of MSA and now want to help others in return. It is my goal to be a conduit between MSA postdocs and the student society, particularly in regards to the establishment of programs focusing on professional development and applying for faculty positions. I also want to engage post docs with the student society in an effort to facilitate idea sharing, skill teaching and collaborative efforts between labs. During my graduate career at Purdue, I have served on alumni and curriculum boards.