BTI Graduate Students Receive Schmittau-Novak Grants

by | May 27, 2020

Five closeup pictures of the faces of Marina Mann, Alex Ogbonna, Srinivasan Krishnan, Tanner Robison and Gordon Younkin.

Five BTI graduate students received grants from the Schmittau-Novak Grants Program. From left to right: Marina Mann, Alex Ogbonna, Srinivasan Krishnan, Tanner Robison and Gordon Younkin.

We would like to congratulate five BTI graduate students who are Spring 2020 Schmittau-Novak Grants Program recipients.

Supported by a bequest from the estate of Jean Schmittau in honor of Joseph Novak, Cornell University Plant Biology Professor Emeritus, the Schmittau-Novak Small Grants Program is designed to provide graduate students in Cornell’s School of Integrative Plant Science (SIPS) with the opportunity to experience the process of writing and reviewing proposals, and implementing a research plan of their own design.

Ten proposals were selected for Spring 2020 funding, including the following four projects from BTI graduate students:

Marina Mann, a PhD student in Michelle Heck’s lab, is working to identify why some Asian citrus psyllid insects spread the bacterium that causes citrus greening disease but other Asian citrus psyllids do not, which could provide insights for controlling the devastating disease.

Alex Ogbonna, a PhD student in the lab of Lukas Mueller, and Srinivasan Krishnan, a postdoctoral associate in the lab of BTI adjunct professor Miguel Piñeros, are working to help cassava breeders identify cassava that have low levels of cyanide, in hopes of reducing the number of cyanide poisonings caused by consumption of the stable crop in Sub-Saharan Africa each year.

Tanner Robison, a PhD student in Fay-Wei Li’s lab, is researching how multiple species of hornworts are able to concentrate carbon during photosynthesis, which could someday help crop plants grow larger and use less fertilizer.

Gordon Younkin, a PhD student in Georg Jander’s lab, is working with the plant genus Erysimum to better understand the biosynthesis and diversity of cardiac glycosides, which are naturally occurring chemicals used as heart medications and show promise as cancer therapeutics.

You can read more about the program and this year’s recipients on the SIPS website.

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