PLPA Graduate Students

 Ali Ali

Ali, Ali Abed

(CEMB - Ph.D. - Bluhm)


Alshuwaili, Fakhir

(CEMB - Ph.D. - Bluhm)

Justin Bailey

Bailey, Justin

(PLPA - M.S. - Spurlock)



Bieger, Baronger

(CEMB - Ph.D. - Egan)

Hazel Buyu

Buyu, Hazel
(PLPA - M.S. - Bluhm)


Dulal, Nawaraj

(PLPA - M.S.)


Fagundes, Wagner

(PLPA - M.S. - Bluhm)

Wagner is currently working on his Master's degree and his research aims to elucidate the molecular basis of race determination and pathogenicity in Cercospora sojina, the causal agent of Frogeye leaf spot (FLS) on soybeans. During his BSc in Biology in Brazil at Pontificia Universidade Catolica do Rio Grande do Su (PUCRS), Wagner worked in different projects involving plant secondary metabolism and defense mechanisms as Induced Systemic Resistance (ISR) promoted by Plant-Growth Promoting Rhizobacterias (PGPRs). Also during his undergrad degree, he had the opportunity to participate in the 2014 Adair & Bollenbacher summer internship of the Department of Plant Pathology at University or Arkansas, working in molecular genetics aspects of different pathogens of soybean and corn. His main research interests include molecular aspects of plant-pathogen interactions and the mechanisms in which the host resistance is defeated by pathogens.


Hawk, Tracy

(PLPA - M.S. - Faske)

Kathryn Hayden

Haydon, Kathryn
(PTSC - Ph.D. - Korth)

As a Ph.D. student and Distinguished Doctoral Fellow working for Dr. Ken Korth, she uses CRISPR gene-editing to improve post-harvest rice quality, such as shelf life and starch functionality. She has identified potential genes from the scientific literature and designed guide RNAs to target and either mutate or precisely modify the genes of interest by producing transgenic rice expressing her guide RNA molecules as well as the DNA-cutting enzyme Cas9. She also works in Dr. Martin Egan’s lab using new molecular techniques to investigate the pathogenicity of the rice blast fungus Magnaporthe oryzae by fusing fungal effector molecules to an enzyme that labels effector targets within infected rice cells for identification. She is originally from Texas where she graduated summa cum laude with a B.S. in Biology from the University of North Texas in 2013. She earned an M.S. in Food Science here at the University of Arkansas in 2016, researchers the effects of storage conditions on rice quality and functionality, advised by Dr. Terry Siebenmorgen. She currently serves as President of the Plant Pathology Graduate Student Association.




Patterson, McKayla

(PLPA  M.S. - Spurlock)

Ridenour, John B.

(PTSC - Ph.D. - Bluhm)


Rodriguez Puerto, Catalina Maria

(PLPA - M.S. - Rojas)


Saito, Katsunroni
(PLPA - M.S. - Correll)


Segalin, Samantha

(PTSC - Ph.D. - Rojas


Shaffer, Cullen

(PLPA - M.S. - Tzanetakis)

Sharma, Sandeep
(CEMB - Ph.D. - Bluhm)

My areas of interests include functional genomics of plants and plant pathogenic fungi. I am particularly interested in identifying the mechanisms of plant resistance to pathogens, as well as mechanisms of pathogenicity in different plant pathogens through the use of different molecular biology techniques and next generation sequencing tools. I am studying different  host-pathogen systems like Fusarium verticilloides in corn, Cercospora spin corn and soybean, Phomopsis longicolla in soybean, reniform nematodes in soybean, and a novel nematophagous fungal strain, ARF 18. I am also using functional genomics to study gene functions in different host-pathogen systems.


Smith, Sharon "Faye"

(ENDY - Ph.D. - Bluhm)


Stetina, Terea
(PTSC - Ph.D. - Tzanetakis)


The overall goal of my research is to contribute to the understanding of R. solani epidemiology in Arkansas. I am particularly interested in the effects of mycoviruses on fungal pathogenicity, and their potential role in biological control. We have optimized a protocol for the extraction of viral dsRNA from fungi and have identified dsRNA bands in > 50% of isolates collected from five different fields. Using next generation sequencing, we have discovered at least 20 new virus species. We have also identified Rhizoctonia solani RNA virus 1 (RsRV1) in an AG-4 isolate. This virus was previously reported in an AGI-1A isolate from China associated with slow growth and reduced fungal pathogenicity. This discovery provides evidence that R. solani mycoviruses may infect different anastomosis groups, elevating their potential for biological control in field environments. Future work will determine spatial distribution of Rhizoctonia spp., anastomosis groups, and mycoviruses; as well as correlations between these and environmental factors. We will also be working to characterize rates of mycovirus transmission via hyphal anastomosis, and the effects of mycovirus infection on pathogen fitness.

Katie Wilkinson

Wilkinson, Katherine (Katie)

(PLPA - M.S. - Rojas)

Zaccaron, Marcio
(PTSC - Ph.D. - Rupe)

Marcio is pursuing a Ph.D. degree under Dr. John Rupe, working on charcoal rot, a soybean disease caused by Macrophomina phaseolina. He received his B.Sc. in Agronomy from the Universidade Federal da Grande Dourados–Brazil in 2009. During his B.Sc. he worked on different projects related to epidemiological aspects of soybean rust, caused by Phakopsora pachyrhizi. From 2009 to 2012 he worked on his Plant Pathology M.Sc. degree at Iowa State University under Dr. X. B. Yang focusing on soybean sudden death syndrome, caused by Fusarium virguliforme


Zhou, Jing
(PTSC - Ph.D. - Tzanetakis)

I am working on Soybean bean vein necrosis virus (SVNV), a unique member of genus Tospovirus, family Bunyaviridae. We have characterized the full genome of SVNV, performed population analysis and designed effective detection assays for the virus. SVNV is present in all soybean growing areas of North America and has become an emerging disease on soybean in recent years. To minimize the impact of SVNV and develop sustainable approaches to control the disease, we will further dissect SVNV from the following aspects:

1) identify the alternative hosts and vectors

2) identify and develop resistance to the virus

3) study the effect of mixed infection between SVNV and other important soybean viruses

Other than that, I also work on several side projects including new viral diseases on sugarberry and blueberry.