8th Annual Plant Sciences Symposium

The UW-Madison Plant Sciences Graduate Student Council hosted the 8th Annual Plant Sciences Symposium Symposium titled Leavesdropping on Plants: Microscopic to Macroscopic Conversations on Friday, November 16, 2018. The event was held in the H.F. Deluca Forum at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery at UW-Madison and was also available via online webinar for those unable to attend in person. The symposium featured talks from six accomplished and dynamic scientists, as well as two graduate student talks and a poster session. New this year, we were fortunate to be able to offer several travel scholarships to graduate students from other institutions to attend the symposium and present their research. See a complete schedule and speaker descriptions in our program.

Dr. Marilyn J. Roossinck
Pennsylvania State University

Marilyn Roossinck earned her a Ph.D. at University of Colorado in the School of Medicine in Microbiology and Immunology studying the Hepatitis B virus. Following a post-doctoral fellowship at Cornell University, where she began studying plant viruses, she moved to the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation as a principal investigator and focused her research on plant virus evolution and ecology. After the discovery of a novel plant-fungus-virus three-way mutualistic symbiosis that allows plants to grow in geothermal soils in Yellowstone National Park, her interests expanded to include viruses of fungi. Dr. Roossinck is a member of the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics and a Professor of Virus Ecology in the Department of Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology at Pennsylvania State University. She is an expert in virus biodiversity, and has done extensive work on complex interactions between beneficial viruses and their hosts that are involved in adaptation of plants and fungi to extreme environments.

Dr. Natalia Dudareva
Purdue University

Natalia Dudareva is a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Biochemistry at Purdue University. She received her M.S. in Biology and Biochemistry at Novosibirsk State University in Russia and her Ph.D. at both the Institute of Biochemistry in Kiev, Ukraine and University of Louis Pasteur, in Strasbourg, France. Dr. Dudareva’s research integrates the power of genetic and biochemical approaches with metabolic flux analysis and modeling to understand the biochemical and molecular mechanisms controlling the formation of an array of primary and secondary metabolites in plants.

Dr. Jim Westwood
Virginia Tech

Jim Westwood has been studying parasitic plants for 24 years. He earned his B.A. at Concordia College, M.S. at University of Minnesota, and Ph.D. at Purdue University. Trained in plant physiology and weed science, Dr. Westwood became interested in parasitic plants as an unusual category of weeds. He was fortunate to find a post-doctoral position at Virginia Tech working on the root parasitic genera Orobanche and Phelipanche. He developed model systems for parasitic plant research that paved the way for molecular and genomic studies of these plants. Subsequent work expanded to the stem parasite Cuscuta, and his group was the first to report host parasite transfer of mRNA. Jim has served as president of the International Parasitic Plant Society and Principal Investigator of the NSF-funded Parasitic Plant Genome Project. He is currently a Professor in the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences at Virginia Tech.

Dr. Thea Whitman
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Thea Whitman is an Assistant Professor of Soil Microbial Ecology and Biogeochemistry in the Department of Soil Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She earned her B.Sc.H. in Environmental Biology at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario and her M.S. and Ph.D. in Soil Science at Cornell University. After doing post-doctoral research at University of California-Berkeley, she began her position at University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2016. Dr. Whitman uses stable isotope tracing and probing, gas flux measurements, and microbial community characterization approaches to answer questions about terrestrial carbon biogeochemistry, soil microbial ecology, and climate change.

Ms. Gina Zastrow-Hayes
Corteva Agriscience 

Gina Zastrow-Hayes graduated with a degree in Microbiology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2000 and since has worked in the field of Genomics spanning toxicology, cancer biology, circadian biology, and agricultural research programs. She established genomics and cell-based screening facilities at the Scripps Research Florida campus and University of Pennsylvania and joined the DuPont Pioneer Genomics group in 2008 where she has helped expand the use of next generation sequencing technologies for breeding, transgene, and gene editing applications. Gina is currently a Technology Leader in the Genomics group and is responsible for a team that manages long and short read sequencing technologies including whole genome sequencing for reference genome production and targeted applications for the gene editing molecular characterization pipeline.

Dr. Carolyn Lawrence-Dill
Iowa State University

Carolyn Lawrence-Dill has devoted over 20 years to developing computational systems and solutions that support the plant research community. Dr. Lawrence-Dill’s work enables the use of existing and emerging knowledge to establish common standards and methods for data collection, integration, and sharing. Such efforts help to eliminate redundancy and improve the efficiency of current and future projects, and increase the availability of data and data analysis tools for plant biologists working in diverse crops across the world. Recent efforts have focused on building the area of predictive plant phenomics.

Although the Plant Sciences Symposium is a student-run event, we would not be able to accomplish it without help from many others. Funding was graciously provided by Corteva Agriscience, Ball Horticultural Company, Valent U.S.A. Corporation, PhytoTechnology Laboratories, the Wisconsin Soybean Marketing Board, the Wisconsin Experience Grant, the Wisconsin Agricultural and Life Sciences Alumni Association, and the UW-Madison College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. This symposium is part of the DowDuPont Plant Sciences Symposia Series, sponsored by Corteva Agriscience, the Agriculture Division of DowDuPont, which includes plant sciences symposia at universities in six countries and five continents. We would also like to acknowledge the support of the faculty in our various departments. Lastly, we would like to extend our gratitude to Sarah Friedrich for her excellent work designing the symposium materials.