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Graduate Student Directory

The Bread Lab

Dr. Stephen Jones, Crop and Soil Sciences

Merri Metcalfe – Ph.D. student
Research topic: Accessibility, quality, and affordability of grain-based products from Western Washington with an emphasis on making nutritional food more available within our communities.
Started: 2018

Robin Morgan – Ph.D. student
Research topic: The intersections between breeding and baking.
Started: 2018

Laura Valli – Ph.D. student
Research topic: The agronomy, breeding and cultural context of rye, the meaning of baking and power relations in the bakery.
Started: 2018


Dr. Beverly Gerdeman, Entomology Department

No students at this time.

Vegetable Horticulture

Dr. Carol Miles, Horticulture Department

Pinki Devi – Ph.D. student
Thesis Title: Investigating propagation methods to increase the grafting success of watermelon, which will include screening potential rootstock for watermelon grafting.
Started: 2017

Srijana Shrestha – M.S. student
Research focus: Developing educational materials for biodegradable plastic mulch.
Started: 2020

Bio on department website
Srijana Shrestha was born and raised in the Lamjung district in Nepal. She completed her B.S. in Agriculture in 2018 from the Agriculture and Forestry University, Nepal. She worked for one year as a project officer in Biodiversity and Resource Management for Sustainable Food Security in Mountain Community Project with the Nepal Group of Helping Hands, in the very remote Dailekh district of Nepal. She joined the Vegetable Horticulture program at WSU Mount Vernon NWREC in Spring 2020 and is an MS student. Her project will focus on developing educational materials for biodegradable plastic mulch.

Vegetable Seed Pathology

Dr. Lindsey du Toit, Plant Pathology Department

Alex Batson – PhD student
Dissertation Title: The genetic basis of pathogenicity to spinach of Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. spinaciae.
Started: PhD Fall 2019, MS (Fall 2017 – Summer 2019)

Billie Juan Espejo – MS student
Thesis Title: The development of bioassays to test antifungal activity of bacterial strains against Pythium aphanidermatum on cucumber
Started: 2017

Marilen Nampijja – PhD student
Dissertation topic: Management of bacterial leaf spot in table beet and Swiss chard, caused by Pseudomonas syringae pv. aptata.
Started: 2020

Marilen was born and raised in Masaka, Uganda in East Africa, where she received her primary and secondary education. She was admitted to Makerere University in Uganda’s capital, Kampala, in 2010 to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree in Conservation Forestry and Production Technology. In 2015, after completing her BS degree, Marilen worked with Hall Hunter Partnership, the leading soft fruit grower in the United Kingdom, after which she returned to Uganda to start passion fruit farming. Having worked in the UK and on her passion fruit farm, Marilen realized that plant diseases are among the most challenging aspects to manage in crops, and recognized the need for a better understanding of plant diseases so that she could help other farmers when she returns to her home country. In 2017, Marilen enrolled in an MS degree in Plant Science at South Dakota State University, with an emphasis in Plant Pathology. Her MS research project evaluated the efficacy of synthetic and biopesticides on bacterial leaf streak of wheat, and examined the influence of cultivar and environment on epiphytic bacterial diversity on wheat seeds. After completing her MS degree in 2019, Marilen was offered a job at North Dakota State University at the Williston Research & Extension Center as laboratory technician. Her major area of research was on soilborne pathogens: Aphanomyces euteiches and Fusarium species affecting field peas, evaluating the impacts of seed treatments on commercial rhizobia inoculants, and evaluation of the relative nodulation of chickpea using different rhizobial isolates that are native to western North Dakota. Marilen started a PhD degree at Washington State University in spring 2020, based at the WSU Mount Vernon Northwestern Washington Research & Extension Center, under the supervision of Dr. Lindsey du Toit. Her dissertation project is on management of bacterial leaf spot in table beet and Swiss chard, caused by Pseudomonas syringae pv. aptata. This is part of a larger USDA NIFA Specialty Crops Research Initiative project on Pseudomonas syringae pathogens of Cucurbitaceae and Chenopodiaceae (Award No. 2019-51181-30019), on which Lindsey du Toit and Lydia Tymon are co-Principal Investigators.

Ryan Solemslie – MS student
Thesis Title: Cold season emergence, vigor, and seedling blight resistance screening in sweet corn.
Started: 2018

Kayla Spawton – Ph.D. student
Dissertation Title: The ecology and management of Stemphylium leaf spot of spinach.
Started: 2018

Small Fruit Horticulture

Dr. Lisa Wasko DeVetter, Horticulture Department

Amit Bhasin – M.S. student
Thesis Title: Evaluating and optimizing fertilizer sources/rates in Organic Blueberry production in central Washington.
Started: 2018

Yixin Cai – M.S. student
Research Focus: Technologies and practices that allow for the mechanical harvest of fresh market blueberry with high fruit quality and high harvest efficiency.
Started: Spring 2019

Qianwen Lu – M.S. student
Research topic: Blended and pelleted manure fertilizer in raspberry.
Started: 2018

Huan Zhang – M.S. student
Thesis Title: Studying the application of biodegradable mulches in tissue culture red raspberry.
Started: 2017

Soil Science

Dr. Deirdre Griffin LaHue, Crop and Soil Sciences Department

Kwabena Sarpong – Ph.D. student
Reseach topic: Soil health surveys of major specialty crops in the state of Washington.
Started: 2020

Kwabena’s love for a career in science and research developed while growing up in New Tafo, a town in Ghana’s eastern region best known for its Cocoa Research Institute. Kwabena (who also goes by Kobby) obtained his Bachelor of Science Degree in Chemical Engineering at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in 2013. After his undergraduate studies, Kwabena worked as a trainee engineer intern offshore at the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation. Kwabena joined the New Mexico State University in 2015 to pursue a Master’s degree in Water Science and Management, working as a research assistant at the New Mexico Water Resource Research Institute on the “The Regulatory Framework Surrounding Produced Water In New Mexico and Impacts on Potential Use”. He also worked on a Bureau of Reclamation-funded project “Halophyte Biochar for Water Desalination Brine Concentrate Management,” whose findings are published in “Sarpong, K. A., Amiri, A., Ellis, S., Idowu, O. J., & Brewer, C. E. (2019). Short-term leachability of salts from Atriplex-derived biochars. Science of The Total Environment.” Kwabena got a second Master’s degree in Industrial Engineering afterwards, working on the project “Biochars from Pallet Woody Biomass Residues for Improved Poplar Production.” Kwabena starts his PhD in Soil Science in Spring 2020 under the supervision of Dr. Deirdre Griffin LaHue. His research will focus on conducting soil health surveys of major specialty crops in the state of Washington.
Kwabena is also particularly interested in applying machine learning to address problems in agriculture. Kwabena’s hobbies include playing golf, Ping-Pong, guitar and traveling.

Toby Una – M.S. student
Reseach topic: The intersection between agricultural systems and environmental protection from the perspective of soils.
Started: 2019

Toby is earning a M.S. in Soil Science with Dr. Deirdre Griffin LaHue. She grew up outside Enumclaw, WA and graduated with a B.S. in Environmental Science from Western Washington University in 2018. During the past summers, she has worked at WSU Puyallup in the Plant Pathology and Organic Farming Systems programs and the King County Wastewater Treatment Division Biosolids Program. Her primary interest is the intersection between agricultural systems and environmental protection from the perspective of soils. She is passionate about recycling and repurposing, whether it is biosolids application or fabric scraps. When not working, she can be found playing with her dogs, reforesting her family’s forest, or cooking.

Dr. Gabriel LaHue, Crop and Soil Sciences Department

Shiwani Sapkota

Shiwani Sapkota – M.S. student
Reseach topic: Dynamics of soil fertility, nutrient management and soil microbiology.
Started: 2019

Shiwani Sapkota was born and raised in Nepal’s Chitwan district. She grew up among farming families, which impacted her to make agriculture her major focus. She completed her BS in Agriculture from Agriculture and Forestry University in December 2017. She did her internship in the Himalayan region of Nepal, staying in the vicinity of rural farmers for six months. After her BS, she worked as a teacher for six months at an agricultural college in Nepal. She most recently worked as a field technician in the Agrosecurity Lab at the University of Hawaii at Manao. Her work included ELISA tests for the detection of viruses on potato plants brought from different US states and rearing Coconut rhinoceros beetles.

Shiwani is starting as an M.S. student in Soil Science under the supervision of Dr. Gabriel LaHue. She is eager to learn about the dynamics of soil fertility, nutrient management and soil microbiology. She loves traveling to diverse historical and cultural places.

Cheyenne Sloan

Cheyenne Sloan – M.S. student
Reseach topic: Quantifying the mineralization of nitrogen in soils with varying amounts of organic matter.
Started: 2019

Completed Students

Ana Vida Alcala – Ph.D. student
Thesis Title: Management of Damping-off in Organic Vegetable Production in the Pacific Northwest.
Graduated: 2014

Travis Alexander – Ph.D. student
Thesis Title: The postharvest quality implications of mechanically harvesting cider apples for growers and hard cider makers.
Graduated: 2018

Matthew Arrington – Ph.D. student
Thesis title: Optimization of pollination and fruit set in blueberry: Flower morphology, alternative pollinators, and nutrient supplementation
Graduated: Fall 2017

Abigail Attavar – M.S. student
Thesis Title: Testing the field germination of Green Leaf and Cos lettuce seeds in cold conditions, in four locations across the US.
Graduated: Spring 2019

Kelly Ann Atterberry – M.S. student
Thesis Title: Nutrition Education and School Garden Projects with K–12 Students to Promote Consumption of Dry Beans.
Graduated: 2015

Abby Beissinger – M.S. Student
Thesis Title:
Graduated: Fall 2016

Callie Bolton – M.S. student
Thesis Title: Organic Weed Control in a Newly Established Vineyard.
Graduated: 2011

Fairuz Buajaila – Ph.D. student
Thesis Title: Comparing poultry manure to commercial mineral fertilizers for nutrition and fruit quality of grafted and non-grafted tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L) in high tunnels.
Graduated: 2018

Eric Christianson – M.S. student
Thesis Title: Screening carrot germplasm for resistance to Xanthomonas hortorum pv. carotae.
Graduated: 2014

Shannon Carmody – M.S. student
Thesis Title: Management of the seedborne phase of light leaf spot (Cylindrosporium concentricum) and white leaf spot (Pseudocercosporella capsellae) in brassica crops.

Charles Cosler – M.S. student
Thesis Title:
Graduated: 2012

Jeremy Cowan – Ph.D. student
Thesis Title: Impacts of High Tunnels and Bio-Degradable Mulch Systems on Tomato Yield and Quality.
Graduated: 2014

Jamie Cummings – M.S. student
Thesis Title: Evaluation of organic seed treatments for control of seedling blight/damping-off pathogens of spinach.
Graduated: 2007

Sahar Dabirian – M.S. student
Thesis Title: Optimizing watermelon grafting to control Verticillium wilt in Washington.
Graduated: Spring 2017

Yushan (Sherry) Duan – M.S. student
Thesis Title: Benefits of Cane Burning to Red Raspberry in the Pacific Northwest.
Graduated: 2012

Jeffery Endelman – Ph.D. student
Thesis Title: Advances in Barley Genomics: Association analysis, Breeding values, and Consensus mapping.
Graduated: 2013

Weixin Gan – M.S. student
Thesis Title: The growth conditions and cultivation management of tissue culture seedings of crabapple.
Graduated: 2019

Emily Gatch – Ph.D. student
Thesis Title: Increasing the Capacity for Spinach Seed Production in the United States by Promoting Soil Suppression of Fusarium Wilt.
Graduated: 2012

Shuresh Ghimire – Ph.D. student
Thesis Title: Efficacy of different biodegradable mulches on pumpkin yield and quality, and mulch biodegradability in Northwest Washington.
Graduated: 2018

Jessica Gigot – Ph.D. student
Thesis Title: Root Health Management in Raspberries.
Graduated: 2012

Charlene Grahn – M.S. student
Thesis Title: Direct market production of baby-leaf salad greens during spring and fall seasons in Western Washington.
Graduated: 2015

Ziduan (Paul) Han – M.S. student
Thesis Title: Assessing the damage potential of the root lesion nematode Pratylenchus penetrans on raspberry varieties.
Graduated: 2014

Maxwell Handiseni – Ph.D. student
Title: Management of Rhizoctonia in onion and pea crops in the Columbia Basin of Washington.

Pablo Hernandez-Perez – M.S. student
Thesis Title: Management of seedborne Stemphylium botryosum and Cladosporium variabile causing leaf spot of spinach seed crops in western Washington.
Graduated: 2005

Karen Hills – Ph.D. student
Thesis Title: Improvement of Small Grains Grown in Western Washington.
Graduated: 2013

Steve Hinton – Ph.D. student
Thesis Title: Sustaining the Productivity of Native Estuarine Flora and Fauna in the Context of an Agricultural Landscape.

Sacha Johnson – M.S. student
Thesis Title: Grafting Vegetables for Resistance to Verticillium dahliae.
Graduated: 2012

Yao Mu – M.S. student
Thesis Title: Testing new crops for production potential in Northwest Washington.
Graduated: Spring 2019

Jennifer Niem – M.S. student
Thesis Title: Effects of flooding on survival of Sclerotinia and Verticillium in potato field soils of western Washington.

Lucas Patzek – Ph.D. student
Thesis Title: Root Disease and Nitrogen Use Efficiency in Cereal/Vegetable Production Systems in Washington.
Graduated: 2012

Marianne Powell – M.S. student
Thesis Title: Biodegradable Mulches for Specialty Crops Produced Under Protective Covers.
Graduated: 2012

Wiharti Purba – Ph.D. student
Thesis title:
Graduated: Fall 2018

Rachel Rudolph – Ph.D. student
Thesis title: Management strategies for Phytophthora rubi andPratylenchus penetrans in floricane red raspberry in the Pacific Northwest
Graduated: Fall 2017

Amy Salamone – Ph.D. student
Thesis Title:
Graduated: 2015

Alexandra Valeria Swidergal – M.S. Student
Thesis Title:
Graduated: Fall 2015

Robin Taylor – M.S. student
Thesis Title: Quantification of Food Policy Groups within the Puget Sound Region.

John Weber – M.S. student
Thesis Title: Management of white mold in sunflower seed crops in the semi-arid Columbia Basin of central Washington.

Jesse Wimer – M.S. student
Thesis Title: Grafting Watermelons to Manage Verticillium Wilt in Washington State.
Graduated: 2015

Caitlin Price Youngquist – Ph.D. student
Thesis Title: Agricultural use and community acceptance of biosolids compost produced at a rural waste water treatment plant.
Graduated: 2014