- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Alison Coomer, Pallavi Shakya and Ching-Jung Lin are among the record 18 students given travel awards by SON, thanks to industry sponsors. All travel award recipients will deliver a presentation or provide a poster at the international meeting.
Bayer Crop Science will sponsor 10 travel awards, and Microbes, Inc., Certis Biologicals and Corteva, will each sponsor two awards. In addition, the United Soybean Board will provide two travel awards to students presenting nematode research in soybean production.
Alison, a third-year graduate student in the Department of Plant Pathology, is focusing her research on plant parasitic nematodes, specifically root-knot nematodes, and their molecular mechanisms to defend against plant immune systems. "I am also working to gain more understanding in the defense mechanism in plants towards plant parasitic nematodes."
Alison, originally from the St. Louis, Mo., region, received two undergraduate degrees from Concordia University, Neb.: a bachelor's degree in biology and a bachelor's degree in chemistry.
"I am very thankful to Cobb Foundation and Mai-Ferries-Bird for receiving one of the most prestigious student awards: Cobb Foundation/Mai-Ferris-Bird Student Travel Award," she said.
In her leisure time, Alison enjoys "the outdoors, animals of all varieties, and serving my community."
Pallavi is a second-year doctoral student in Siddique lab. "I come from Nepal, the land of Himalayas and I am interested in exploring plant parasitic nematodes from a combination of plant pathology and bioinformatics viewpointism," she related. Pallavi received her master's degree in plant biotechnology from Wageningen University in the Netherlands where she was introduced to transcriptomics of potato cyst nematodes.
"Working with these nematodes showed me the importance of understanding plants along with the parasites they have co-evolved with," she said. "In the Siddique lab, I plan to learn about the genomics and transcriptomics aspects of plant-nematode interaction."
"I am very thankful to Bayer Crop Science for my student travel award, and I am looking forward to meeting all the amazing nematologists in the meeting."
Ching-Jung is a doctoral student in the Department of Plant Pathology with a designated emphasis in biotechnology. "I am fascinated by plant-microbe interaction," she said. "Currently I am interested in the development of functional genetic tools in plant-parasitic nematodes and the characterization of nematode-induced plant immunity. Originally from Taiwan, she holds a bachelor of science degree in agronomy from National Chung-Hsing University, and a master's degree in plant biology from National Taiwan University.
"I am very thankful to Bayer Crop Science for funding my student award and I look forward to delivering my presentation at the SON conference," she said. Outside of the lab, Ching-Jung enjoys "reading, jogging, playing badminton, and going to the gym." And, she added, "I am a coffee and dog person."
Research in Shahid Siddique Lab
Research in the Siddique lab focuses on basic as well as applied aspects of interaction between parasitic nematodes and their host plants. "The long-term object of our research," he says, "is not only to enhance our understanding of molecular aspects of plant–nematode interaction but also to use this knowledge to provide new resources for reducing the impact of nematodes on crop plants in California."
SON is an international organization formed to advance the science of nematology in both its fundamental and economic aspects.
"Nematodes are the most abundant multicellular animals on the face of the earth," SON relates on its website. "They occur literally everywhere--in soil and decaying matter from the poles to the tropics, in all forms of plant life, in the bodies of almost all animals, including humans, and in insects. Living in such diverse environments as the sand and mud of the ocean bottom, stony mountain soils, and arid polar deserts are thousands to millions of nematodes per square meter."
SON defintes nematodes as "nonsegmented roundworms with complete sensory, digestive, excretory, and reproductive systems. Most, but not all, are microscopic. The variety of nematode forms and habitats is almost unbelievable: they range from the minute inhabitant of your favorite mushroom to the 27-foot-long parasite in the placenta of a sperm whale."
"Nematodes are essential elements of ecosystems, but most have no direct effect on humans," the SON website points out. "Those that do, however, can be devastating. In many places, people still suffer from diseases such as elephantiasis, river blindness, and hookworm, caused by nematodes. In most places, the effect on humans is indirect. For example, in the United States, plant-parasitic nematodes cause more than $3 billion worth of crop losses each year, and cause similar losses in cattle, sheep, and swine." (See more information about nematodes on its website.)