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Meet the dedicated team of student organizers of the 2024 symposium.


Andrew Herr

I grew up in rural Indiana on a small sheep farm before attending Iowa State University (ISU), where I earned a B.A. in Agronomy focused on plant breeding and biotechnology. Experience in high-throughput imaging from ISU made for a smooth transition to Washington State University, where I work in Dr. Arron Carter’s winter wheat breeding program. My research focuses on using UAVs and multispectral imaging to collect phenotypic trait data of the breeding population for selection and line advancement through genomic selection and machine learning strategies. I enjoy hiking, hunting, cooking, and serving at my local church in my free time.

Melinda Zubrod

I grew up on a small corn and soybean farm in northwestern Iowa. I attended Iowa State University where I earned a B.A. in Agronomy with a minor in genetics. While attending ISU I worked as an undergraduate research assistant in Dr. Asheesh Singh’s soybean program where I studied root architecture and soybean nodulation. I am currently a PhD student at Washington State University studying winter wheat breeding under Dr. Arron Carter. My PhD project focuses on utilizing a drone-mounted multispectral sensor to make selections in a breeding program. I am currently working on using vegetative indices to identify herbicide injury in winter wheat plots.

Adele Jamalzei

I’m Adele, a Persian researcher from Tehran, Iran. During my master’s degree, I conducted a study involving 192 spring wheat accessions in collaboration with Dr. Khalil Zaynali Nezhad from Gorgan University and Dr. Andreas Börner from IPK Gene Bank. Our research focused on performing GWAS for yield-related traits in spring wheat, which led to the discovery of several QTLs associated with increased yield. Prior to joining Washington State University, I gained experience by working for two years at the Wheat Gene Bank in northern Iran. Currently, I am part of Dr. Arron Carter’s winter wheat program at Washington State University as a PhD student, where my research is centered on QTL pyramiding to enhance spring wheat yield. Our primary objective is to improve spring wheat yield by introducing alleles that separately enhance kernel weight and kernel number. This involves strategically combining these alleles to develop higher-yielding wheat populations.


Marita White

Marita White was born and raised in St. Paul, Minnesota, where she also earned bachelor’s degrees in Biology and Biochemistry from Bethel University. She moved to Pullman in August of 2022 to begin gradute school at Washington State University. At WSU, she is conducting research on wheat to improve its acid soil tolerance and investigate the role of soil microorganisms in acid soil tolerance in wheat. Her personal interests, apart from plants, include dragonflies, fishing, playing violin, being outdoors, and reading. Fun fact: Marita shares a birthday with her older sister, even though they are not twins.

Peter Schmuker

I am a graduate student in the Spring Wheat Breeding Program advised by Dr. Pumphrey. My research focuses on the usage of genomic selection strategies and rapid phenotyping methods to inform early generation breeding decisions.

Aichatou Djibo

Aichatou (Aisha) Djibo Waziri joined Washington State University (WSU) since 2017 after being granted the prestigious Fulbright scholarship. Prior to that, she earned a bachelor’s degree in general biology from the University of Niamey (Niger, her home country) and a master’s degree in plant and soil Microbiology from the University of Dakar (Senegal).

In 2019, Aisha obtained a master’s degree in crop science with a focus on wheat breeding and genetics. During her master’s program, she worked to identify regions of the genome associated with resistance to Fusarium crown rot. Aisha is currently finishing a PhD program in wheat breeding with a focus on improving the concentration and the bioavailability of the grain with multiple nutrients notably minerals, fiber, and antioxidants.

During her PhD program, she participated in the 3-year professional development program of the Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research (FFAR), which significantly helped her to develop various skills such as leadership and management. She also led the writing of a multidisciplinary grant submitted to the USDA-NIFA in the program area of plant breeding for agricultural production. From the professional development training, Aisha gained interest in the science policy/advocacy area in which she would like to develop skills to help communities benefit from the fair trade of agricultural production. After graduation, Aisha would like to continue working on improving the nutritional quality and the agronomic performance of both common and underutilized crops for a more diversified human diet.


Matthew Brooke

Olufunke Ayegbidun

Dylan Oates


Faishal Khan