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Meet the dedicated team of student organizers of the 2020 symposium.


Nolan Scheible

Nolan is a PhD candidate in Dr. Andrew McCubbin’s lab in the School of Biological Sciences. He is investigating the signaling pathways involved in maintaining polar growth in pollen tubes, specifically the roles of Calcium and GTPases. He comes to WSU from the east coast after completing his BS in Biology at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. As the middle child from a family of 5 children, Nolan enjoys being social and spending time with his family and friends. He also likes to explore the PNW in his free time through traveling and hiking.

Wilson Craine

Wilson is a fourth-year PhD candidate and the only graduate student working on Dr. Scot Hulbert’s camelina breeding project. Wilson’s research focuses on improving important agronomic traits like cold tolerance, seed size, and oil content through the use of modern plant breeding technologies (HTP and NGS). Wilson strives to create more adapted crops and sustainable cropping systems for the future. In his freetime, Wilson enjoys gardening and exploring the beautiful PNW landscapes.

Carsten Voelkner

Carsten is studying ion channels involved in ion- and osmohomeostasis of the chloroplast in the lab of Dr. Henning Kunz. He received his B.S. from the University of Cologne, Germany, in 2016 and migrated to the US after. He loves playing soccer more than anything and spends the rest of his time cooking food and enjoying peaks of the pacific northwest with friends.


Bruce Williamson Benavides

Bruce is a PhD student in Dr. Amit Dhingra’s lab and studies the molecular interaction between pea and root rot disease. His research focuses on the development of molecular markers and new varieties via targeted and non-targeted mutagenesis. Bruce is originally from Costa Rica and earned his BS in Biology at the University of Costa Rica. He enjoys playing soccer, surfing, dancing, listening to music, scuba diving, and spending time with friends!

Viktoriya Vasina

Viktoriya is studying phloem physiology in Dr. Michael Knoblauch’s lab. She is working on identifying the function of sieve element organelles via localization studies of phloem specific proteins. Viktoriya is originally from Kiev, Ukraine and she earned her B.S. from Washington State University. Her hobbies include playing soccer, gardening, cooking with her friends and traveling around the world.

Kathleen Hickey

Kathleen is a PhD student in Dr. Andrei Smertenko’s lab in the Institute of Biological Chemistry. She is currently studying peroxisome dynamics during drought stress in wheat. Her research focuses on identifying the relationship between peroxisome abundance and ROS homeostasis along with identifying regulators of peroxisome proliferation under stress. Kathleen is from Washington and received her B.S. from Washington State. She is working on wheat because of her love for bagels. In her free time, she enjoys cooking, reading, and doing needle work and embroidery.


Chloe Liu

Alex Howell

Alex received his B.S. from WSU, where he met his current PI Dr. Michael Knoblauch. Alex studies intercellular fluxes of solutes within tissues and how these processes affect long distance translocation through the vascular tissues. When he is not recording dynamic cellular processes on the microscope he enjoys skiing, camping, biking, rafting, and sledding.

Marci Parra

Marci is a PhD student in Dr. Hanjo Hellmann’s lab in the School of Biological Sciences. She is investigating the regulation of vitamin B6 biosynthesis. She completed her BA in Biology at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington.


Vaclav Svoboda

PhD student in the Kirchhoff lab.

Laura Lopez

Laura is a first year master student studying fluctuating light mutants in the lab of Dr. Henning Kunz. She was born and raised in Mexico, but received her B.S. in Genetics and Cell Biology from WSU in 2017. She enjoys playing tennis, and soccer. She also enjoys, hiking, pizza, dancing, and spending time with friend and family!

Liesl Oeller

Liesl is an Entomology Masters student in Dr. David Crowder’s lab studying insect pests in agroecosystems. Her research focuses on the effects of agronomy practices like irrigation, fertilizer use, planting method, and variety on insect pest population dynamics in quinoa. She earned her B.S. from the University of Michigan in EEB. Liesl enjoys reading, taking walks, looking at bugs, and going to the farmers market.


Paige Henning

Paige is a 3rd year PhD student working in Dr. Andrew McCubbin’s lab. Her research focuses on the genetic basis of distyly in the genus Turnera. Paige received her B.S. in Genetics and Cellular Biology from WSU. She enjoys playing video games in her free time.

Elvir Tenic

Tenic is a Masters student in the Dhingra lab at WSU.  He is working on understanding the role of a soil amendment, biochar, in organic agricultural systems and how it influences soil microbial communities and plant productivity. By using RNA and transcriptomics to elucidate the processes instead of just profiling communities, a more comprehensive model is being developed for plant and microbe interactions in soils. Besides research, his hobbies include enjoying the outdoors by hiking and gardening, photography, sports, and exploring new places!

Andrew Herr

Andrew grew up in rural Indiana on a small sheep farm before attending Iowa State University (ISU) where he earned a B.A in Agronomy with a focus on plant breeding and biotechnology. Currently, he works in Dr. Arron Carter’s winter wheat breeding program. His research focuses on using UAVs and hyperspectral imaging to collect phenotypic trait data of the breeding population for use in selection and line advancement. Other areas of interest include using this new UAV technology to improve genomic selection and better understand GxE interactions. In his free time, he enjoy hiking, hunting, woodworking, and serving at his local church.


Lance Merrick

Lance is a Ph.D. student in Dr. Arron Carter’s Winter wheat breeding program. He received his B.S. and M.S. in Plant Sciences at South Dakota State University. His research focuses on creating genomic selection models for emergence, freezing tolerance, and stripe rust and their application in an applied winter wheat breeding program. He enjoys being in the outdoors, especially snowboarding, hiking, and hunting.

Nate Boyer

Nate is a 3rd year PhD student in Dr. John Peters’ lab in the Institute of Biological Chemistry. His research focuses on the regulation of nitrogen fixation in the model diazotroph Azotobacter vinelandii.  Nate strives to understand how we may leverage biological nitrogen fixation to achieve more sustainable agriculture. Outside of research, he enjoys spending time with his wife and cats, playing board games with friends, and exploring the beautiful parks in the Pacific Northwest.