2021 – 2022 Cohort

We are excited to introduce the new 2021 – 2022 Cohort of Genetics & Genomics Scholars. These PhD students are from multidisciplinary fields and are participating in a first-year core curriculum that integrates foundational conceptual training in genetics and genome-scale techniques with big data analysis and professional development.

I love being a part of a cohort of students from different fields, building a network with my fellow GG scholars, and having class together to discuss our perspectives on different topics in genetics.

Nicole Choquette, 2020 GG Scholar (Crop Science)

I chose the GGS umbrella program, because the interdisciplinary graduate experience lets me rotate through different labs & graduate programs giving me the chance to find a project & labs that best fit my interests!

Megan Dillon, 2020 GG Scholar (Undeclared program)

The GGS program provides many more opportunities than any one program could, including exposure to several scientific disciplines & scientists outside of my field of study.

Madison Moore, 2020 GG Scholar (Functional Genomics)
Cole Butler
Modesta N Abugu

Horticulture | 1st Year

I was born in Enugu State, Nigeria, and got my BSc in Biochemistry from the University of Nigeria Nsukka in 2012. I also have an MS in Horticultural Sciences from University of Florida. As a doctoral student, I’m seeking to apply tools of genomics, genetics and plant breeding to improve the quality of food security crops and enhance nutrition. I am also interested in promoting access to scientific innovation for small-holder farmers through science communication and a multi stakeholder engagement on various agricultural biotechnology techniques.

Nicole Choquette
Asa Budnick

Plant Biology | 1st Year 

I grew up in a small town in south eastern Pennsylvania and moved to Boston to attend Northeastern University where I earned a BS in Biology in 2018. Since then I have been working on gene editing technology development at Inari Agriculture in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I hope to do research focused on understanding and enabling the use of gene editing to make meaningful improvements to crop species. I’ll be moving to Raleigh with my partner Cathleen and our kitten Kineo.

Uche Chimeh
Sophia Copeman

GG Scholars | 1st Year 

I grew up in Wilmington, NC. I completed my undergraduate studies at NCSU, earning my BS in Zoology with a minor in entomology. I chose to attend NCSU because of its close proximity to my hometown and its world renowned entomology program. Having been interested in entomology since I was a teenager, NCSU was and will continue to be a great environment for me to explore my interests. My primary research interests include learning more about plant pests, biological control methods, and entomopathogen research and application.

John Britt
John Whitfield Britt


I grew up here in North Carolina, in the small town of Mt. Olive (where you get your pickles). I have always loved the fields of genetics and biotechnology, so when I got the chance I decided to come to NCSU for my Bachelors Degree. I received my Bachelors in Science in Genetics, where I got the opportunity to work with the Scott’s Lab on the creation of transgenic maggots for wound debridement therapy. Now, I work with human and macaque primary placental stem cells to study human development.

Ashley Connors
Treyvon Davis

Comparative Biomedical Sciences | 1st Year

I grew up in the desert southwest in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  I eventually moved to North Carolina in 2007 to attend NC State College of Veterinary Medicine.  Since 2011, I have been working as a clinical veterinarian and as an instructor at a vocational college in a Veterinary Technology program.  As I transitioned into more of a teaching role, I knew that I wanted to spend my life teaching and contributing to the advancement of medical research.  I am most interested in immunology, specifically autoimmune disease and immunotherapy in cancer research.  In the fall, I will be starting with the Immunology program in the Comparative Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program.  I am extremely excited to meet everyone in the GG Scholars Program.  It’s going to be a great year!

Megan Dillon
Sydney Harned

GG Scholars | 1st Year

I grew up in Dallas, TX before moving to Florida for college. I completed my undergraduate degree in marine science and biology at the University of Miami, and will be graduating from Nova Southeastern University with a MS in Biology this summer. I am interested in using genomic tools to answer questions about conservation, especially in the marine realm. I am so excited to be a GG Scholar.

Adam Greer
Carley Huffstetler

Genetics | 1st Year

I grew up near Orlando, Florida and attended Florida State University to earn my BSc in Biochemistry while studying proteins essential for photoreceptor development in Dr. James Fadool’s lab. As an undergraduate, I also studied diet-induced obesity and its consequences for olfactory sensory neurons in Dr. Debra Fadool’s lab. During my gap year, I have transitioned to investigating the therapeutic potential of cannabinoids for management of anxiety and attention deficit. As a PhD student at NCSU under the Genetics program, I am interested in focusing on neurogenetics and development. I’m looking forward to the unique opportunity that the GG Scholars program provides for me to expand my knowledge and explore my interests in these areas and others.

Nico Lara
John Joyce

Microbiology | 1st Year

I grew up in Martinsville Virginia, and then lived in various places for more than a decade until I decided to pursue a career in science. I am a NCSU graduate who majored in Genetics and minored in Biotechnology. So, I am pretty familiar with the school and Raleigh. I am interested in applied microbiology and bioremediation. Basically, any way to use microbes to benefit the environment or people is something I am interested in, and if it involves genetic engineering and directed evolution then I am right where I would like to be.

Jessica Martinez-Baird
Samantha Kisthardt

Microbiology | 1st Year

Having grown up in a small town outside of Hershey, Pennsylvania, I came to Raleigh to study at NC State University as an undergraduate in 2017. I received my BS in Microbiology with a concentration in microbial health science from NC State in 2020, and chose to take a gap year before starting graduate school. During this time, under the mentorship of Drs. Frank Scholle & Reza Ghiladi, I am testing antimicrobial materials that can eventually be deployed in healthcare settings to reduce fomite transmission of nosocomial diseases. I am thrilled to continue my education as a Genetics and Genomics Scholar! My research interests include host-pathogen interactions and antimicrobial development, and I would like to ultimately combine these interests by taking a pathogenesis-driven approach to therapeutic development.

Madison Moore
Rachel Laminack

Entomology | 1st Year 

I was born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina. In 2017 I moved to Raleigh and earned my B.S. in Plant Biology at NCSU. After I graduated I went on to work at a Molecular Diagnostics lab that focuses on COVID-19 testing. I am now pursuing a PhD in Entomology. My research interests include genomics, gene editing, and pathology with a focus on plants and insects.

Jane Petzoldt
Isabella Livingston

GG Scholars | 1st Year

I grew up in Portland, Oregon where I developed my love for the environment and animals. I am coming from San Diego State University where I received my B.S. in Biology with an emphasis in Zoology.  I have always been interested in organismal biology but now I am more curious about the intersection between this field and genetics. Broadly, I am interested in evaluating the origins of life through genetics. Questions involving the relationship between genetics, evolution, and behavior are especially intriguing. I want to look at the evolution of genes and traits within species and how they contribute to speciation, development, and environmental interactions.

Madison Polera
Jessie Maier

Microbiology | 1st Year 

I grew up in South Jersey. I attended NCSU for my bachelor degree where I majored in microbiology with a focus in microbial research and a minor in biotechnology. Throughout the four years of my undergraduate degree, I worked in Dr. Manuel Kleiner’s lab. My research interest focuses on phage-host relationships and understanding how the presence of bacteriophage influences microbial community dynamics, functions, and compositions.

Bradley Scholten
Bethany Mostert

Plant Biology | 1st Year

Born and raised in Hamilton Ontario, I spent much of my time hiking along the Niagara escarpment equipped with a plant identification book. Enjoying the nature of the Great Lakes and the beautiful regions of Northern Ontario inspired my love of plants, and consequently, led to my pursuit of a doctoral program in Plant Biology at NC State. I am a recent graduate from the Bachelor of Arts and Sciences degree program at the University of Guelph in Ontario Canada. With academic and work experience in both plant science and anthropology/community engagement, I am interested in encouraging conversations around technological equitability, particularly within the agricultural industry. My ongoing interests include agricultural sustainability, food security, and synthetic biology.

Felicia Shepard
Juliet Ochola

Plant Pathology | 1st Year

I grew up in Kisumu, Kenya and earned my BSc in Chemistry from Egerton University, Nakuru, Kenya. I also have an MSc in Chemistry from Kenyatta University, Nairobi, Kenya. I am currently working as a research assistant at the International Center of Insect Physiology and Ecology on chemical ecology of plant-parasitic nematodes with a focus on management. I am excited to be joining the Plant Pathology program at NCSU where I aim at studying the chemical interactions in below-ground organisms and how these interactions can be exploited to improve plant health and develop environmentally-friendly pest management strategies.

Destiny Tyson
Trenton Owens

Microbiology | 1st Year

I am thrilled to be joining NC State Microbiology and the GG Scholars Program. Born and raised in San Diego, California, I attended UC Berkeley for environmental biology and economics. I am currently working for the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory as part of Deutschbauer lab, where we study plant microbiomes and develop genetics and genomics tools for phenotyping genes of unknown function. I am most excited about leveraging tools like these to research agriculturally relevant organisms, understand their interactions, and exploit them for a more sustainable bioeconomy.

Emma Vtipil
Rachel Polak

GG Scholars | 1st Year

I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio and attended Miami University (also in Ohio, no beaches to be found). I graduated with a BS in Biochemistry with minors in Molecular Biology and Spanish. For the past two years, I have worked in research and development of in vivo gene editing therapeutics in the biotechnology industry.  I am excited to join the Genetics and Genomics Scholars at NCSU, where I hope to continue exploring applications of gene editing.

Anna Yaschenko
Amilcar L Rodriguez

Comparative Biomedical Sciences | 1st Year

I grew up in Wendell, NC and graduated from NC State University with a degree in Biological Sciences. I hold a minor in Public Health and Biotechnology. I am also a very proud graduate of Wake Technical University, having attained an Associates in Science before transferring to NC State. Up to this point, I’ve had the privilege of studying a wide variety of topics with the help of various model organisms, including lemurs, fruit flies, and yeast, in the hopes of better understanding human development and genetics. As a PhD student, I’m looking forward to continuing my exploration of human genetics, all the while leveraging these lessons to promote greater access to higher education and nurture a new class of future scientists and medical professionals.

Anna Yaschenko
Nikia Smith

Genetics | 1st Year

I am a native of Queens, NY. I graduated with a BS in Biology from Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD. I subsequently received a MS. in Biology from Towson University in Towson, MD, where I investigated Archaeal-associated communities in marine sponges, and I also worked at the University of Maryland’s Center of Marine Biotechnology where I helped to develop an anaerobic biogas reactor to treat waste from a Recirculating Aquaculture System. After moving to Raleigh, NC, I completed a MS in Environmental Sciences and Engineering at UNC Chapel Hill under the mentorship of Dr. Rebecca Fry. I studied changes in the epigenome of populations in Mexico exposed to high doses of arsenic. Currently, I work in the Cancer Research department at NCCU under the direction of Dr. Ricardo Richardson. I study the role of Beta Arrestin 1 and 2 in Prostate Cancer progression. I plan to study the effects of lifestyle choices and environmental factors on changes in the Epigenome, and how these changes can lead to adverse or beneficial health outcomes.

Anna Yaschenko
Tiaishia Spragins

Genetics | 1st Year

I grew up in Philadelphia, PA, and earned my BA in Biology from Arcadia University in Glenside, PA. I also have a MS in Biotechnology, Project Management from the University of Maryland Global College. My hobbies include art and studying Japanese. I have a diverse research background which includes cancer therapeutic research at Indiana University. I am interested in studying the maintenance of genomic stability and the implications needed to maintain cellular quality, focusing on cancer evolution.

Anna Yaschenko
Samantha Stuppy

Genetics | 1st Year

I am from Ste. Genevieve, MO. I graduated from the UNC Chapel Hill in 2016 and transitioned to research and development in the diagnostic industry shortly after. The last few years of my experience have been in Adeno-associated virus (AAV) gene therapy research spanning both academia and industry. I am looking to explore new questions in gene therapy and genome engineering here at NC State. Additionally, I am looking to seed new opportunities for entrepreneurship and scientific consulting during my time here as a student.