2023 – 2024 Cohort

We are excited to introduce the new 2023 – 2024 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)
Jessica Martinez-Baird
Erica Jones

Crop Sciences

I grew up in Williamsburg, Virginia, and attended Virginia Tech for my BS in Biology, with minors in Science and Engineering, and Medicine and Society. As an undergraduate, I studied Palmer amaranth weedy traits and peanut cultivar heat tolerance under Dr. David Haak. My research interests include improving yield and nutrition via breeding and genetic editing. Broadly, I’m excited to push science forward to help dampen the global hunger crisis!

Madison Moore
Jordan Cummings

Crop Science

I grew up in Kaukauna, WI. I attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where I earned my B.S. in Agronomy and Genetics & Genomics. My undergraduate research was on sweet corn, looking at microRNA expression through the vegetative phase change. My research interests are in plant genetics and plant breeding. I am very excited to join the GGS program at NCSU and to have the opportunity to further my education in an interdisciplinary way!

Nicole Choquette
Laide Rasaki

Crop Science

My formative years took place in Rivers State, Nigeria though I am originally from Osun State, Nigeria. I earned my first degree in Animal Science, specializing in Animal Nutrition, and worked as a research intern at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Nigeria. Following that, I pursued a dual master’s degree in molecular plant breeding at the Hungarian University of Agriculture and Life Science (MATE) and the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU). My training emphasized the importance of acquiring specialized research skills in developing crops that can withstand climate change while meeting the needs of end-users, hence my interest in exploring the use of specialized molecular approaches and computational tools for sustainable crop improvement. I enjoy meeting people and playing table tennis in my free time. I am grateful for this opportunity from the GGS program to learn and partake in cutting-edge research in my field of interest.

Uche Chimeh
Morgan Olmstead


I grew up in Steubenville, Ohio, and did my undergraduate in Athens at Ohio University with a B.S. in Biology. Afterward, I did my Master’s degree at the University of New Hampshire with a focus on insect microbiomes and reproductive behavior. I worked at Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s sequencing core and then as a Research Technician with the USDA studying stored product insect pests as well as using insects as food, with a focus on sequencing technologies and microbiomes. I am excited to start my Ph.D. and continue studying insect host genetics and microbiomes. Outside of research, my hobbies include crocheting, collecting comic books, attending concerts, and going on nature walks.

Adam Greer
Hannah Pil


I was born in Queens, New York, and grew up in Raleigh. I had one goal in school: Get a degree, but make it different from what my brother did – at NC State he majored in Environmental Technology and Management. I ended up going to NC State as well and majored in Genetics. Success. During my undergrad, I had a fantastic research experience where I worked in a maize biochemistry lab. Despite my questionable initial motivations, working with my lab made me realize I am truly, extremely passionate about contributing to an inclusive and collaborative research environment in academia. Therefore, I am happily continuing my research career with GGS through the Genetics & Genomics Ph.D. program where I plan to continue doing work in maize.

Megan Dillon
Ian Birchler de Allende


I grew up in Alexandria, Virginia, and received my bachelor’s degree in Marine Science from the University of Maine. I am interested in research using bioinformatics and various omics techniques to study the molecular mechanisms underlying marine life and ecosystem function and to provide insights into the adaptive strategies that allow these organisms to thrive. I am so excited to join the GG Scholars program at NC State!

Jessica Martinez-Baird
Lucas Bauer


I grew up in Jefferson, WI, and attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where I received a B.S. in Genetics & Genomics. During my time in undergrad, I worked on understanding plant responses to spaceflight, the role of gene NET2D in root hair development, and building user-friendly plant phenotyping tools. I’m excited to continue exploring the genetic components of plant signaling and integrating high-throughput phenotyping and bioinformatics tools into the exploration of these genetic mechanisms.

Ashley Connors
Bobbie Walsmith


I grew up in the borderland of El Paso, Texas where I earned my B.S. in environmental science and M.S. in biology at The University of Texas at El Paso. My research explored nervous system variation with an emphasis on sexual dimorphism and metamorphosis in monogonont rotifers. This left me yearning to understand the evolution and modes of development of invertebrate taxa which I plan on researching more as I pursue a Ph.D. in Raleigh, North Carolina. Although I leave half of my heart in El Paso with friends and family, the roots of my Chicano heritage run deep and I am proud to represent and share my culture with NC State. By contributing to a diverse community, we can achieve innovation and begin to understand the complexities of the natural world around us.

Destiny Tyson
Qiaochu Li


I grew up in Bengbu, Anhui Province, China. It’s a small city on the bank of the Huai River and its name means “pearl quay”. I graduated from the Southern University of Science and Technology and earned my B.S. in Biological Science. I have research experience in plant siRNA and the post-transcriptional gene silence pathway, and my undergraduate research focused on the suppression of PTGS by HOOKLESS1 in Arabidopsis. At NC State, I intend to study built environment microbiomes through both experimental and computational approaches and use genetic engineering to get desirable strains. I am so excited to start a new journey as a member of GGS!

Felicia Shepard
Megan Welch

Genetics and Genomics Scholar 

Originally from Williamsburg, Virginia, I moved to Raleigh to attend NC State. At NC State, I earned a B.S. in biochemistry with a minor in biotechnology, where I conducted undergraduate research on endosymbionts within whiteflies, under the guidance of Dr. Trino Ascencio-Ibáñez. After graduation, I worked in RTP for two years, at a company focusing on using bacteriophage as an alternative to antibiotics. Although I am grateful for my time in RTP, I am excited to return to NC State and continue to develop my research skills in an academic setting. My research interests are broad, but my focus lies in studying disease pathogenesis. Overall, I am an eager and dedicated researcher who is excited to learn and grow with the outstanding community at NC State.

Jane Petzoldt
Niaz Goodbee

Genetics and Genomics Scholars

I was born and raised in Albany, New York. I attended Syracuse University and graduated with a B.S. in Biology and a minor in Psychology. During my undergraduate years, I was in a biophysics lab studying how different ionic concentrations affect the interactions between microtubules and crosslinkers. I continued to stay with the lab for another year after I graduated. Since joining that lab I have been greatly interested in the biophysics field, but I also want to explore the various fields of biology and science. In my free time, I like to play basketball and I also like to play golf and video games.

Nico Lara
Adam Breister


I grew up in a suburb of Green Bay, Wisconsin, and attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison where I earned my undergraduate degree in Microbiology. My experience mainly lies in microbial bioinformatics, but I am hoping to learn skills related to the measurement of biogeochemical data, which I believe can be used in conjunction with meta-omics data to better understand microbial ecology. I believe that the GG Scholars Program, with its large breadth of graduate programs, will be a great opportunity to increase the skills that I am able to utilize. I am also excited to experience the potential for collaboration that the GG Scholars Program offers.

Nico Lara
Amanda Taylor


I am from Folsom, California. I graduated with my B.S. in Genetics and Genomics from the University of California, Davis. During my undergrad, I studied the persistence of food borne pathogens in soil after the addition of biological amendments. Since graduating, I have been working at BioConsortia, an agricultural biotech company, where I genetically modify wild type microbial isolates and prepare microbial samples for Next Generation Sequencing. Through my job experience, I have found a passion for both microbiology and genetics which I am excited to pursue further in the GG Scholars and Microbiology Ph.D. programs at NC State. In my free time, I enjoy traveling to new places, cooking, playing board/card games, and reading fantasy novels.

Madison Polera
Jennifer Tapia

Plant Biology

I am from Ecuador, which is a country known for its vast biodiversity and natural resources. It was this ecological richness that sparked my interest in biology and plant science from a young age. I obtained my bachelor’s degree in biotechnology engineering at The Armed Forces University – ESPE in Ecuador. My undergraduate research focused on investigating the colonization and infection process in the tan spot-wheat pathosystem. I am currently pursuing my master’s degree at Oklahoma State University working in wheat genomics. Working with plants has always fascinated me. I am particularly interested in gaining a better understanding of the physiological and molecular processes involved in their responses to biotic and abiotic factors, as this can provide us with a key to modifying plant responses and addressing problems that will arise as a result of climate change. When I am not in the lab you can find me volunteering and taking care of kittens at the local shelter.

Madison Polera
Kimberly Montalban

Plant Pathology

I was born in Concord, NC, and was raised in a family of sesame growers in Oaxaca, Mexico. I obtained my B.S. in Agronomic Engineering with a minor in Crop Protection at the Universidad Autonoma de Chapingo. As an undergraduate, I conducted research on Bacterial Wilt in greenhouse tomatoes, caused by the bacterium R. solanacearum. Through this research experience, I learned that identifying and characterizing plant diseases is extremely important for plant disease management. I moved back to NC to pursue a research career in plant pathology and in the Fall of 2022, I joined the Phytobacteriology Lab at NC State where I am researching bacterial spot and bacterial blight of sesame, caused by Pseudomonas syringae pv. sesami and Xanthomonas euvesicatovia pv. sesame, respectively. I am excited to join the GGS to explore how biotic and abiotic environments impact pathogen resilience in Agricultural microbiomes. I am passionate about STEM education and encouraging younger generations to pursue plant sciences.