To showcase undergraduate and graduate research, students presented their findings at an annual School of Plant and Environmental Sciences event. After student presentations, Stuart Grandy, professor of natural resources and the environment at the University of New Hampshire, gave a lecture on his recent research.

The School of Plant and Environmental Sciences Research Symposium and Blaser Lecture was held Oct. 5. The formal conference had experts, researchers, and students discuss ideas on various topics. During the symposium, which attracted more than 130 attendees, participants engaged in discussions and explored various aspects of their respective fields.

The event also featured a presentation from a well-known researcher, or a blaser lecture. In his lecture, Grandy focused on a specialized area of research and added depth to the symposium by providing unique insights and expertise. The combination of the symposium and the blaser lecture created an environment that encouraged collaboration and learning among attendees.

Stuart Grandy gives a lecture in a large classroom space.
Stuart Grandy gives his lecture on "Biogeochemical Mechanisms Optimizing Soil C Storage and Nutrient Use Efficiency." Photo by Tyler Bauguess for Virginia Tech.

Organizing this event required planning and the collaborative efforts of the entire School of Plant and Environmental Sciences community. Financial support for this event was provided by the Roy and Catherine Blaser Endowment and the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Outstanding presentations

Faculty members, postdoctoral researchers, and graduate students formed a panel of judges to evaluate presentations. In the undergraduate category, the winners were

  • Sara Peters, in collaboration with Meredith Steele’s The Steele Lab - Landscape Ecosystems, presented on "Freshwater Salinization Increases Carbon Dioxide Fluxes from Stream Leaf Litter” and took first place.
  • Madison Payne, working with Bas Bargmann’s lab, secured second place for her work on "Kneading Better Wheat: Rolling Out Novel Virginia Native Wheat Regeneration.” Payne's research was funded by the Virginia Small Grains Board.
  • Mitchell Gercken, working with Boris Vinatzer’s Laboratory of Plant and Atmospheric Microbiology and Genomics, earned third place with his research on "A Genome Similarity-Based Taxonomy Could Have Provided Immediate and Stable Identifiers for the SARS-CoV-2 Species and Its Lineages.”

In the graduate category, the following students were recognized:

Mitchell Doss grad winner
Mitchell Doss presented research on "SMART Platform: Utilizing Robotics and Imaging for Plant Growth and Health Monitoring." Virginia Tech photo

Collaboration leads to success

Eric Beers, professor in the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences, orchestrated the blaser lecture by Grandy. Sheila Young, along with Crystal Wall, managed the attendee list and registration process. Karen Drake-Whitney provided additional event support.

The contributions of Prashasti Agarwal and Sophie Nicholakos, co-presidents of the Graduate Organization for the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences, were instrumental in the success of the symposium and blaser lecture.

Written by Tyler Bauguess

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